W w
Writing systemLatin script
TypeAlphabetic and logographic
Sound values
In UnicodeU+0057, U+0077
Alphabetical position23
Time period~600 to present
Associated graphsw(x)
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.

W, or w, is the twenty-third 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 double-u,[in 1] plural double-ues.[1][2]


Double-u, whose name reflects stages in the letter's evolution when it was considered two of the same letter, a double U, is the only modern English letter whose name has more than one syllable.[in 2] It is also the only English letter whose name is not pronounced with any of the sounds that the letter typically makes in words, with the exception of H for some speakers.

Some speakers shorten the name "double u" into "dub-u" or just "dub"; for example, University of Wisconsin, University of Washington, University of Wyoming, University of Waterloo, University of the Western Cape and University of Western Australia are all known colloquially as "U Dub", and the automobile company Volkswagen, abbreviated "VW", is sometimes pronounced "V-Dub".[3] The fact that many website URLs require a "www." prefix has been influential in promoting these shortened pronunciations.[citation needed]

In other West Germanic languages, its name is monosyllabic: German We /veː/, Dutch wee /ʋeː/. In many languages, its name literally means "double v": Portuguese duplo vê,[in 3] Spanish doble ve (though it can be spelled uve doble),[4][in 4] French double vé, Icelandic tvöfalt vaff, Czech dvojité vé, Estonian kaksisvee, Finnish kaksois-vee, etc.


Proto-Sinaitic Phoenician
Western Greek
Latin V Latin W
This cursive 'w' was popular in calligraphy of the eighteenth century;[5][6] a late appearance in a font of c. 1816.[7]

The classical Latin alphabet, from which the modern European alphabets derived, did not have the "W" character. The "W" sounds were represented by the Latin letter "V" (at the time, not yet distinct from "U").

The sounds /w/ (spelled ⟨V⟩) and /b/ (spelled ⟨B⟩) of Classical Latin developed into the voiced bilabial fricative /β/ between vowels in Early Medieval Latin. Therefore, ⟨V⟩ no longer adequately represented the voiced labial-velar approximant sound /w/ of Germanic phonology.

A letter W appearing in the coat of arms of Vyborg

The Germanic /w/ phoneme was, therefore, written as ⟨VV⟩ or ⟨uu⟩ (u and v becoming distinct only by the Early Modern period) by the earliest writers of Old English and Old High German, in the 7th or 8th centuries.[8] Gothic (not Latin-based), by contrast, had simply used a letter based on the Greek Υ for the same sound in the 4th century. The digraph ⟨VV⟩/⟨uu⟩ was also used in Medieval Latin to represent Germanic names, including Gothic ones like Wamba.

It is from this ⟨uu⟩ digraph that the modern name "double U" derives. The digraph was commonly used in the spelling of Old High German but only in the earliest texts in Old English, where the /w/ sound soon came to be represented by borrowing the rune ⟨ᚹ⟩, adapted as the Latin letter wynn: ⟨ƿ⟩. In early Middle English, following the 11th-century Norman Conquest, ⟨uu⟩ regained popularity; by 1300, it had taken wynn's place in common use.

Scribal realisation of the digraph could look like a pair of Vs whose branches crossed in the middle: both forms (separate and crossed) appear, for instance, in the "running text" (in Latin) of the Bayeux tapestry in proper names such as EDVVARDVS and VVILLELMVS (or the same with crossed Vs). Another realisation (common in roundhand, kurrent and blackletter) takes the form of an ⟨n⟩ whose rightmost branch curved around, as in a cursive ⟨v⟩ (viz. )[5][6] It was used up to the nineteenth century in Britain and continues to be familiar in Germany.[in 5]

Thus, the shift from the digraph ⟨VV⟩ to the distinct ligature ⟨W⟩ was gradual and was only apparent in abecedaria, explicit listings of all individual letters. It was probably considered a separate letter by the 14th century in both Middle English and Middle German orthography. However, it remained an outsider, not really considered part of the Latin alphabet proper, as expressed by Valentin Ickelshamer in the 16th century, who complained that:

Poor w is so infamous and unknown that many barely know either its name or its shape, not those who aspire to being Latinists, as they have no need of it, nor do the Germans, not even the schoolmasters, know what to do with it or how to call it; some call it we, [... others] call it uu, [...] the Swabians call it auwawau[9]

In Middle High German (and possibly already in late Old High German), the West Germanic phoneme /w/ became realized as [v]; this is why, today, the German ⟨w⟩ represents that sound.

