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third letter of the alphabet. Alphabetic writing came to Rome via the southern Etruscan "Caeretan" script, in which gamma was written as a crescent. Early Romans made little use of Greek kappa and used gamma for both the "g" and "k" sounds, the latter more frequently, so that the "k" sound came to be seen as the proper one for gamma. To restore a dedicated symbol for the "g" sound, a modified gamma was introduced c.250 B.C.E. as G. In classical Latin -c- has only the value "k," and thus it passed to Celtic and, via Irish monks, to Anglo-Saxon, where -k- was known but little used.
In Old French, many "k" sounds drifted to "ts" and by 13c., "s," but still were written with a -c-. Thus the 1066 invasion brought to the English language a more vigorous use of -k- and a flood of French and Latin words in which -c- represented "s" (e.g. cease, ceiling, circle). By 15c. native English words with -s- were being respelled with -c- for "s" (e.g. ice, mice, lice). In some words from Italian, meanwhile, the -c- has a "ch" sound (a sound evolution in Italian that parallels the Old French one).
The symbol for the element carbon.
The symbol for the speed of light in a vacuum.
A naturally abundant, nonmetallic element that occurs in all organic compounds and can be found in all known forms of life. Diamonds and graphite are pure forms, and carbon is a major constituent of coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Carbon generally forms four covalent bonds with other atoms in larger molecules. Atomic number 6; atomic weight 12.011; sublimation point above 3,500°C; boiling point 4,827°C; specific gravity of amorphous carbon 1.8 to 2.1, of diamond 3.15 to 3.53, of graphite 1.9 to 2.3; valence 2, 3, 4. See Periodic Table.
A programming language designed by Dennis Ritchie at AT&T Bell Labs ca. 1972 for systems programming on the PDP-11 and immediately used to reimplement Unix.
It was called "C" because many features derived from an earlier compiler named "B". In fact, C was briefly named "NB". B was itself strongly influenced by BCPL. Before Bjarne Stroustrup settled the question by designing C++, there was a humorous debate over whether C's successor should be named "D" or "P" (following B and C in "BCPL").
C is terse, low-level and permissive. It has a macro preprocessor, cpp.
Partly due to its distribution with Unix, C became immensely popular outside Bell Labs after about 1980 and is now the dominant language in systems and microcomputer applications programming. It has grown popular due to its simplicity, efficiency, and flexibility. C programs are often easily adapted to new environments.
C is often described, with a mixture of fondness and disdain, as "a language that combines all the elegance and power of assembly language with all the readability and maintainability of assembly language".
Ritchie's original C, known as K&R C after Kernighan and Ritchie's book, has been standardised (and simultaneously modified) as ANSI C.
See also ACCU, ae, c68, c386, C-Interp, cxref, dbx, dsp56k-gcc, dsp56165-gcc, gc, GCT, GNU C, GNU superoptimiser, Harvest C, malloc, mpl, Pthreads, ups.