A macron, from the Greek μακρόν (makrón), meaning "long", is a diacritic placed above a vowel (and, more rarely, under or above a consonant). It was originally used to mark a long or heavy syllable in Greco-Roman metrics, but now marks a long vowel. In the International Phonetic Alphabet the macron is used to indicate mid tone; the sign for a long vowel is a modified triangular colon ⟨ː⟩.
The opposite is the breve ⟨˘⟩, which marks a short or light syllable or a short vowel.
Syllable weight 
In Greco-Roman metrics and in the description of the metrics of other literatures, the macron was introduced and is still widely used to mark a long (heavy) syllable. Even relatively recent classical Greek and Latin dictionaries are still concerned with indicating only the length (weight) of syllables; that is why most still do not indicate the length of vowels in syllables that are otherwise metrically determined. Many textbooks about Ancient Rome and Greece use the macron even if it was not actually used at that time.
Vowel length 
The following languages or transliteration systems use the macron to mark long vowels:
- Slavicists use the macron to indicate a non-tonic long vowel, or a non-tonic syllabic liquid, such as on l, lj, m, n, nj, and r. Languages with this feature include standard and jargon varieties of Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian, Slovene, Bulgarian.
- Transcriptions of Arabic typically use macrons to indicate long vowels — ا (alif when pronounced /aː/), و (waw, when pronounced /uː/), and ي (ya', when pronounced /iː/). Thus the Arabic word ثلاثة (three) is transliterated ṯalāṯah.
- Some modern dictionaries and coursebooks of classical Greek and Latin, where the macron is sometimes used in conjunction with the breve. However, many such dictionaries still have ambiguities in their treatment and distinction of long vowels or heavy syllables.
- In romanization of Greek, the letters η (eta) and ω (omega) are transliterated, respectively, as ē and ō. This corresponds to vowel length, by contrast with the short vowels ε (epsilon) and ο (omicron), which are transliterated as plain e and o.
- The Hepburn romanization system of Japanese, for example, kōtsū (交通, こうつう) "traffic" as opposed to kotsu (骨, こつ) "bone" or "knack".
- Latvian. Ā, ē, ī, ū are separate letters that sort in alphabetical order immediately after a, e, i, u respectively. Ō was also used in Latvian, but it was discarded as of 1957.
- Lithuanian. Ū is a separate letter but is given the same position in collation as the unaccented u. It marks a long vowel; other long vowels are indicated with an ogonek (which used to indicate nasalization, but it no longer does): ą, ę, į, ų and o being always long in Lithuanian except for some recent loanwords. For the long counterpart of i, y is used.
- Livonian. Ā, ǟ, ē, ī, ō, ȱ, ȭ and ū are separate letters that sort in alphabetical order immediately after a, ä, e, i, o, ȯ, õ and u respectively.
- Samogitian. Ā, ē, ī, ū and ō are separate letters that sort in alphabetical order immediately after a, e, i, u and o respectively.
- Transcriptions of Nahuatl, the Aztecs' language, spoken in Mexico. Since it did not have a writing system, when the Spanish conquistadors arrived,they wrote the language in their own alphabet without distinguishing long vowels. Over a century later, in 1645, Horacio Carochi defined macrons to mark long vowels ā, ē, ī and ō, and short vowels with grave (`) accents. This is rare nowadays since many people write Nahuatl without any orthographic sign and with the letters k, s and w, not present in the original alphabet.
- Modern transcriptions of Old English.
- Latin transliteration of Pali and Sanskrit.
- Polynesian languages:
- Cook Islands Māori. In Cook Islands Māori, the macron or mākarōna is not commonly used in writing, but is used in references and teaching materials for those learning the language.
- Hawaiian. The macron is called kahakō, and it indicates vowel length, which changes meaning and the placement of stress.
- Māori. Early writing in Māori did not distinguish vowel length. Some, notably Professor Bruce Biggs, have advocated that double vowels be written to mark long vowel sounds (for example, Maaori), but he was more concerned with their being marked at all than with the method that was chosen. The Māori Language Commission (Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori) advocates that macrons be used to designate long vowels. The use of the macron is widespread in modern Māori, although sometimes the trema mark is used instead (for example, "Mäori" instead of "Māori") if the macron is not available for technical reasons . The Māori words for macron are pōtae ("hat") or tohutō.