Use in writing systems

Pronunciation of ⟨w⟩ by language
Orthography Phonemes
Standard Chinese (Pinyin) /w/
Cornish /ʊ/ (archaic), /w/
Dutch /ʋ/
English /w/
German /v/
Irish /w/
Indonesian /w/
Japanese (Hepburn) /w/
Kashubian /v/
Kokborok /ɔ/
Kurdish /w/
Low German /ʋ/
Lower Sorbian /v/
North Frisian /v/
Old Prussian /w/ (archaic)
Polish /v/
Saterlandic /v/
Turkmen /β/
Upper Sorbian /β/
Walloon /w/
Welsh /ʊ/, /w/
West Frisian /v/, /w/
Wymysorys /v/
Zhuang /ɯ/


English uses ⟨w⟩ to represent /w/. There are also a number of words beginning with a written ⟨w⟩ that is silent in most dialects before a (pronounced) ⟨r⟩, remaining from usage in Old English in which the ⟨w⟩ was pronounced: wreak, wrap, wreck, wrench, wroth, wrinkle, etc. Certain dialects of Scottish English still distinguish this digraph. ⟨w⟩ represents a vowel sound, /oʊ/, in the word pwn, and in the Welsh loanwords cwm and crwth, it retains the Welsh pronunciation, /ʊ/. ⟨w⟩ is also used in digraphs: ⟨aw⟩ /ɔː/, ⟨ew⟩ /(j)uː/, ⟨ow⟩ /aʊ, oʊ/, wherein it is usually an orthographic allograph of ⟨u⟩ in final positions. It is the fifteenth most frequently used letter in the English language, with a frequency of about 2.56% in words.

Other languages

In Europe languages with ⟨w⟩ in native words are in a central-western European zone between Cornwall and Poland: English, German, Low German, Dutch, Frisian, Welsh, Cornish, Breton, Walloon, Polish, Kashubian, Sorbian, Wymysorys, Resian and Scandinavian dialects. German, Polish, Wymysorys and Kashubian use it for the voiced labiodental fricative /v/ (with Polish, related Kashubian and Wymysorys using Ł for /w/, except in conservative and some eastern Polish speech, where Ł still represents the dark L sound.), and Dutch uses it for /ʋ/. Unlike its use in other languages, the letter is used in Welsh and Cornish to represent the vowel /u/ as well as the related approximant consonant /w/.

A 1693 book printing that uses the "double u" alongside the modern letter; this was acceptable if printers did not have the letter in stock or the font had been made without it.

The following languages historically used ⟨w⟩ for /v/ in native words, but later replaced it by ⟨v⟩: Swedish, Finnish, Czech, Slovak, Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Ukrainian Łatynka and Belarusian Łacinka. It is also used in modern systems of Romanization of Belarusian for the letter ў, for example in the BGN/PCGN[10] system, in contrast to the letter ŭ, which is used in the Instruction on transliteration of Belarusian geographical names with letters of Latin script.

Titlepage of the first edition of the Kalevala, 1835

In Swedish and Finnish, traces of this old usage may still be found in proper names. In Hungarian remains in some aristocratic surnames, e.g. Wesselényi.

Modern German dialects generally have only [v] or [ʋ] for West Germanic /w/, but [w] or [β̞] is still heard allophonically for ⟨w⟩, especially in the clusters ⟨schw⟩, ⟨zw⟩, and ⟨qu⟩. Some Bavarian dialects preserve a "light" initial [w], such as in wuoz (Standard German weiß [vaɪs] '[I] know'). The Classical Latin [β] is heard in the Southern German greeting Servus ('hello' or 'goodbye').

In Dutch, ⟨w⟩ became a labiodental approximant /ʋ/ (with the exception of words with -⟨eeuw⟩, which have /eːβ/, or other diphthongs containing -⟨uw⟩). In many Dutch-speaking areas, such as Flanders and Suriname, the /β/ pronunciation (or in some areas a /ɥ/ pronunciation, e.g. Belgian-Dutch water /'ɥa:tər/ "water", wit /ɥɪt/ "white", eeuw /e:ɥ/ "century", etc.) is used at all times.

