U u
Writing systemLatin script
Language of originLatin
Phonetic usage
Unicode codepoint
  • U+0055
  • U+0075
Alphabetical position21
  • Waw
      • Waw
        • Waw
          • Υ υ
Time period1386–present
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 and sixth-to-last letter and 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]


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U derives from the Semitic waw, as does F, and later, Y, W, and V. Its oldest ancestor goes to Egyptian hieroglyphics, 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][better source needed] The rounded variant became the modern-day version of U and its former pointed form became V.

Pronunciation and use

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Pronunciations of Uu
Languages in italics do not use the Latin alphabet; the table refers to latinizations
Language Dialect(s) Pronunciation (IPA) Environment
Afrikaans /y/
Chinese[5] Standard Chinese, Pinyin /u/ After the Pinyin consonants ⟨b⟩, ⟨p⟩, ⟨m⟩, ⟨f⟩, ⟨d⟩, ⟨t⟩, ⟨n⟩, ⟨l⟩, ⟨g⟩, ⟨k⟩, ⟨h⟩, ⟨zh⟩, ⟨ch⟩, ⟨sh⟩, ⟨r⟩, ⟨z⟩, ⟨c⟩, ⟨s⟩, ⟨w⟩[5]
/y// After the Pinyin consonants ⟨j⟩, ⟨q⟩, ⟨x⟩, ⟨y⟩. To make the /y/ sound after the consonants ⟨n⟩ or ⟨l⟩, ⟨ü⟩ is used.[5]
Danish /u/ Usually
/ʊ/ Before two consonants
Dutch /œ/ Before two consonants
/y/ Usually
English /ɛ/ In "bury" and "burial"
/ɪ/ In "busy" and "business"
/(j)u/ Stressed and not preceding a consonant
/ʊ/ Sometimes
/ʌ/ Usually
/w/ Following ⟨q⟩ or ⟨g⟩ and preceding a vowel
silent Following ⟨q⟩ or ⟨g⟩ and preceding vowels ⟨e⟩ and ⟨i⟩, usually in French loanwords
Esperanto /u/
Faroese /ʊ/ Before two consonants
/u/ Usually
French /y/ Usually
/ɥ/ Before vowels
German /ʊ/ Before two consonants
/u/ Usually
Icelandic /u/ Usually
/ʏ/ Before two consonants
Indonesian[6] Standard Indonesian /u/ Always
Italian /u/ Usually
/w/ Before vowels
Japanese /ɯ/ Usually
silent Unstressed, between two consonants
Lithuanian /ʊ/
Low German /ʊ/ Before two consonants
/u/ Usually
Malay /u/ Usually
/w/ Before vowels
Norwegian /ɵ/ Before two consonants
/ʉ/ Usually
Portuguese /u/ Usually
/w/ Before vowels
/ɐ/ Only in some recent loanwords
Spanish /u/ Usually
/w/ Before vowels
Swedish /ɵ/ Before two consonants
/ʉ/ Usually
Welsh Northern dialects /ɨ/
Southern dialects /ɪ/
Pronunciation of the name of the letter ⟨u⟩ in European languages


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 (see do–dew merger). (After ⟨s⟩, /sjuː, zjuː/ have assimilated to /ʃuː, ʒuː/ in some words) In a few words, short ⟨u⟩ represents other sounds, such as /ɪ/ in 'business' and /ɛ/ in 'bury'.

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/.

One thing to note is that 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, with a frequency of about 2.8% in words.

Other languages

In most languages that use the Latin alphabet, ⟨u⟩ represents the close back rounded vowel /u/ or a similar vowel.[7]

Other uses

Main article: U (disambiguation)

Related characters

Ancestors, descendants and siblings

Ligatures and abbreviations

Computing codes

Character information
Preview U u
Encodings decimal hex dec hex
Unicode 85 U+0055 117 U+0075
UTF-8 85 55 117 75
Numeric character reference U U u u
EBCDIC family 228 E4 164 A4
ASCII[b] 85 55 117 75

Other representations

NATO phonetic Morse code
  ▄ ▄ ▄▄▄ 

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


  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.


  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. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b c Odinye, Sunny Ifeanyi (January 2015). "Phonology of Mandarin Chinese: Pinyin vs. IPA". ResearchGate. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  6. ^ "Indonesian Alphabet and Pronunciation". Archived from the original on 2021-05-08. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  7. ^ "Latin". Ancient Scripts. Archived from the original on Jun 11, 2017. Retrieved 2017-06-08.
  8. ^ Pun, Sharon (2018-08-04). "The meaning behind Myanmar names". Frontier Myanmar. Archived from the original on 2021-02-14. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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.