THE 16th letter and the 12th consonant of the English alphabet. It is the leading'or most prominent of the labial mutes, and is pronounced by closely compressing the lips until the breath is collected and then letting it issue. P is frequently interchanged with B, and in English words of Teutonic origin corresponds as a rule to B in the root. The exceptions to this rule are very numerous, however, as Eng. sleep, Anglo-Saxon slapan, Moeso-Gothic slepan;' and on the other hand, when P occurs in words of Greek or Latin derivation, it is found to be the same in the original language; thus, Eng. paternal, Lat. pater, Gr..

The dialects of upper Germany frequently pronounce B as P, and those of lower Germany make the contrary change. In Runic writings the character representing the sound of P is almost identical with our B. The undoubtedly pure sound of P is found in none of the Semitic languages except the Ethiop-ic, its representative in Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac partaking more of the ph or f. It is common in Chinese. Besides o and f, this letter is also interchangeable with m, v, pf, c, h, q, t, and pt. Followed by h, it is equivalent to the Greek $, and pronounced /, as in physic. In some words borrowed from the Greek, as psalm, it is silent in English, though sounded in Greek (where it forms with s a single character, ) and other languages. - As an abbreviation in Latin inscriptions, P. stands for Publius, proconsul, pontifex, pins, perpetuus, patronus, pedes, pondo,posult, ponendum, post, etc. P.P. signifies pater patrice, pro proetore, propositus, primipilus; P.O., patres conscripti. In numismatics, it is the mark of ancient coins struck at Dijon. The numerical value of P among the ancients has been variously explained.

As the initial letter of it seems at first among the Greeks to have indicated 5; afterward it denoted 80. Among the Romans, according to Baronius, it stood for 7; but according to Uguccio it was equivalent to 0, 100, and according to others to G, 400, or with a horizontal mark over it to 4,000, 40,000, or 400,000.