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The Evolution & What is the Double S Symbol

What is the Double S Symbol

The double S symbol, also known as the “ss ligature,” has a rich history and is widely recognized in typography. As a professional writer, I often come across this unique symbol and its significance in different languages. In this article, I’ll delve into the origins of the double S symbol, its usage, and its impact on typography and design.

When you encounter the double S symbol, it may seem like a simple ligature, but its roots can be traced back to the early days of printing. This symbol, which resembles a lowercase “f,” was initially used in Germanic languages to represent the “ss” sound. Over time, it became a standard feature in many European languages, including English. Understanding the evolution and usage of this symbol can provide valuable insights into the development of typography as a whole.

Historical Origins of the Double S Symbol

The history of the double S symbol dates back to the Middle Ages, where it was first introduced to simplify writing and printing. During this time, the double S symbol, also known as the “ss ligature,” gained popularity in Germanic languages as a way to represent the “ss” sound in a single character.

Before the double S symbol, the “ss” sound was written as two separate letters “s.” However, this led to confusion and inconsistency in written texts. To address this issue, typographers and scribes began to merge the two “s” letters into a ligature, resulting in the creation of the double S symbol.

The use of the double S symbol quickly spread throughout Europe and became an integral part of typography in many languages. Its purpose was not only to enhance legibility but also to improve the flow of written content. By combining the two “s” letters into a single character, the double S symbol allowed for smoother and more efficient writing and printing processes.

Over the centuries, the double S symbol continued to evolve and adapt to changing typographic practices. While its usage in modern English has significantly decreased, it still holds historical importance and is occasionally used in certain contexts, such as in decorative typography or in representing historical terms and names.

Understanding the historical origins of the double S symbol gives us insight into the evolution of written communication and the development of typographic conventions. It serves as a reminder of the ongoing innovations in typography and the importance of legibility and readability in written texts.

By delving into the history of the double S symbol, we gain a deeper appreciation for the role it has played in the evolution of typography and its lasting impact on written languages.

Usage of the Double S Symbol

Throughout history, the double S symbol has been used in various ways, contributing to the aesthetics and readability of written content. While it has largely fallen out of use in modern English, there are still a few contexts where you might come across this unique ligature:

  1. Historical Documents: When examining historical texts, particularly those written in early modern English or other European languages, you may encounter the double S symbol. It was commonly used as a ligature in printing presses, representing the letter “s” in specific situations, such as between two vowels or at the end of a word ending in “s.”
  2. Typography: The double S symbol’s historical significance often leads to its occasional inclusion in modern typography, particularly in classic or vintage-inspired designs. Graphic designers and typographers may incorporate it into logos, book covers, or other creative projects to evoke a sense of nostalgia or historical authenticity.
  3. German Language: The double S symbol continues to be commonly used in the German language. In German, it represents a different sound than the letter “s” on its own, functioning as the voiceless alveolar fricative “ss.” This usage can be seen in words like “Straße” (street) and “glaube” (belief). It is important to note that this usage is distinct from its historical usage in English.

As we explore the history and usage of the double S symbol, it becomes evident that its impact extends beyond conventional written content. Whether encountered in historical documents, graphic design, or the German language, it serves as a reminder of the evolution of typography and the ongoing importance of legibility in written texts. The double S symbol may have taken a backseat in everyday English, but its historical significance continues to make it an intriguing linguistic relic.


Throughout different regions and historical periods, the double S symbol, also known as the “ss ligature,” has undergone various transformations and adaptations. In German typography, it is commonly used in the Fraktur script and as the Eszett letter in the German language. English typography has also experimented with variations of the double S symbol, but its usage in English has gradually declined over time. Ligatures combining two “s” letters were used in Latin and Romance languages.

Graphic Designer with over 15 years experience. Cath writes about all your design and web illustration must-haves and favorites!