I'd like to type macrons on (OS X | Windows | Ubuntu | other), but my keyboard doesn't have an ā key. How can I add macrons to my vowels?

I don't want to copy them from this strangely convenient list: ā ē ī ō ū ȳ.

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On OS X, it's easy. Just hold down the vowel you want and select the macron-ized version: ā.

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If you're typing a lot of these, I'd recommend adding "ABC Extended" as a keyboard layout (in System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources. Now you can type alta, then the vowel: ā ē ī

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Or, if you like, you can copy them from here: ā ē ī ō ū ȳ.

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  • What exactly do you mean by "hold down"? Surely not the physical key? – Cerberus Nov 29 '16 at 7:15
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    Yes, the physical key @Cerberus. Might need to toggle a setting somewhere to enable it instead of repeating. – Undo Oct 7 '17 at 12:53
  • Hey, hello! Hmm I see, so you have to hold down the u key, then perform certain actions to 'select' ū. It's good to have an as option, I'm sure! But I find Autohotkey to be quite a bit more efficient, no offence! – Cerberus Oct 8 '17 at 9:19

I use HTML entities:

ā ā
ē ē
ī ī
ō ō
ū ū

Oddly, you can't just substitute y into any of the above. You'll need

ȳ ȳ

Which is unfortunately not so easy.

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  • 1
    Looks like you can use, e.g., Ā for capital vowels. – hBy2Py Feb 23 '16 at 20:52
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    Similarly, Ȳ should work for capital 'y'. – hBy2Py Feb 23 '16 at 21:08

The most convenient way I've ever seen happens on Linux. You can use the compose key. Then you simply type Compose, -, o to get an ō. Or you type Compose, ^, o to get an ô.

Beautiful in its simplicity.

Besides, should you be learning Greek, you can setup your own .XCompose so as to be able to denote the vowel length in the Greek alphabet (not sure if it's enabled by default)

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  • Nice! Too bad it does not work in Emacs(23). The response: <Multi_key> is undefined – davidrmcharles Apr 7 '16 at 5:03
  • Note that by default in X, 'Compose' is Shift+Alt Gr. If you're typing latin a lot, it's probably worth remapping it to just Alt Gr, or left Ctrl, or something. There are various ways of doing this! – John Lawrence Aspden Apr 16 '19 at 14:57

For Windows users, the Maori (New Zealand) keyboard allows easy addition of macrons to all vowels except y.

From the Control Panel, go to Region and Language, then click Change Keyboards..., then Add. Then select Maori's keyboard:

Maori keyboard

Enabling this keyboard modifies the behavior of the ` key:

Affected key

Tap ` + a to get ā. Tap ` + ` to get the grave accent itself.

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  • 2
    You could also install the keyboard for Latvian. With the Latvian QWERTY keyboard in Windows, you add macrons using the alt key, although there is no long 'y' either. – neubau Feb 26 '16 at 3:01
  • @neubau - Since ō is not used in the Latvian language, in the Latvian QWERTY keyboard in Windows Alt Gr + o gives the Estonian / Livonian letter õ. – Yellow Sky Jul 22 at 12:25

The most convenient way to type macra in Windows is by using the marvellous programme Autohotkey. If you install Autohotkey and run the following script at startup, you can easily type macros by typing e-=- etc. Advantages:

  • Easily adjustable to your preferences.
  • You don't need to reach for faraway or unusual keys on your keyboard to type a special character.
  • You don't need to hold down any modifier keys.
  • You can add the macron after you have already typed the vowel. So you type para, then you think, oh, I wanted a macron on that a, so you type -=- (or whichever characters you have set up) and it appears. You can also type parare, then backspace twice, then -=- and it will appear on the a you typed earlier.
  • You can do this for any character you often type. I also have e.g. e\/ set up to turn into ĕ, etc. I can give you my full script in case you're interested.

