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japanese hiragana wi
japanese katakana wi
transliterationi, wi
hiragana origin
katakana origin
Man'yōgana位 為 謂 井 猪 藍
spelling kanaゐどのヰ
(w)ido no "(w)i"
unicodeU+3090, U+30F0

Wi (hiragana: , katakana: ) is an obsolete Japanese kana (Japanese phonetic characters, each of which represents one mora), which is normally pronounced [i] in current-day Japanese. The combination of a W-column kana letter with ゐ゙ in hiragana was introduced to represent [vi] in the 19th century and 20th century. It is presumed that 'ゐ' represented [wi] , and that 'ゐ' and 'い' represented distinct pronunciations before merging to [i] sometime between the Kamakura and Taishō periods. Along with the kana for we ('ゑ' in hiragana, 'ヱ' in katakana), this kana was deemed obsolete in Japanese with the orthographic reforms of 1946, to be replaced by 'い/イ' in all contexts. It is now rare in everyday usage; in onomatopoeia and foreign words, the katakana form 'ウィ' (U-[small-i]) is used for the mora /wi/.

However, the kana still sees some modern-day usage as a stylistic variant of 'い/イ'. The spelling of whisky is usually uisukii ("ウイスキー"), but is sometimes written uwisukii ("ウヰスキー") stylistically, such as Nikka Whisky (ニッカウヰスキー, nikka uwisukii). The name of the comedy duo Yoiko is written yowiko ("よゐこ"), 2 characters in the video game series Touhou Project have "ゐ" in their names: Tewi Inaba (因幡 てゐ (Inaba Tewi)) & Tenshi Hinanawi (比那名居 天子 (Hinanawi Tenshi)), and the first opening theme to the Future Diary anime series is titled "空想メソロギヰ" (Kuusou Mesorogiwi). The katakana is sometimes written with a dakuten, 'ヸ', to represent a /vi/ sound in foreign words; however, most IMEs lack a convenient way to do this. It is far more common for /vi/ to be represented by the combination 'ヴィ'.

Hiragana 'ゐ' is still used in one of the Okinawan orthographies, New Okinawan, for the syllable /wi/ and in digraphs for /kwi, ɡwi/. In the Ryukyu University system, the katakana 'ヰ' is used for /i/, while 'い' is /ʔi/. The katakana 'ヰ' is also used in Ainu for /wi/.


Nara period (710–794 AD)

During the Nara period, ヰ was pronounced as [wi] and イ as [i]. In the Man'yōgana, there were characters to represent ヰ (e.g. 井, 位, 爲, 猪, 謂, 藍) and イ (e.g. 已, 五, 以, 伊, 怡, 射, 移, 異); no characters for one could be used to pronounce the other. The labial glides ク [kʷi] and グ [gʷi] also existed (though in those days small script kana were not used for glides), and were distinct from キ [ki] and ギ [gi].

Heian Period (794–1184 AD)

During the Heian period, ゐ and い were still recognized as separately pronounced characters. In the mid-to-late 11th century, the Iroha song was developed, and い, え, and お (i, e, and o) were differentiated from ゐ, ゑ, and を (wi, we, and wo). In the Gojūon ordering (developed around 1075 by the scholar Hirotomo, based on the Siddhaṃ script), there were no sounds for “yi”, “ye”, “wu”, or “wo”. Although the distinction had been lost between オ (o) and ヲ (wo) as well as 𛀀 (e) and エ (ye), there was still a distinction between ア/ワ (a/wa), イ/ヰ (i/wi), and 𛀀/ヱ (e/we).

In Ki no Tsurayuki's literary work, the Tosa Nikki (originally written in 935, transcribed in 1236), the phrase “海賊報いせむ” (kaizoku mukui semu) is written as “かいぞくむくせむ” (kaizoku mukuwi semu), with ゐ where い should be. In this way, examples of confusion between ゐ and い were emerging, little by little; however, during the Heian period these confusions were few and far between.

Since the Nara period, /h/ began to be pronounced as [w] in word-medial position; by the beginning of the 11th century, this phenomenon, called the "Ha-line shift", had become more widespread. In word-medial or word-final position, ひ [ɸi] would be pronounced [wi], therefore becoming the same as ゐ. Because of this, the use of ひ and ゐ also became confused.

At the end of the 12th century, the literary work “Shinkyō Shiki Chū” (which contained katakana, from the last years of the Insei period) attests examples of ゐ and い losing their distinction, such as “率て” (wite) being written “イテ” (ite).

Furthermore, in Heian period literature, special kanji readings such as “クヰヤウ” [kʷʲau] and “ヰヤウ” [wʲau] were used, but were not well established.

Kamakura Period (1185–1333 AD)

By the Kamakura period, the confusion between ゐ and い had become even more widespread, and by the 13th century, ゐ and い were unified. By changing from [wi] to [i], ゐ had merged into い. Also, kanji that were represented by クヰ and グヰ had become pronounced [ki] and [gi] respectively, merging them with キ and ギ.

Due to the Ha-line shift as well as the merging of a number of syllables, soon there were many kana pronounced the same way, and kana orthography was in chaos. Fujiwara no Teika (1162–1241), in the “Unpleasant Characters” (嫌文字事) section of Gekanshū (a poetry volume), established rules for about 60 words containing を/お, え/へ/ゑ, and い/ひ/ゐ, based on a number of writings from the mid-11th to 12th century. However, the books that Teika had referenced already contained a number of confusions, with ひ becoming ゐ, such as 遂 (formerly “つひ” tsuhi) being represented as “つゐ” (tsuwi) and 宵 (formerly “よひ” yohi) being represented as “よゐ” (yowi); い becoming either ひ or ゐ, such as 老い (historically “おい” oi) being represented as “おゐ” (owi) or “おひ” (ohi); and various other spellings differing from their original pronunciation. Teika's syllabary particularly drew from poetry such as waka and renga, but a number of examples of confusion between い, ゐ, and word-medial/final ひ were also frequently pulled from other sources.

