OK, I'm now on a different iMac running Big Sur 11.2.1 with zsh as the default shell. The default system sqlite3 lets me enter Unicode characters as long as Character Viewer is set to 'Unicode Hex input'. <code> user [/Users/user] : which sqlite3 /usr/bin/sqlite3 user [/Users/user] : locale LANG="en_CA.UTF-8" LC_COLLATE="en_CA.UTF-8" LC_CTYPE="en_CA.UTF-8" LC_MESSAGES="en_CA.UTF-8" LC_MONETARY="en_CA.UTF-8" LC_NUMERIC="en_CA.UTF-8" LC_TIME="en_CA.UTF-8" LC_ALL= user [/Users/user] : sqlite3 SQLite version 3.32.3 2020-06-18 14:16:19 Enter ".help" for usage hints. Connected to a transient in-memory database. Use ".open FILENAME" to reopen on a persistent database. sqlite> select x'c3a1',hex('á'); á|C3A1 </code> So it does appear to be a problem with the interaction between the bash shell and sqlite.