I'm sure you've all noticed documents in English from the 1700's often have 'F' where, if written now, there would be an 'S'. You can see what I'm talking about a few times in this example, like at the beginning where it says "Prayers faid" or in the date "Tuefday November 26. 1700."enter image description here

What's going on with this? When did it start? When did it stop?

  • 6
    it's not f, it's half of German double-s: ß
    – Agent_L
    Apr 13, 2019 at 17:58
  • 2
    Also, why is the S in MINUTS upside down?
    – Mr Lister
    Apr 14, 2019 at 11:43
  • also what is the character for "CT" that looks like an ampersand.
    – ed.hank
    Jul 22, 2019 at 17:11

3 Answers 3


There's a typographical distinction between an actual f and the ſ you're referring to in the text. See for instance the difference between 'magiſtrats' and 'behalf' in the second paragraph.

The 'ſ' is a long 's'; the Wikipedia article has a very long section on its history and decline of use.

In general, the long s fell out of use in Roman and italic typefaces in professional printing well before the middle of the 19th century. It rarely appears in good quality London printing after 1800, though it lingers provincially until 1824, and is found in handwriting into the second half of the nineteenth century" being sometimes seen later on in archaic or traditionalist printing such as printed collections of sermons.

See this Old English Alphabet for a more complete list of changes to the alphabet. And this somewhat related Linguistics SE question, with a long answer that explains how 'ſ' was just another way of writing 's' in some circumstances, rather than a letter that corresponded to a different pronunciation.

Other interesting posts courtesy of sumelic:

  • 'The Three Castles' cigarette company used the long s for the first s in castles at least into the 1940s.
    – Daniel
    Apr 18, 2019 at 3:17

In German, the long s was used to distinguish words that are build out of 2 words and are/or spoken differently.

The typical sample to demonstrate it's usage:

  • Wachstube : Wachs tube (tube of wax)
    • the s is spoken as the s in others
  • Wachſtube : Wach stube (guard house)
    • the s is spoken as the s in sold

so when reading, you know which word is meant and how to pronounce it.

The long s is also spoken a bit sharper (longer) as in the english samples in your image (poſition and othersſold)

  • pos_ition and otherss_old

When not used you have to guess the meaning out of the sentance context.

The long s is no longer used in everyday printing for German language text when using Latin letters.


It's not an f, it's a long s. It's used in maths to mean integral because one definition of an integral is the summation of a function's values.

  • @MarkC.Wallace: The integral symbol in math (∫) orinates from the long s (ſ).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Apr 14, 2019 at 13:42

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