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The ::first-letter CSS pseudo-element applies styles to the first letter of the first line of a block-level element, but only when not preceded by other content (such as images or inline tables).

/* Selects the first letter of a <p> */
p::first-letter {
  font-size: 130%;
}

The first letter of an element is not always trivial to identify:

  • Punctuation that precedes or immediately follows the first letter is included in the match. Punctuation includes any Unicode character defined in the open (Ps), close (Pe), initial quote (Pi), final quote (Pf), and other punctuation (Po) classes.
  • Some languages have digraphs that are always capitalized together, like the IJ in Dutch. In these cases, both letters of the digraph should be matched by the ::first-letter pseudo-element. (This is poorly supported by browsers; see the browser compatibility table below.)
  • A combination of the ::before pseudo-element and the content property may inject some text at the beginning of the element. In that case, ::first-letter will match the first letter of this generated content.

CSS3 introduced the ::first-letter notation (with two colons) to distinguish pseudo-classes from pseudo-elements. Browsers also accept :first-letter, introduced in CSS2.

Allowable properties

Only a small subset of CSS properties can be used with the ::first-letter pseudo-element:

Syntax

/* CSS3 syntax */
::first-letter

/* CSS2 syntax */
:first-letter

Example

Make the first letter of every paragraph red and big.

HTML

<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt
  ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo
  dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est.</p>
<p>Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat.</p>
<p>Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tation ullamcorper suscipit lobortis nisl ut
  aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit
  esse molestie consequat.</p>
<p>-The beginning of a special punctuation mark.</p>
<p>_The beginning of a special punctuation mark.</p>
<p>"The beginning of a special punctuation mark.</p>
<p>'The beginning of a special punctuation mark.</p>
<p>*The beginning of a special punctuation mark.</p>
<p>#The beginning of a special punctuation mark.</p>
<p>「特殊的汉字标点符号开头。</p>
<p>《特殊的汉字标点符号开头。</p>
<p>“特殊的汉字标点符号开头。</p>

CSS

p::first-letter {
  color: red;
  font-size: 130%;
}

Result

Specifications

Specification Status Comment
CSS Pseudo-Elements Level 4
The definition of '::first-letter' in that specification.
Working Draft Generalizes allowed properties to typesetting, text decoration, inline layout properties, opacity, and box-shadow.
CSS Text Decoration Module Level 3
The definition of 'text-shadow with ::first-letter' in that specification.
Candidate Recommendation Allows the use of text-shadow with ::first-letter.
Selectors Level 3
The definition of '::first-letter' in that specification.
Recommendation Introduction of the two-colon syntax. Definition of edge-case behavior, such as in list items or with specific languages (e.g., the Dutch digraph IJ).
CSS Level 2 (Revision 1)
The definition of '::first-letter' in that specification.
Recommendation No change.
CSS Level 1
The definition of '::first-letter' in that specification.
Recommendation Initial definition, using the one-colon syntax.

Browser compatibility

Feature Chrome Edge Firefox (Gecko) Internet Explorer Opera Safari (WebKit)
Basic support 1.0 (Yes) 1.0 (1.7 or earlier) 9.0 7.0 1.0 (85)
Old one-colon syntax (:first-letter) 1.0 (Yes) 1.0 (1.7 or earlier) 5.5 3.5 1.0 (85)
Support for the Dutch digraph IJ No support No support No support bug 92176  No support No support No support
Feature Android Edge Firefox Mobile (Gecko) IE Phone Opera Mobile Safari Mobile
Basic support ? (Yes) 1.0 (1) No support ? ?
Old one-colon syntax (:first-letter) ? (Yes) 1.0 (1) ? ? ?
Support for the Dutch digraph IJ ? No support No support ? ? ?

See also