My mother is working on genealogy and has run across a diacritic mark that I could swear I've seen before but cannot identify. Here is the last name (said to be Austrian) from two documents. It's the mark over the second-to-last letter in the name. This first example is the gentleman's signature.

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This second example was written by an official on a naturalization form.

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As I said, I could swear I've seen this diacritic before, but I can't remember from where. I tried looking at Wikipedia's diacritic mark page and Word's international symbol fonts. I've even looked as a long shot on amp-what.com. The closest match seems to be a double-acute, but I'm fairly sure that's wrong.

Can anyone identify the diacritic?

Also, this is my first posting on this Stack. If there's a more appropriate stack for this question, I'm delighted to move the question there.

  • 18
    Looks like an old-style umlaut to me. Just a superscript letter e.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 0:01
  • 5
    Yep, that looks like U+0364 (Combining Latin Small Letter E). Means the same thing as a modern umlaut: "Schankär" or something like that.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 0:04
  • 2
    Gentlemen, thank you so much for your insight! This led me to this useful article that explained the combining/superscripted letters derived from Medieval German. Frankly, to see this used in something as late as the mid-1800s is simply cool.
    – JBH
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 3:18
  • 5
    This is interesting. Schänker would be the most similar Austrian name I can think of, but Schankär just doesn't sound like proper German. Umlauts don't go want to go into a suffix. Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 8:40
  • 3
    @phipsgabler you can find a very small number of examples of Schankär if you search the web. Here are two: archive.org/details/historischestud00kobegoog/page/n5/mode/…. This sort of thing can also happen in German with an "ae" digraph from another language, recalling the origins of the umlaut sign as a scribal abbreviation. For example, the Dutch name Molenaer (modern spelling Molenaar) may be written Molenär.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 14:38

3 Answers 3


This is the predecessor to the modern umlaut: a small letter "e" written above a vowel. The name looks like "Schankär" to me.

If you want to represent this very literally in Unicode, the codepoint is U+0364, "Combining Latin Small Letter E". But most people just normalize it to the easily-recognizable two dots.

  • 1
    Spelling the name with the character you mentioned looks pretty bad, in this font, since the e overlaps with both the a and the r: Schankaͤr. Just the a and the e together is: aͤ
    – bdsl
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 18:35
  • 11
    Probably an issue with your font/browser; it looks fine here (Mac, Firefox, Arial) with the e directly above the a in both cases.
    – gidds
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 18:50
  • 6
    To a native Austrian ear, Schankär is an illegal spelling even for a proper name and no matter how archaic. But then I found references to a plant named Schankär in a publication from roughly 1850 where this is mentioned as a simplification of Schandschär, an Arabic loanword. Which makes this a rare yet plausible name.
    – dlatikay
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 19:03
  • @dlatikay This book? It says Schankâr, not Schankär
    – b a
    Commented Jul 1, 2020 at 22:49
  • 1
    of course, right, I need new glasses. OP did not ask about this; otherwise an interesting follow-up question about etymology, and whether the transliteration's circumflex might have been vernacularised into this unusually placed umlaut.
    – dlatikay
    Commented Jul 2, 2020 at 5:39

@Caimarvon and @Draconis made simple work of what's an absolute mystery to people like my family and I, who are only amateur linguists in the same way that pushing an apple onto a stick could be thought a wheel. Their insight led me to Diacritics for medieval studies by Marc Wilhelm Küster and Isabel Wojtovicz, which explained the Combining Latin Small Letter E diacritical mark (among many others).

The handling of medieval characters in the context of IT systems is problematic, especially as far as data exchange and publication in electronic media is concerned.

There is as yet no reasonably complete list which covers all characters and special symbols used in modern editions of medieval texts. In particular, there is no complete coverage of the many abbreviatures that are typical for medieval manuscripts and no study on the applicability of the character-glyph-model in this context.

This paper concentrates on one special aspect of characters in medieval studies, namely super-script letters which are used as diacritics, e. g. uͤ. These we shall call superscript letter diacritics. While it also cannot claim completeness, it covers the superscript letter diacritics which occur in major medievalistic internet projects and in a selection of important editions. It concentrates exclusively on modern editions of medieval literature and on grammars of Middle High German.

Superscript vowels

The by far most frequent case is that of superscript vowels (and c). According to (Reichmann,1993) there can be the following letters with a superscript:

  • aͦ, aͤ, aͨ, aͧ, aͮ
  • oͨ, oͤ, oͮ
  • uͨ, uͤ, uͦ, uͥ
  • ıͤ

Most of these represent different pronunciations of the base vowel, usually, but not always, pronunciations that are in between the base vowel and the vowel which is indicated by the superscript, be the result a diphthong or an umlauted letter. Thus we can have uͦ for the /uo/ diphthong or uͤ for u umlaut.

The most frequent superscript letter diacritic is the superscript e (e) which usually designates an umlauted letter. It is regularly used in medieval texts. In modern editions it occurs very frequently in the Middle High German parts, whereas text in modern German e. g. in the annotations which appear on the same page is never written this way. Thus we can have words like »roͤmische riche« (Roman empire) and »zuͦversuͤnende« (confident) on the same page as »Übersetzer«, »übersetzt«, »sinngemäß«, »läßt« etc. Such examples can be found by the hundred, e. g. also in grammars:

So wird der Umlaut von /a/→/e/ z. T. gar nicht bezeichnet oder als〈e, ę, ei, ä, aͤ〉 angegeben, der des /a̅/→/æ/ als 〈æ, œ, ê, e〉.

In spite of this, Middle High German and modern German parts on one page are almost always typeset in the same base font. Font switching is highly unusual.

The superscript letter diacritic o is in the two hundred years of typesetting in this field distinctly regarded as an o typographically, not as a ring above. Thus only zuͦ, not zů, would be an acceptable rendering of the /uo/-diphthong.

To summarize, all of combinations of base letters with the superscript letter diacritics a, c, e, i, o, u, v modify the sound value of the base letter in a significant and predictable way. These diacritics were a regular part of both the original Middle High German orthography and (more importantly) of current editorial practice in the complete field of medieval studies and German dialectology. Since quite a number of these projects also are active in electronic data processing and have an urgent need to exchange data, e. g. via the World Wide Web, these are an absolute core set of combining diacritics.

  • 4
    It makes rather more sense to think of these as scribal abbreviations than as diacritics, or at least to think of the diacritics as a subset of scribal abbreviations. For example, although ~ evolved into a diacritic in Spanish and Portuguese, it may be found in manuscripts everywhere in Europe where it simply represents an n or m or sometimes an entire syllable containing an n or m.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 14:41

Shankaͤr aͤ eͤ iͤ oͤ uͤ

Is equivalent to Shankär äëïöü, it's an old style germanic umlaut, and is another way of writing ä ë ï ö ü, but rarely used in modern script.


In blackletter handwriting, as used in German manuscripts of the later Middle Ages and also in many printed texts of the early modern period, the superscript e still had a form that would now be recognisable as an e, but in manuscript writing, umlauted vowels could be indicated by two dots since the late medieval period.

It can be used via unicode character U+0364 and the HTML entity ͤ

  • Are ‹i› and ‹e› ever thus affected? Commented May 28 at 18:45
  • @AntonSherwood yes, the mentioned here book Diacritics for medieval studies shows an example at least with i: e : diͤ allen vroun iͤ we geriͤt // (Bach, 1934), p. 44. Commented May 30 at 4:35

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