After looking at the Spanish Keyboard that comes in Windows I have come to notice that there are 5 Dead Keys on the Spanish Keyboard layout.

  Name                Example 
´ ACUTE ACCENT        más
¨ DIAERESIS           pingüino 

Why do such dead keys exist on the keyboard layout?

What significance do they have in the language?

  • In older keyboards tilde did not appear. It had to be written with ALT+126. It's been probably added because in programming and the Internet is quite common.
    – MikMik
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 9:31
  • @MikMik Interesting, but still doesn't explain why their is a dead key though
    – William
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 6:45

5 Answers 5


` (grave accent) is there for Catalan. For this language, the ç and the · were also brought in (at least on the physical keyboards sold in Spain).

^ is likely to be used for completeness (this accent is quite common in Portuguese and French)

  • ^ and ~ are used in reintegrationalist Galician orthography, so all of the keys (dead or not) in a "Spanish" keyboard layout can be used in some (co-)official language of Spain. Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 12:07
  • 1
    PS "Brought" is the past form of "bring" in standard English. Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 12:08
  • @PeterTaylor facepalming myself right now... thanks! Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 15:07

~ TILDE año, niño

GRAVE ACCENT and CIRCUMFLEX ACCENT are used in Portuguese, I think.

  • Are there any other letters in the Spanish language that use the tilde? There is already a separate key for ñ, so I'm trying to figure out if there might be another reason why.
    – William
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 7:35
  • I doubt there's some good reason (except perhaps some back-compatibilty thing) that explains why ~ ^ ` are dead keys in the spanish keyboard.
    – leonbloy
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 16:24

The acute accent is used to mark which is the stressed syllable.

The diaeresis is actually only used in the 'u' letter. It is used to note that it must be pronounced in contrary to the normal uses of the ‘gue’ and ‘gui’ in the Spanish language.

There are no uses in Spanish (that I know, maybe some obscure reference) for the grave accent and the circumflex accent.

As you say, the tilde is only used for the letter 'ñ' in spanish and no other letters uses it. I have sometimes seen it as a logial NOT in logic classes such as NOT A THEN B is represented as ~A --> B instead of the symbol '¬'.

  • The diaeresis can also be used with i, but it is a marginal use. In poetry and the like, it is used to force a hiatus on what otherwise would be a diptong.
    – MikMik
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 9:34
  • @MikMik Qué interesante. No lo sabía. ¿Tienes alguna referencia? Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 18:43
  • Check diéresis in the RAE dictionary or in the DPD. Actually, it seems that it goes on the first vowel of the diphthong to be "broken", so I guess it can be any vowel. In the links, there are examples on i (vïuda) and u (rüido, süave).
    – MikMik
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 8:51
  • Nice to know, but I have lived in Spain for over twenty five years (including school years) and never, ever encountered a diéresis other than the u (ü) one. The examples you use, are used with out diéresis in the day to day spanish. How strange, maybe some old linguistic deprecated rules? Edit: ah! I followed the links and are only used in old poetry texts. Now I understand :)
    – Random
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 15:24

The tilde is occasionally used with the letter "a" in Portuguese. e. g. sao paolo. (sorry, I can't type it correctly, but there is a tilde on the first "a").


^ is used in Math syntax for powers: 3^2=9, because of the difficulty of writing it on the computer with its traditional notation. It's an international unwritten law (or maybe written), so we also need it.

The same with ~, it means an approximation in Maths. Also negation in logic syntax.

In Spanish language there is no usage of `, but (I'm not sure about this) I think Catalan language does use it, and they use our same keyboard. It's also useful for writing in French or Italian.

So, although they aren't used on Spanish language, they aren't dead keys for us.

  • 2
    "Dead keys" means that "it does not generate a (complete) character by itself but modifies the character generated by the key struck immediately after" ref
    – leonbloy
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 16:22
  • 1
    Oh, I didn't know it. Thank you! Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 14:36

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