Thursday, March 5, 2015

Secret Origins: W

I’m sure this won’t be another rehash of U, like the letter V was. Or maybe it will as I’m already rehashing the opening statement.

The alphabet gif has a short lineage for W. See, it turns out, most other languages just used U/V for W. In Etruscan, a version of it was figure 8 they used for the F sound. It was the Germanic languages that used two U’s, or W, to signify the sound for V. It didn’t become “wah” until later, again in Germanic writings (where they also kind of used a P like symbol for the W sound).

So, in neater, list format:

F = V sound (it’s a soft F, so basically a V)
8 = HF sound (this would be a F like we know it)
V = U (makes the U sound; there is no W sound at all)

Ancient Latin:
F = F (really only used for F as they didn’t use a V sound)
Y = U/W (It looks like a Y, but it’s really a V and it makes the U sound; still no W sound)

Roman Latin:
F = F (again, just F)
V = U (the sound)
VV = UU (started by Germanic languages for the V sound they had; later, it started to be wah instead of vah)

Modern Latin:
F = F
U = U
V = V
W = W


  1. But to this day, Germans still don't pronounce W the way we do.

  2. But does it wear a cape? That's all I want to know.

  3. My maiden name is Wittmeyer, and pronounced in German the W is more of a V.

  4. What is it with the end of the alphabet and all the letter-come-latelys?

  5. How would we work without W in our writing? Your posts are very interesting. Didn't know W was such a newbie.

  6. In Russian, the W seems to follow German tendencies. My sister's name is Wendy, but when we went there, her visa was spelled Vendy. J is also a combination of two letters, but that doesn't exactly relate to this post, so I'll be quiet now.

  7. I've noticed these differences and changes looking at old alphabets. I wasn't clear on pronunciation, though.


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