The grapheme Ñ is a mainstay of the Spanish language. It’s formed by a tilde (also called a virgulilla – little comma) over an upper or lower case N. It’s the 15th letter of the Spanish alphabet, after N, and has its own name, eñe. More than 15,700 words in the Spanish language contain it. Another example of a grapheme like this is the German W, which came from a double V or the German umlaut.
Have you noticed that the symbol ~ is an abstract n? Ñ formally originated in the eighteenth century with its first official recognition by the Royal Spanish Academy as a contraction of NN. Año in old Spanish was spelled anno (Latin annus) and the use of the tilde was developed as a shorthand version and was finally adopted and added to the Spanish alphabet. One theory of its origin is that in the Middle Ages monks devised its usage as a way to save parchment and time. One of the first usages is found in a document dated 1175.
Italian and French use gn for the same sound.
The use of Ñ has gradually become adopted in the U.S. Have you ever ordered a piña colada, had extra jalapeños on your nachos and talked about El Niño when discussing the weather?
So why hasn’t Ñ been used in URLs until last year? There’s no eñe in English and much of the tech developments for the internet started in the U.S. In 2021, a law passed in Spain set the standard that enabled the use of ñ in a URL.