- Niuean. In Niuean, ‘ “popular spelling” does not worry too much about vowel quality’ (length), so the macron is primarily used in scholarly study of the language.
- Tahitian. The use of the macron is comparatively recent in Tahitian. The Fare Vānaʻa or Académie Tahitienne (Tahitian Academy) recommends using the macron, called the tārava, to represent long vowels in written text, especially for scientific or teaching texts. The macron seems to have received more widespread acceptance than the Academy's version of the glottal stop (called the ʻeta), as evidenced by the use of the macron (but not the ʻeta) in references not published by the Academy. There are, however, multiple ways of representing or ignoring vowel length in written text. The Tahitian Academy enumerates 14 orthographies in Tahaitian, though not all are in common use.  Furthermore not all of those systems represent long vowels in distinctly different fashions.
- Tongan and Samoan. Called the toloi/fakamamafa or fa'amamafa, respectively. Its usage is similar to that in Māori, including its substitution by a trema. Its usage is not universal in Samoan, but recent academic publications and advanced study textbooks promote its use.
The following languages or alphabets use the macron to mark tones:
- In the International Phonetic Alphabet, a macron over a vowel indicates a mid-level tone.
- In Pinyin, the official Romanization of Mandarin Chinese, macrons over a, e, i, o, u, ü (ā, ē, ī, ō, ū, ǖ) indicate the high level tone of Mandarin Chinese. The alternative to the macron is the number 1 after the syllable (for example, tā = ta1).
- Similarly, the Cantonese Yale Romanization uses the macron to represent the high level tone, as in yāt gāan chāan tēng (一間餐廳, a restaurant).
Sometimes the macron marks an omitted n or m, like the tilde:
- In Old English texts a macron above a letter indicates the omission of an m or n that would normally follow that letter.
- In older handwriting such as the German Kurrentschrift, the macron over an a-e-i-o-u or ä-ö-ü stood for an n, or over an m or an n meant that the letter was doubled. This continued into print in English in the sixteenth century. Over a u at the end of a word, the macron indicated um as a form of scribal abbreviation.
Letter extension 
The macron is used in the orthography of a number of vernacular languages of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, particularly those first transcribed by Anglican missionaries. The macron has no unique value, and is simply used to distinguish between two different phonemes.
Thus, in several languages of the Banks Islands, including Mwotlap, the simple m stands for /m/, but an m with a macron (m̄) is a labial-velar nasal /ŋ͡mʷ/; while the simple n stands for the common alveolar nasal /n/, an n with macron (n̄) represents the velar nasal /ŋ/; the vowel ē stands for a (short) higher /ɪ/ by contrast with plain e /ɛ/; likewise ō /ʊ/ contrasts with plain o /ɔ/.
In Hiw orthography, the consonant r̄ stands for the prestopped velar lateral approximant /ᶢʟ/. In Araki, the same symbol r̄ encodes the alveolar trill /r/ – by contrast with r, which encodes the alveolar flap /ɾ/.
In Kokota, ḡ is used for the velar stop /ɡ/, but g without macron is the voiced velar fricative /ɣ/.
Other uses 
- In the German Kurrent handwriting, a macron is used on some consonants, especially n and m, as a shortform for a double consonant (for example, n̄ instead of nn).
- In some Finnish and Swedish comic books that are hand-lettered, or in handwriting, the macron is used instead of ä or ö, sometimes known colloquially as a "lazy man's umlaut".
- In Russian cursive, as well as in some others based on the Cyrillic script (for example, Macedonian), a lowercase Т looks like a lowercase m, and a macron is often used to distinguish it from Ш, which looks like a lowercase w (see Т). Some writers also underline the letter ш to reduce ambiguity further.
- In modernized Hepburn romanization of Japanese, an n with macron represents a syllabic n.
In medical prescriptions and other handwritten notes, macrons mean:
- ā, before, abbreviating Latin ante
- c̄, with, abbreviating Latin cum
- p̄, after, abbreviating Latin post
- q̄, every, abbreviating Latin quisque (and its inflected forms)
- s̄, without, abbreviating Latin sine
- x̄, except
Math and science 
The overline is a typographical symbol similar to the macron, used in a number of ways in mathematics and science.