Muromachi Period (1333–1573 AD)

Karuta card, 19th century, bearing the ゐ character.
Grave of William Adams; his name is spelled using the ゐ kana (smaller text at right).

In the Nanboku-chō period, the scholar Gyōa published the Kanamojizukai (Kana Character Syllabary, completed in 1363), drastically augmenting the lexicon by over 1000 words. Though the Kanamojizukai was generally as widely accepted as Teika's syllabary, in practice there were a number of kana pronunciations that did not conform to it.

In Christian rōmaji documents from the 16th century (the later part of the Muromachi period), ゐ and い were written with either “i”, “j”, or “y”, but the pronunciation was understood to be [i] in any case.

Stroke order

Stroke order in writing ゐ
Stroke order in writing ゐ
tlr=Stroke order in writing ヰ
Stroke order in writing ヰ
Stroke order in writing あ
Stroke order in writing あ

The Hiragana ゐ is made with one stroke. It resembles the second stroke of the Hiragana , with an additional short horizontal line at the start.

Stroke order in writing ヰ
Stroke order in writing ヰ

The Katakana ヰ is made with four strokes:

  1. A horizontal line.
  2. A vertical line.
  3. A horizontal line.
  4. A vertical line.

Other communicative representations

Japanese radiotelephony alphabet Wabun code
Wido no "Wi"
  ▄ ▄▄▄ ▄ ▄ ▄▄▄ 

Japanese Navy Signal Flag Japanese semaphore Japanese manual syllabary (fingerspelling) Braille dots-23
Japanese Braille
ゐ / ヰ in Japanese Braille
ゐ / ヰ

ゐい / ヰー
⠆ (braille pattern dots-23)  ⠐ (braille pattern dots-5)⠆ (braille pattern dots-23) ⠆ (braille pattern dots-23)⠒ (braille pattern dots-25) ⠐ (braille pattern dots-5)⠆ (braille pattern dots-23)⠒ (braille pattern dots-25)
Character information
Preview 𛅐 𛅤
Encodings decimal hex dec hex dec hex dec hex
Unicode 12432 U+3090 12528 U+30F0 110928 U+1B150 110948 U+1B164
UTF-8 227 130 144 E3 82 90 227 131 176 E3 83 B0 240 155 133 144 F0 9B 85 90 240 155 133 164 F0 9B 85 A4
UTF-16 12432 3090 12528 30F0 55340 56656 D82C DD50 55340 56676 D82C DD64
Numeric character reference ゐ ゐ ヰ ヰ 𛅐 𛅐 𛅤 𛅤
Shift JIS[1] 130 238 82 EE 131 144 83 90
EUC-JP[2] 164 240 A4 F0 165 240 A5 F0
GB 18030[3] 164 240 A4 F0 165 240 A5 F0 147 54 134 50 93 36 86 32
EUC-KR[4] / UHC[5] 170 240 AA F0 171 240 AB F0
Big5 (non-ETEN kana)[6] 198 244 C6 F4 199 170 C7 AA
Big5 (ETEN / HKSCS)[7] 199 119 C7 77 199 236 C7 EC
Character information
Preview 🋂
Encodings decimal hex dec hex dec hex
Unicode 127682 U+1F2C2 12536 U+30F8 13052 U+32FC
UTF-8 240 159 139 130 F0 9F 8B 82 227 131 184 E3 83 B8 227 139 188 E3 8B BC
UTF-16 55356 57026 D83C DEC2 12536 30F8 13052 32FC
Numeric character reference 🋂 🋂 ヸ ヸ ㋼ ㋼
Shift JIS (KanjiTalk 7)[8] 136 107 88 6B
Shift JIS (JIS X 0213)[9] 132 147 84 93
EUC-JP (JIS X 0213)[10] 167 243 A7 F3
GB 18030[3] 147 54 132 50 93 36 84 32 129 57 167 54 81 39 A7 36

See also


  1. ^ Unicode Consortium (2015-12-02) [1994-03-08]. "Shift-JIS to Unicode".
  2. ^ Unicode Consortium; IBM. "EUC-JP-2007". International Components for Unicode.
  3. ^ a b Standardization Administration of China (SAC) (2005-11-18). GB 18030-2005: Information Technology—Chinese coded character set.
  4. ^ Unicode Consortium; IBM. "IBM-970". International Components for Unicode.
  5. ^ Steele, Shawn (2000). "cp949 to Unicode table". Microsoft / Unicode Consortium.
  6. ^ Unicode Consortium (2015-12-02) [1994-02-11]. "BIG5 to Unicode table (complete)".
  7. ^ van Kesteren, Anne. "big5". Encoding Standard. WHATWG.
  8. ^ Apple Computer (2005-04-05) [1995-04-15]. "Map (external version) from Mac OS Japanese encoding to Unicode 2.1 and later". Unicode Consortium.
  9. ^ Project X0213 (2009-05-03). "Shift_JIS-2004 (JIS X 0213:2004 Appendix 1) vs Unicode mapping table".((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Project X0213 (2009-05-03). "EUC-JIS-2004 (JIS X 0213:2004 Appendix 3) vs Unicode mapping table".((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)