Emacs: Remove Accent Marks

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Here's a emacs command that removes accent marks, or, convert some Unicode characters into ASCII. (aka Zap Gremlins)

For example:

(defun xah-asciify-text (&optional @begin @end)
  "Remove accents in some letters and some
Change European language characters into equivalent ASCII ones, e.g. “café” ⇒ “cafe”.
When called interactively, work on current line or text selection.

URL `http://ergoemacs.org/emacs/emacs_zap_gremlins.html'
Version 2018-11-12"
  (let (($charMap
          ["ß" "ss"]
          ["á\\|à\\|â\\|ä\\|ā\\|ǎ\\|ã\\|å\\|ą\\|ă\\|ạ\\|ả\\|ả\\|ấ\\|ầ\\|ẩ\\|ẫ\\|ậ\\|ắ\\|ằ\\|ẳ\\|ặ" "a"]
          ["æ" "ae"]
          ["ç\\|č\\|ć" "c"]
          ["é\\|è\\|ê\\|ë\\|ē\\|ě\\|ę\\|ẹ\\|ẻ\\|ẽ\\|ế\\|ề\\|ể\\|ễ\\|ệ" "e"]
          ["í\\|ì\\|î\\|ï\\|ī\\|ǐ\\|ỉ\\|ị" "i"]
          ["ñ\\|ň\\|ń" "n"]
          ["ó\\|ò\\|ô\\|ö\\|õ\\|ǒ\\|ø\\|ō\\|ồ\\|ơ\\|ọ\\|ỏ\\|ố\\|ổ\\|ỗ\\|ộ\\|ớ\\|ờ\\|ở\\|ợ" "o"]
          ["ú\\|ù\\|û\\|ü\\|ū\\|ũ\\|ư\\|ụ\\|ủ\\|ứ\\|ừ\\|ử\\|ữ\\|ự"     "u"]
          ["ý\\|ÿ\\|ỳ\\|ỷ\\|ỹ"     "y"]
          ["þ" "th"]
          ["ď\\|ð\\|đ" "d"]
          ["ĩ" "i"]
          ["ľ\\|ĺ\\|ł" "l"]
          ["ř\\|ŕ" "r"]
          ["š\\|ś" "s"]
          ["ť" "t"]
          ["ž\\|ź\\|ż" "z"]
          [" " " "]       ; thin space etc
          ["–" "-"]       ; dash
          ["—\\|一" "--"] ; em dash etc
        $begin $end
    (if (null @begin)
        (if (use-region-p)
            (setq $begin (region-beginning) $end (region-end))
          (setq $begin (line-beginning-position) $end (line-end-position)))
      (setq $begin @begin $end @end))
    (let ((case-fold-search t))
        (narrow-to-region $begin $end)
         (lambda ($pair)
           (goto-char (point-min))
           (while (search-forward-regexp (elt $pair 0) (point-max) t)
             (replace-match (elt $pair 1))))
(defun xah-asciify-string (@string)
  "Returns a new string. European language chars are changed ot ASCII ones e.g. “café” ⇒ “cafe”.
See `xah-asciify-text'
Version 2015-06-08"
      (insert @string)
      (xah-asciify-text (point-min) (point-max))

[see Accent Marks: Trema, Umlaut, Macron, Circumflex, and All That]

( thanks to robert_nagy for adding chars)

Accumulator vs Parallel Programing

This problem makes a good parallel programing exercise. See: Parallel Programing Exercise: asciify-string.

Alternative Solution with “iconv” or perl

Yuri Khan and Teemu Likonen suggested using the “iconv” shell command. See man iconv. Here's Teemu's code.

(defun asciify-string (string)
"Convert STRING to ASCII string.
For example:
“passé” becomes “passe”"
;; Code originally by Teemu Likonen
    (insert string)
    (call-process-region (point-min) (point-max) "iconv" t t nil "--to-code=ASCII//TRANSLIT")
    (buffer-substring-no-properties (point-min) (point-max))))

Julian Bradfield suggested Perl. Here's his one-liner, it removes chars with accent marks.

perl -e 'use encoding utf8; use Unicode::Normalize; while ( <> ) { $_ = NFKD($_); s/\pM//g; print; }'


Though, it would be nice to have a pure elisp solution, because “iconv” is not in Windows or Mac OS X as of .

Emacs Text Transform Under Cursor

  1. Toggle Letter Case
  2. Change to Title Case
  3. Upcase Sentences
  4. Cycle Replace Space Hyphen Underscore
  5. Remove Accent Marks
  6. Escape Quotes Command
  7. Spaces to New Lines
  8. Quote Lines
  9. Change Brackets/Quotes
  10. CSS Compressor
  11. Replace Greek Letter Names to Unicode
  12. Convert Straight/Curly Quotes
  13. Convert Full-Width/Half-Width Punctuations
  14. Lines to HTML Table
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