E – is the fifth letter and the second vowel in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is the most commonly used letter in many languages, including Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Latin, Latvian, Norwegian, Spanish, and Swedish.
The Latin letter ‘E’ differs little from its source, the Greek letter epsilon, ‘?’. This in turn comes from the Semitic letter h?, which has been suggested to have started as a praying or calling human figure (hillul ‘jubilation’), and was probably based on a similar Egyptian hieroglyph that indicated a different pronunciation.
‘E’ is the most common (or highest-frequency) letter in the English alphabet (starting off the typographer’s phrase ETAOIN SHRDLU) and several other European languages, which has implications in both cryptography and data compression. In the story “The Gold-Bug” by Edgar Allan Poe, a character figures out a random character code by remembering that the most used letter in English is E. This makes it a hard and popular letter to use when writing lipograms. Ernest Vincent Wright’s Gadsby (1939) is considered a “dreadful” novel, and supposedly “at least part of Wright’s narrative issues were caused by language limitations imposed by the lack of E.” Both Georges Perec’s novel A Void (La Disparition) (1969) and its English translation by Gilbert Adair omit ‘e’ and are considered better works.