U
U u
Usage
Writing systemLatin script
TypeAlphabetic
Language of originLatin
Phonetic usage
Unicode codepoint
  • U+0055
  • U+0075
Alphabetical position21
History
Development
G43
T3
  • Waw
      • Waw
        • Waw
          • Υ υ
Time period1386–present
Descendants
Sisters
Other
Other letters commonly used with
Writing directionLeft to right
This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

U, or u, is the twenty-first letter and the fifth vowel letter of the Latin alphabet, used in the modern English alphabet, the alphabets of other western European languages and others worldwide. Its name in English is u (pronounced /ˈj/), plural ues.[1][2][3][a][clarification needed]

Name

In English, the name of the letter is the "long U" sound, pronounced /ˈj/. In most other languages, its name matches the letter's pronunciation in open syllables.

Pronunciation of the name of the letter ⟨u⟩ in European languages

History

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Proto-Sinaitic Phoenician
Waw
Western Greek
Upsilon
Latin
V
Latin
U

U derives from the Semitic waw, as does F, and later, Y, W, and V. Its oldest ancestor goes to Egyptian hieroglyphs, and is probably from a hieroglyph of a mace or fowl, representing the sound [v] or the sound [w]. This was borrowed to Phoenician, where it represented the sound [w], and seldom the vowel [u].

In Greek, two letters were adapted from the Phoenician waw. The letter was adapted, but split in two, with Digamma or wau Ϝ being adapted to represent [w], and the second one being Upsilon Υ, which was originally adapted to represent [u], later fronted, becoming [y].

In Latin, a stemless variant shape of the upsilon was borrowed in early times as U, taking the form of modern-day V – either directly from the Western Greek alphabet or from the Etruscan alphabet as an intermediary – to represent the same /u/ sound, as well as the consonantal /w/, num – originally spelled NVM – was pronounced /num/ and via was pronounced [ˈwia].[clarification needed] From the 1st century AD on, depending on Vulgar Latin dialect, consonantal /w/ developed into /β/ (kept in Spanish), then later to /v/.

During the late Middle Ages, two minuscule forms developed, which were both used for /v/ or the vowel /u/. The pointed form ⟨v⟩ was written at the beginning of a word, while a rounded form ⟨u⟩ was used in the middle or end, regardless of sound. So whereas 'valour' and 'excuse' appeared as in modern printing, 'have' and 'upon' were printed 'haue' and 'vpon', respectively. The first recorded use of ⟨u⟩ and ⟨v⟩ as distinct letters is in a Gothic alphabet from 1386, where ⟨v⟩ preceded ⟨u⟩. Printers eschewed capital ⟨U⟩ in favor of ⟨V⟩ into the 17th century and the distinction between the two letters was not fully accepted by the French Academy until 1762.[4][5][better source needed] The rounded variant became the modern-day version of U and its former pointed form became V.

Use in writing systems

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Pronunciation of ⟨u⟩ by language
Orthography Phonemes
Afrikaans /y/
Standard Chinese[6] (pinyin) /u/, /y/
Danish /u/, /ʊ/
Dutch /y/, /œ/
English /ʌ/, /juː/, //, /ʊ/, /ɜː/, /jʊə/, /ʊə/, /w/, silent
Esperanto /u/
Faroese /u/, /ʊ/
French /y/, /ɥ/
German /u/, /ʊ/
Icelandic /u/, /ʏ/
Indonesian[7] /u/
Italian /u/, /w/
Japanese (Hepburn) /ɯ/, silent
Lithuanian /ʊ/
Low German /u/, /ʊ/
Malay /u/, /w/
Norwegian /ʉ/, /ɵ/
Portuguese /u/, /w/, /ɐ/
Spanish /u/, /w/
Swedish /ʉ/, /ɵ/
Turkish /u/
Welsh /ɨ̞/, /ɨː/ or /ɪ/, //

English

In English, the letter ⟨u⟩ has four main pronunciations. There are "long" and "short" pronunciations. Short ⟨u⟩, found originally in closed syllables, most commonly represents /ʌ/ (as in 'duck'), though it retains its old pronunciation /ʊ/ after labial consonants in some words (as in 'put') and occasionally elsewhere (as in 'sugar'). Long ⟨u⟩, found originally in words of French origin (the descendant of Old English long ⟨u⟩ was respelled as ou), most commonly represents /j/ (as in 'mule'), reducing to // after ⟨r⟩ (as in 'rule'), ⟨j⟩ (as in 'June') and sometimes (or optionally) after ⟨l⟩ (as in 'lute'), and after additional consonants in American English (a do–dew merger). (After ⟨s⟩, /sjuː, zjuː/ have assimilated to /ʃuː, ʒuː/ in some words.)[clarification needed]

The letter ⟨u⟩ is used in the digraphs ⟨au⟩ /ɔː/, ⟨ou⟩ (various pronunciations, but usually /aʊ/), and with the value of long ⟨u⟩ in ⟨eu⟩, ⟨ue⟩, and in a few words ⟨ui⟩ (as in 'fruit'). It often has the sound /w/ before a vowel in the sequences ⟨qu⟩ (as in 'quick'), ⟨gu⟩ (as in 'anguish'), and ⟨su⟩ (as in 'suave'), though it is silent in final ⟨que⟩ (as in 'unique') and in many words with ⟨gu⟩ (as in 'guard').