You can of course change the -=- into anything you want. Just make sure it is a combination you don't normally type. Just to be sure, you can make the hotkeys work only in certain windows, for example:

SetTitleMatchMode 2

#If Winactive("Firefox Latin Language Stack Exchange")
or Winactive("the title of some other window")


Copy-paste this code into a text file, then save the file as a unicode file (the format should probably be UTF-8) with an extension .ahk and have it run on startup.

You can also make it type words or sentences by adding lines like this:

:*?:tllqq::Thesaurus Linguae Latinae
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On Windows, there does not seem to be a simple way for direct entry of macron vowels that is enabled by default. Matt Gutting's HTML entities are a pretty good option for questions and answers, but they appear not to work in comments.

The "most straightforward" method for direct insertion of Unicode characters appears to be the second approach described here, which involves modifying the registry (not for the faint of heart!) and then logging out and back in (or rebooting).

  1. Press Win+R to open the "Run..." dialog
  2. Enter regedit and press Enter to load the registry editor

Run dialog for regedit
Click images here and below for larger versions

  1. In Registry Editor, browse to the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Input Method

Regedit nav to Input Method key

  1. Right-click and select New > String Value

Right-click and add new string value

  1. Name the new string value EnableHexNumpad

Naming the new value

  1. Double-click the new value, enter 1 as the value, and click OK
  2. Close the Registry Editor
  3. Log out and back in, or reboot.

The Unicode characters can then be entered by holding Alt, pressing the following key sequences, then releasing Alt. The leading + is the keypad 'plus' in all cases, and letters are entered using the regular keyboard keys:

Ā: +0100
Ē: +0112
Ī: +012a
Ō: +014c
Ū: +016a
Ȳ: +0232

ā: +0101
ē: +0113
ī: +012b
ō: +014d (this one messes up because Alt+D activates the address bar :-/ )
ū: +016b
ȳ: +0233

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  • 2
    @ElliotA. Agreed, for most users Matt Gutting's approach is far superior. I'd already gotten most of the way through working up the post before he posted his, though, so I just went ahead and finished it. <shrug> – hBy2Py Feb 23 '16 at 22:08
  • Frankly, I concur with the -1 vote total on this answer at present. :-D – hBy2Py Feb 25 '16 at 2:36
  • Inventive! Even though this is probably less practical in most cases, it is good to know that it is possible. – Cerberus Feb 27 '16 at 23:37
  • @Cerberus Yeah, opening up Alt-key access to the full Unicode character set promises to be terrifically handy in a wide variety of contexts. – hBy2Py Feb 28 '16 at 3:21
  • @ElliotA. I see no possible way that this could "ruin" a computer; just because it involves modifying the registry does not mean that potential destruction can follow. I for one find this method incredibly useful; I need to be able to type a variety of accents, diacritics, etc., to which I need to be able to assign custom keys, which the default Windows keyboards (like the Maori keyboard) can't provide. – Ethan Bierlein Oct 9 '18 at 14:33
  • @EthanBierlein wow, that was a comment from a while ago. I was completely wrong, I realize that now. – Elliot A. Feb 27 '19 at 4:47

in emacs

M-x set-input-method latin-alt-postfix


ama-re, amo-, ama-s, amat, ama-mus, ama-tis, amant


amāre, amō, amās, amat, amāmus, amātis, amant

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There is a HTML entity that puts a macron on the preceding character: &#772; (also &#x304;). For example, A&#772; becomes Ā and y&#772; becomes ȳ. It is hard to remember, but on the other hand it works with any letter.

The breve counterpart is &#774; (also &#x306;). With these you can easily speak about vowel length in general: V̄ is longer than V̆.

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On Android there is a actual Latīna keyboard:


It's a plugin for the multiling-O keyboard app, which you also need to install.

It's a bit 'busy' by default, but if you fiddle with the settings you can cut it all down to a nice qwerty+macrons arrangement.

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