I'm trying to render an italicized lowercase omega (ω) with an inverted breve ( ̑ ) in a webpage using Times New Roman.

I'm using the combining character approach: ̑ ( ̑ ) and ω (ω) should combine into a single character ̑ω (̑ω). The resulting character looks fine if I copy and paste it into Notepad, but it has a problem on the webpage (or on this very stackexchange page): the inverted breve is too far to the left (see here).

So far, messing around with possible CSS solutions only makes things worse. For example, <em>&#964;<span style="margin-left:-5px">&#785;</span>&#969;&#957;</em> produces this.

Does anyone know how to adjust the location of the inverted breve? Thanks.

2 Answers 2


By Unicode principles, a combining mark must be appear (in data stream) after the character it is to be attached to, so the correct notation would be &#969;&#785;.

Browsers often have difficulties with placing combining marks properly, though modern browsers tend to do it mostly well. Here the issue seems to be with the font. Fonts often have inadequate implementations of combining marks, especially as regards to metric information. You can see this by testing the string, ω̑ in different programs (e.g. MS Word), using different fonts. E.g., in Cambria, the rendering looks OK.

Before considering the choice of a font, or a font-family list, consider whether you really want to have an omega with inverted breve. Such a character does not appear in any form of Greek writing or mathematical notations that I know of. You might actually mean omega with perispomeni, ῶ, which is a normal character in polytonic Greek; it would best be written as a precomposed character, U+1FF6 GREEK SMALL LETTER OMEGA WITH PERISPOMENI, using the character reference &#x1ff6; if needed. You would naturally need to check that all the fonts in your font-family list contain it, but this is a manageable problem.

Addition: According to the Unicode Standard, clause 7.2, “U+0342 combining greek perispomeni may appear as a circumflex , an inverted breve ̑ , a tilde ̃ , or occasionally a macron ̄ . Because of this variation in form, the perispomeni was encoded distinctly from U+0303 combining tilde.” So it seems that at the character level, the correct diacritic to be used is the perispomeni. The fact that its shape is tilde-like in Times New Roman, as well as in most other fonts, is comparable to other glyphic variation.

  • I'm transcribing a book, so I cannot change the character. I'd strongly prefer Times New Roman to Cambria. Is there any way to manually adjust the diacritic?
    – 76987
    Aug 11, 2013 at 8:26
  • I’ve added a note in the answer. It seems that the book is actually using perispomeni, but in a special glyph form. Aug 11, 2013 at 11:00

This is very different from my first answer. Assuming that you want to use Times New Roman and to have an inverted breve -looking diacritic on omega, I’m afraid you need some kludgery. In principle, the placement of diacritics could be tuned using OpenType features, but Times New Roman does not seem to have anything useful in this department. Neither does it have glyph variants for perispomeni.

The following trickery seems to work when Times New Roman is available (as it almost always is):

* { font-family: Times New Roman }
.comb { position: relative; }
.comb .invb { position: absolute; left: 0; bottom: 0; }
.eta .invb { left: -0.1em; }
<p><i>Μαι<span class=comb>ω<span class=invb>&nbsp;&#785;</span></span>τις</i>
<p><i>Ἀθ<span class="comb eta">η<span class=invb>&nbsp;&#785;</span></span>ναι</i>

The trick is to wrap the mark, turned to a spacing mark by writing a no-break space before it, in a span and this in turn, in conjunction with the base character, in an outer span, and use CSS positioning to make the mark overlay the base character.

This works because the omega is roughly the same width as the no-break space. As the second example word shows, the situation is a bit different if you need the inverted breve on the eta letter: you need to shift the mark somewhat to the left.

I first tried with a simpler (and more logical) construct without the no-break space, using the mark as genuinely non-spacing. But this cause the mark to disappear or get positioned wildly.

I recommend using the approach described in my other answer, but if there are compelling reasons to make the diacritic (which is logically perispomeni) look like an inverted breve, then this trickery might be the best shot. Note that it distorts the data, messing up character-level operations like searching and indexing, since the trick means that a word contains a spacing mark.

  • Yes, this is a technique I also hit upon. The &nbsp; is the only way I could move the inverted breve away from the preceding tau. But then (as you know) the text cannot be (e.g.) copied to Notepad. I've been quickly testing other fonts in Microsoft Word. It looks like combining characters are UTTERLY BROKEN in every font other than Cambria (italics or no italics). But that's hard to believe. Do you know what's going on?
    – 76987
    Aug 11, 2013 at 16:49
  • One last thing for now: if I put the combining mark after its character, then when I copy the text to Notepad, the mark shows up on the wrong character: in this case, on the nu instead of the omega. This means that combining characters are not only broken for every font other than Cambria, but they are broken for Cambria as well!
    – 76987
    Aug 11, 2013 at 17:00
  • I don’t know what’s going on, but my guess is that font designers are generally not good at combining diacritics. Regarding order, the correct order is to have the combining character after the base character, and this works OK in Cambria on my Notepad (testing with the string Μαιω̑τις, which gets the mark wrongly positioned here). Aug 11, 2013 at 17:35
  • Here's what I mean about the order: if my HTML puts the mark after the character, then Cambria in my browser puts the mark over the character (over the omega), but when I copy the word to Notepad the mark is over the following character (over the nu).
    – 76987
    Aug 14, 2013 at 15:12
  • I see e.g. τω̑ν (&#964;&#969;&#785;&#957;) properly both in a browser and in Notepad when the font is set to Cambria. I suppose you are using Notepad on Windows 8 with default settings, which means that the font is Consolas (which is a nice font in general when you want to use a monospace font, but it isn’t suitable in this case). Aug 14, 2013 at 17:35

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