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dead key

(ded kē) (n.) A key on a computer's keyboard that when pressed by itself produces no output character but only works in conjunction with another key, effectively changing the output of the key that is pressed immediately after the dead key. For example, dead keys commonly are used when inputting characters with accent marks; the dead key is pressed, which indicates that the next letter input by the keyboard will appear with the accent mark. The dead key will modify only characters that are accepted in the language in which the user is typing. For example, if the user is typing a French word that contains an accented "e" and presses the dead key and then the letter "e," the "e" will appear with an accent; however, if the letter "t" is pressed instead of "e," the "t" will not appear since an accented "t" is not an accepted character in that language.

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