In music, the tenuto marking resembles the macron.
Technical notes 
In LaTeX a macron is created with the command "\=", for example: M\=aori for Māori.
See also 
- ^ P.G.W. Glare (ed.), Oxford Latin Dictionary (Oxford at the Clarendon Press 1990), p. xxiii: Vowel quantities. Normally, only long vowels in a metrically indeterminate position are marked.
- ^ Годечкият Говор от Михаил Виденов,Издателство на българската академия на науките,София, 1978, p. 19: ...характерни за всички селища от годечкия говор....Подобни случай са характерни и за книжовния език-Ст.Стойков, Увод във фонетиката на българския език , стр. 151.. (Russian)
- ^ Buse, Jasper with Taringa, Raututi (Bruce Biggs and Rangi Moeka‘a, eds.). (1996). Cook Islands Maori Dictionary with English-Cook Islands Maori Finder List. Avarua, Rarotonga: The Ministry of Education, Government of the Cook Islands; The School of Oriental and African Studies, The University of London; The Institute of Pacific Studies, The University of the South Pacific; The Centre for Pacific Studies, The University of Auckland; Pacific Linguistics, The Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Austrailian National University.
- ^ Carpentier, Tai Tepuaoterā Turepu and Beaumont, Clive. (1995). Kai kōrero: A Cook Islands Maori Language Coursebook. Auckland, New Zealand: Pasifika Press.
- ^ Yearbook of the Academy Council - 2000, Royal Society of New Zealand
- ^ Sperlich, Wolfgang B. (ed.) (1997). Tohi vagahau Niue – Niue language dictionary: Niuen-English with English-Niuean finderlist. Honolulu: University of Hawaii at Manoa Department of Linguistics.
- ^ Académie Tahitienne. (1986). Grammaire de la langue tahitienne. Papeete, Tahiti: Fare Vāna’a.
- ^ Académie Tahitienne. (1999). Dictionnaire tahitien-français: Faʻatoro parau tahiti-farāni. Papeete, Tahiti: Fare Vānaʻa.
- ^ LeMaître, Yves. (1995). Lexique du tahitien contemporain: tahitien-français français-tahitien. Paris: Éditions de l’IRD (ex-Orstom).
- ^ Montillier, Pierre. (1999). Te reo tahiti ’āpi: Dictionnaire du tahitien nouveau et biblique. Papeete, Tahiti: STP Multipress.
- ^ Jaussen, Mgr Tepano. (2001). Dictionnaire de la langue Tahitien (10ème édition, revue et augmentée). Papeete, Tahiti: Société des Études Océaniennes.
- ^ Académie Tahitienne (6 January 2003). Graphie et graphies de la langue tahitienne
- ^ Simanu, Aumua Mata'itusi. 'O si Manu a Ali'i: A Text for the Advanced Study of Samoan Language and Culture
- ^ François, Alexandre (2005), "A typological overview of Mwotlap, an Oceanic language of Vanuatu", Linguistic Typology 9 (1): 115–146 , doi:10.1515/lity.2005.9.1.115
- ^ François, Alexandre (2010), "Phonotactics and the prestopped velar lateral of Hiw: resolving the ambiguity of a complex segment", Phonology 27 (3): 393–434, p.421.
- ^ François, Alexandre (2008). "The alphabet of Araki".
- ^ Palmer, Bill. A grammar of the Kokota language, Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands. PhD dissertation.
Endnote 2 has wrong information. The text is in Bulgarian, and not Russian.
It translates thus:
The Dialect of Godech by Mihail Videnov, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences Press, Sofia, 1978, p. 19: ...characteristic for all inhabited localities where the Godech dialect is spoken.... Similar cases also appear in official Bulgarian - St. Stoykov, Introduction to Bulgarian Phonetics, p. 151.
This is how it looks now:
^ Годечкият Говор от Михаил Виденов,Издателство на българската академия на науките,София, 1978, p. 19: ...характерни за всички селища от годечкия говор....Подобни случай са характерни и за книжовния език-Ст.Стойков, Увод във фонетиката на българския език , стр. 151.. (Russian)
External links