Additionally, the letter ⟨u⟩ is used in text messaging, Internet, and other written slang to denote 'you', by virtue of both being pronounced /j/.

Certain varieties of the English language (i.e. British English, Canadian English, etc.) use the letter U in words such as colour, labour, valour, etc.; however, in American English the letter is not used and said words mentioned are spelled as color and so on.

It is the thirteenth most frequently used letter in the English language,[when?] with a frequency of about 2.8% in words.[citation needed]

Other languages

In most languages that use the Latin alphabet, ⟨u⟩ represents the close back rounded vowel /u/ or a similar vowel.[8]

Other systems

The International Phonetic Alphabet uses ⟨u⟩ for the close back rounded vowel.

Other uses

Main article: U (disambiguation)

Related characters

Ancestors, descendants and siblings

Ligatures and abbreviations

Other representations

Computing

Character information
Preview U u
Unicode name LATIN CAPITAL LETTER U LATIN SMALL LETTER U FULLWIDTH LATIN CAPITAL LETTER U FULLWIDTH LATIN SMALL LETTER U
Encodings decimal hex dec hex dec hex dec hex
Unicode 85 U+0055 117 U+0075 65333 U+FF35 65365 U+FF55
UTF-8 85 55 117 75 239 188 181 EF BC B5 239 189 149 EF BD 95
Numeric character reference U U u u U U u u
EBCDIC family 228 E4 164 A4
ASCII[b] 85 55 117 75

Other

NATO phonetic Morse code
Uniform
  ▄ ▄ ▄▄▄ 

⠥
Signal flag Flag semaphore American manual alphabet (ASL fingerspelling) British manual alphabet (BSL fingerspelling) Braille dots-136
Unified English Braille

Notes

  1. ^ Ues is the plural of the name of the letter; the plural of the letter itself is rendered U's, Us, u's, or us.
  2. ^ Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859, and Macintosh families of encodings.

References

  1. ^ "U". Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. 1989.
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged. 1993.
  3. ^ Brown, Goold; Kiddle, Henry (1870). The institutes of English grammar. New York, W. Wood & co. p. 19.
  4. ^ cf. "U," in Dictionnaire de l'Académie Françoise, 4th ed., 2: 893. 2 vols. Paris: Chez la Veuve de Bernard Brunet, Imprimeur de l'Académie Françoiſe, 1762. https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k12803850/f901.item; and "U," in Dictionnaire de l'Académie Françoise, 4th ed., 2: 893. 2 vols. Paris: Chez la Veuve de Bernard Brunet, Imprimeur de l'Académie Françoiſe, 1762. https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k12803850/f901.item.
  5. ^ Pflughaupt, Laurent (2008). Letter by Letter: An Alphabetical Miscellany. Translated by Bruhn, Gregory. Princeton Architectural Press. pp. 123–124. ISBN 978-1-56898-737-8. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  6. ^ Odinye, Sunny Ifeanyi (January 2015). "Phonology of Mandarin Chinese: Pinyin vs. IPA". ResearchGate. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  7. ^ "Indonesian Alphabet and Pronunciation". Archived from the original on 2021-05-08. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  8. ^ "Latin". Ancient Scripts. Archived from the original on Jun 11, 2017. Retrieved 2017-06-08.
  9. ^ Pun, Sharon (2018-08-04). "The meaning behind Myanmar names". Frontier Myanmar. Archived from the original on 2021-02-14. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  10. ^ Everson, Michael (2002-03-20). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-02-19. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  11. ^ Everson, Michael; Dicklberger, Alois; Pentzlin, Karl; Wandl-Vogt, Eveline (2011-06-02). "L2/11-202: Revised proposal to encode "Teuthonista" phonetic characters in the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-10-11. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  12. ^ a b c d Constable, Peter (2004-04-19). "L2/04-132 Proposal to add additional phonetic characters to the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-10-11. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  13. ^ Suignard, Michel (2017-05-09). "L2/17-076R2: Revised proposal for the encoding of an Egyptological YOD and Ugaritic characters" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-03-30. Retrieved 2019-03-08.
  14. ^ a b Jacquerye, Denis (2016-01-22). "L2/16-032: Proposal to encode two Latin characters for Mazahua" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-03-30. Retrieved 2018-06-19.