In Finnish, ⟨w⟩ is sometimes seen as a variant of ⟨v⟩ and not a separate letter, but it is a part of official alphabet. It is, however, recognized and maintained in the spelling of some old names, reflecting an earlier German spelling standard, and in some modern loan words. In all cases, it is pronounced /ʋ/. The first edition of the Kalevala had its title spelled Kalewala.

In Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, ⟨w⟩ is named double-v and not double-u. In these languages, the letter only exists in old names, loanwords and foreign words. (Foreign words are distinguished from loanwords by having a significantly lower level of integration in the language.) It is usually pronounced /v/, but in some words of English origin, it may be pronounced /w/.[11][12] The letter was officially introduced in the Danish and Swedish alphabets as late as 1980 and 2006, respectively, despite having been in use for much longer. It had been recognized since the conception of modern Norwegian with the earliest official orthography rules of 1907.[13] ⟨W⟩ was earlier seen as a variant of ⟨v⟩, and ⟨w⟩ as a letter (double-v) is still commonly replaced by ⟨v⟩ in speech (e.g. WC being pronounced as VC, www as VVV, WHO as VHO, etc.). The two letters were sorted as equals before ⟨w⟩ was officially recognized, and that practice is still recommended when sorting names in Sweden.[14] In modern slang, some native speakers may pronounce ⟨w⟩ more closely to the origin of the loanword than the official /v/ pronunciation.

Multiple dialects of Swedish and Danish use the sound, however. In Denmark, notably in Jutland, the northern half uses it extensively in traditional dialect, and in multiple places in Sweden. It is used in southern Swedish; for example, the words "wesp" (wisp) and "wann" (water) are traditionally used in Halland.[15] In northern and western Sweden, there are also dialects with /w/. Elfdalian is a good example, which is one of many dialects where the Old Norse difference between v (/w/) and f (/v/ or /f/) is preserved. Thus, "warg" from Old Norse "vargr", but "åvå" from Old Norse "hafa".

In the alphabets of most modern Romance languages, ⟨w⟩ is used mostly in foreign names and words recently borrowed (Italian il watt, Spanish el kiwi). In Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, [w] is a non-syllabic variant of /u/, spelled ⟨u⟩. In Italian, while the letter ⟨w⟩ is not considered part of the standard Italian alphabet, the character is often used in place of Viva (hooray for...), generally in the form in which the branches of the Vs cross in the middle, at least in handwriting (in fact it could be considered a monogram).[16] The same symbol written upside down indicates abbasso (down with...). In French, ⟨w⟩ is also used mostly in foreign names and words recently borrowed such as wagon or week(-)end, but in the first case it is pronounced [v] (because of its German origin; except in Belgium, where it is pronounced [w]) and in the second [w]. In most northern French dialects, the former ⟨w⟩ turned finally to ⟨v⟩, but still exists as a remnant in the place-names of Romance Flanders, Picardie, Artois, Champagne, Romance Lorraine and sometimes elsewhere (Normandy, Île-de-France), and in the surnames from the same regions. Walloon as it sounds conserves the ⟨w⟩ pronounced [w]. The digraph ⟨ou⟩ is used to render ⟨w⟩ in rare French words such as ouest "west" and to spell Arabic names transliterated -wi in English, but -oui in French (compare Arabic surname Badawi / Badaoui). In all these languages, as in Scandinavian languages mentioned above, the letter is named "double v" (French /dubləve/, Spanish /'dɔble 'uβe/) though in Belgium the name /we/ is also used.

In Indonesian, the letter "w" is called . The letter names in Indonesian are always the same with the sounds they produce, especially the consonants.

The Japanese language uses "W", pronounced daburu, as an ideogram meaning "double".[17] It is also used in internet slang to indicate laughter (like LOL), derived from the word warau (笑う, meaning "to laugh").

In Italian, while the letter ⟨w⟩ is not considered part of the standard Italian alphabet, the character is often used in place of Viva (hooray for...), generally in the form in which the branches of the Vs cross in the middle, at least in handwriting (in fact, it could be considered a monogram).[16] The same symbol written upside down indicates abbasso (down with...).

In the Kokborok language, ⟨w⟩ represents the open-mid back rounded vowel /ɔ/.

