- A letter of the Latin script.
- The capital form SZ occurs in all-caps (e.g. in German MASZE for Maße (which is not to be confused with Masse)).
- (pharmacy) Apothecary symbol for half.
- 1624, Philip Barrough [i.e., Philip Barrow], “Of Making Bolus”, in The Method of Physick, Contaning[sic] the Cavses, Signes, and Cvres of Inward Diseases in Mans Body, from the Head to the Foote. Whereunto is Added, The Forme and Rule of Making Remedies and Medicines, which Our Physitions Commonly Vse at this Day, with the Proportion, Quantity, and Names of Each Medicine, book VII (in English), 6th edition, London: Imprinted by Richard Field, dwelling in great Woodstreete, OCLC 79430651, page 397:
- Bolvs in Engliſh is called a morſell. It is a medicine laxatiue, in forme and faſhion it is meanely whole, and it is ſwallowed by little gobbets. […] ℞ Medulla Caſſiæ fiſtulæ [n]ewly drawne, ℥. j. or ʒ. x. the graines, that is, the kernels, of Barberies, ℈. ß and with Sugar roſet [sugar compounded with rose petals], make a bole.
- (phoneme) IPA(key): /s/
- (letter name) IPA(key): /ɛsˈtsɛt/ (Eszett)
- (letter name) IPA(key): /ˈʃaʁ.fəs ˈɛs/ (scharfes S, standard)
- (letter name) IPA(key): /ˈʃaː.fəs ˈɛs/ (scharfes S, alternate pronunciation)
In alphabetic ordering, ß is equivalent to the string ss (formerly sz), so aß (“ate”) is sorted between Aspirin (“aspirin”) and Ast (“branch”), immediately after the alphabetically equivalent Ass (“ace”).
The letter is not used in Swiss or Liechtenstein German, where it is replaced by ss, so Straße is written Strasse. It is also almost unique among the Latin letters as there was no uppercase form officially recognised before 2017. In all German-speaking countries, the letter usually replaced with SS (STRASSE) when writing in uppercase, but the letter is sometimes used directly, either in its original lowercase form (STRAßE) or in the relatively recently designed capital form (STRAẞE). The old rule which mandated replacing ß with SZ (STRASZE) is now proscribed.
In German orthography, ß is treated as a letter of its own right. In the orthography from 1996 it is used instead of ss after long vowels and diphthongs. Thus Masse (“mass”) is different in meaning and pronunciation from Maße (“measures”). In alphabetical orders, the former would come directly before the latter if otherwise they are alphabetically equivalent. Both can be rendered MASSE in capitalisation (whereby the distinction is then lost), but Maße may also be spelled MAẞE or MAßE, the latter being proscribed.
The above-mentioned rule for the use of ß and ss was changed in the 1996 spelling reform. Before this reform ß also occurred after short vowels at the end of a word or before a consonant. Therefore a rather large number of words that used to be spelt with ß, are now spelt with ss (for example, daß and Rußland have become dass and Russland). The older spelling has become rare, but is still found in the products of a few (conservative) publishing houses.