The H eighth letter in the Latin alpha-bet, and in others derived directly from it, as English, French, German, and Italian. It was also the eighth letter in the original Greek alphabet, where it was represented by the character II, and so appears in inscriptions; but the letter was in time dropped, and the character was used for the new letter eta; and the two halves subsequently modified into 'and ', designated as the "rough" and "smooth" breathings, were superscribed over the initial vowel of a word; the initial v always having the rough breathing (v), while the other vowels may have either. The initial p is always aspirated, and when this letter is doubled in the middle of a word, the first has the rough and the second the smooth breathing (pp). II in English, when sounded, is a mere emission of the unvocalized breath; but in producing it the vocal organs are placed in position to form the succeeding vowel; thus in uttering he, ha, or ho, the lips and tongue are in different positions. H is sometimes silent, as in hour, heir, honor; that is, the breath is emitted so gently as to be inaudible; in a few words, such as humble and humor, the usage varies; but when audible it has but one sound, as in hat. There is a vulgarism not uncommon in England of reversing the proper usage at the beginning of a word; as ouse for house, happle for apple. At the end of a word it is silent, or at most gives additional force to the preceding vowel. II enters into combination with other letters, usually modifying their sound.
Oh, as in church, is properly a distinct letter (and is so regarded in Spanish, the only language in which it is the same as in English), the sound of which is only approximately represented by tsh; in some words of French origin, as chaise and machine, it is equivalent to sh; when it is the representative of the Greek X, it is usually sounded like Jr. as in chorus, but occasionally, as in archbishop, it assumes the normal English sound. In gh, at the beginning of a word, the h is silent, as in ghost; in other positions both letters are usually silent, as in light, hough, but occasionally, as in laughter, they sound like f. Ph is merely the representative of the Greek 6, and sounds like f. Eh is only used to represent the Greek p. Th has two sounds, as in thin and in that. In wh, the sound of h precedes that of w, as in what (hwat); in who, whom, whose, whole, the w is silent. Many persons drop the h in this combination, pronouncing wig for whig, wip for whip, etc. - In German music, II denotes the 7th diatonic interval, or the 12th string of the chromatic scale.
This note was anciently B, and is so yet in Dutch and English music; but after the introduction of the chromatics, both itself and its flat (which was first contrived) being named B, in order to distinguish them, one was made of square shape. From this B quadratum was formed the (French be carre) and the German II, while its flat became b, whence the sign (French be mol).