In Turkey, the use of the ⟨w⟩ was banned between 1928 and 2013[18][19] which was a problem for the Kurdish population in Turkey as the ⟨w⟩ was a letter of the Kurdish alphabet.[20] The use of the letter ⟨w⟩ in the word Newroz, the Kurdish new year, was forbidden,[21] and names which included the letter were not able to be used.[18][22] In 2008, a court in Gaziantep reasoned the use of the letter ⟨w⟩ would incite civil unrest.[21]

In Vietnamese, ⟨w⟩ is called vê đúp, from the French double vé. It is not included in the standard Vietnamese alphabet, but it is often used as a substitute for qu- in literary dialect and very informal writing.[23][24] It's also commonly used for abbreviating Ư in formal documents, for example Trung Ương is abbreviated as TW[25] even in official documents and document ID number[26]

"W" is the 24th letter in the Modern Filipino Alphabet and has its English name. However, in the old Filipino alphabet, Abakada, it was the 19th letter and had the name "wah".[is that 'h' a glottal stop?][27]

In Washo, lower-case ⟨w⟩ represents a typical /w/ sound, while upper-case ⟨W⟩ represents a voiceless w sound, like the difference between English weather and whether for those who maintain the distinction.

Other systems

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, ⟨w⟩ is used for the voiced labial-velar approximant.

Other uses

Ancestors, descendants and siblings

Ligatures and abbreviations

Other representations


Character information
Preview W w
Encodings decimal hex dec hex dec hex dec hex
Unicode 87 U+0057 119 U+0077 65335 U+FF37 65367 U+FF57
UTF-8 87 57 119 77 239 188 183 EF BC B7 239 189 151 EF BD 97
Numeric character reference W W w w W W w w
EBCDIC family 230 E6 166 A6
ASCII[a] 87 57 119 77
  1. ^ Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.


NATO phonetic Morse code
  ▄ ▄▄▄ ▄▄▄ 

Signal flag Flag semaphore American manual alphabet (ASL fingerspelling) British manual alphabet (BSL fingerspelling) Braille dots-2456
Unified English Braille

See also


Informational notes

  1. ^ Pronounced /ˈdʌbəl.j/ DUH-bəl-yoo in formal situations, but colloquially often /ˈdʌbəj/ DUH-bə-yoo, /ˈdʌbj/ DUH-bew, /ˈdʌbəjə/ DUH-bə-yə or /ˈdʌbjə/ DUH-byə, with a silent l.
  2. ^ However, "Izzard" was formerly a two-syllable pronunciation of the letter Z.
  3. ^ In Brazilian Portuguese, it is dáblio, which is a loanword from the English double-u.
  4. ^ In Latin American Spanish, it is doble ve, similar regional variations exist in other Spanish-speaking countries.
  5. ^ Writing manuals that include it include Edward Cocker's The Pen's Triumph of 1658 and engravings of the roundhand calligraphy of Charles Snell and sometimes George Bickham. See also Florian Hardwig's gallery Archived May 18, 2020, at the Wayback Machine of images of its use in the German-speaking countries.


  1. ^ "W", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); 'W", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993) Merriam Webster
  2. ^ Brown & Kiddle (1870) The institutes of grammar, p. 19.
    Double-ues is the plural of the name of the letter; the plural of the letter itself is written W's, Ws, w's, or ws.
  3. ^ Volkswagen. "VW Unpimp – Drop it like its hot". YouTube. Archived from the original on May 2, 2006. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  4. ^ "Real Academia Española elimina la Ch y ll del alfabeto". Taringa!. November 5, 2010. Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Shaw, Paul. "Flawed Typefaces". Print magazine. Archived from the original on June 23, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Berry, John. "A History: English round hand and 'The Universal Penman'". Typekit. Adobe Systems. Archived from the original on October 3, 2020. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  7. ^ Caslon, William IV (1816). Untitled fragment of a specimen book of printing types, c. 1816. London: William Caslon IV. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  8. ^ "Why is 'w' pronounced 'double u' rather than 'double v'? : Oxford Dictionaries Online". Oxforddictionaries.com. Archived from the original on August 22, 2016. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  9. ^ "Arm w ist so unmer und unbekannt, dasz man schier weder seinen namen noch sein gestalt waiszt, die Lateiner wöllen sein nit, wie sy dann auch sein nit bedürffen, so wissen die Teütschen sonderlich die schülmaister noch nitt was sy mit im machen oder wie sy in nennen sollen, an ettlichen enden nennet man in we, die aber ein wenig latein haben gesehen, die nennen in mit zwaien unterschidlichen lauten u auff ainander, also uu ... die Schwaben nennen in auwawau, wiewol ich disen kauderwelschen namen also versteh, das es drey u sein, auff grob schwäbisch au genennet." cited after Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch.
  10. ^ "Belarusian romanization (June 2019) (publishing.service.gov.uk)" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on October 6, 2021. Retrieved November 16, 2021.
  11. ^ "W, w - Gyldendal - Den Store Danske". Den Store Danske. Archived from the original on September 4, 2017. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  12. ^ "Ordlista". Archived from the original on August 24, 2012. Retrieved January 29, 2015., page 1098
  13. ^ Aars, Jonathan; Hofgaard, Simon Wright (1907). Norske retskrivnings-regler med alfabetiske ordlister (in Norwegian). W. C. Fabritius & Sønner. pp. 19, 84. NBN 2006081600014. Archived from the original on February 18, 2022. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
  14. ^ "Veckans språkråd 2006" (in Swedish). July 5, 2007. Archived from the original on October 14, 2018. Retrieved September 18, 2011.
  15. ^ Peter, von Möller (1858). Ordbok öfver Halländska landskapsmålet. Lund: Berlingska boktryckeriet. p. 17.
  16. ^ a b Zingarelli, Nicola (1945). Vocabolario della lingua italiana (7 ed.). Bologna: Nicola Zanichelli. p. 1713.
  17. ^ "Let the pretending to be injured begin". No-sword.jp. June 10, 2006. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  18. ^ a b "Ban on Kurdish letters to be lifted with democracy package - Turkey News". Hürriyet Daily News. September 27, 2013. Archived from the original on January 17, 2022. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  19. ^ Othmann, Ronya. "Kolumne "Import Export": Bei X, Q, W ins Gefängnis". FAZ.NET (in German). ISSN 0174-4909. Archived from the original on January 18, 2022. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  20. ^ "Türkei: Erdogan will kurdische Schriftzeichen erlauben". Der Spiegel (in German). September 27, 2013. ISSN 2195-1349. Archived from the original on December 19, 2021. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  21. ^ a b "Refugee Review Tribunal Australia" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on February 18, 2022. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  22. ^ Ataman, Ferda (October 14, 2009). "Zweijähriger Kurde wird wegen Vornamens staatenlos". Der Tagesspiegel (in German). ISSN 1865-2263. Archived from the original on January 18, 2022. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  23. ^ Nhật My (May 19, 2009). "Ngôn ngữ thời @ của teen". VnExpress (in Vietnamese). FPT Group. Archived from the original on April 16, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  24. ^ Trần Tư Bình (November 30, 2013). "Viết tắt chữ Việt trong ngôn ngữ @". Chim Việt Cành Nam (in Vietnamese) (53). Archived from the original on February 28, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  25. ^ "Từ viết tắt: Trung ương". wcag.dongnai.gov.vn. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  26. ^ VIỆT NAM, ĐẢNG CỘNG SẢN. "Hệ thống văn bản". dangcongsan.vn (in Vietnamese). Archived from the original on July 3, 2017. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  27. ^ "W, w, pronounced: wah". English, Leo James Tagalog-English Dictionary. 1990., page 1556.
  28. ^ Bureau, Commodity Research (September 14, 2006). The CRB Commodity Yearbook 2006 with CD-ROM. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780470083949. Archived from the original on February 18, 2022. Retrieved November 7, 2017 – via Google Books.
  29. ^ Everson, Michael (July 26, 2017). "L2/17-238: Proposal to add LATIN LETTER ANGLICANA W to the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on January 31, 2020. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  30. ^ Everson, Michael; et al. (March 20, 2002). "L2/02-141: Uralic Phonetic Alphabet characters for the UCS" (PDF). Unicode.org. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 19, 2018. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  31. ^ Anderson, Deborah; Everson, Michael (June 7, 2004). "L2/04-191: Proposal to encode six Indo-Europeanist phonetic characters in the UCS" (PDF). Unicode.org. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 11, 2017. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  32. ^ Everson, Michael (May 5, 2019). "L2/19-075R: Proposal to add six phonetic characters for Scots to the UCS" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on June 13, 2019. Retrieved March 17, 2020.