W or w (pronounced [ ve ː ] ) is the 23rd letter of the Roman alphabet and in most languages ​​in which it is used, a consonant. The W was born in the Middle Ages as originally ligature, ie a doubling of the "V " or "U". The letter W in German texts has a relative frequency of 1.89 %. He is the 17th - most frequent letter in German texts.


The W shares a large part of its history with the U and the V, next to the Y and the F are related to him.

About phonetic value and meaning of the letter in the proto- Semitic alphabet is not known, the corresponding icon is a hook or a club with a round head dar. In the Phoenician alphabet opened the letter that head and looked like a well-rounded Y. The letter was given the name Waw and was used to represent the phonetic value [ w] ( a unsilbisches [ u] ).

The letter was admitted as Ypsilon in the Greek alphabet. In early Greek was the phonetic value of the Ypsilon the [ w] corresponding vowel [ u].

The Etruscans took over the early Greek Ypsilon and its phonetic value. Over time, disappeared among the Etruscans, the lower tip, the letter got the Form V. The interpretation of the letter changed: The Etruscan knew the the [ u] corresponding semi-vowel [ w] and the letter was used to both sounds to. Write

The Romans took the letter with the loud values. Originally the letter in the form adopted by the Etruscans acute form was written. In late antiquity, also a rounded variant was developed, which corresponds in appearance to the U.

In late antiquity, the unsilbische [ w] developed a [v ]. As AD writings emerged towards the end of the first millennium in the Germanic languages ​​, which still had the sound [ w], we felt the character V already as inappropriate for playback of this sound and therefore created the ligature VV or UU, from the W developed.

On behalf of the letter W in English, double u ( ' double u' ), in French and Italian, double vé doppia vu respectively ( ' double vau '), this origin is still recognizable ( it should be noted that at that time no difference between was made the consonant letter V and the vowel letters U).

The German sound [ w] ( a unsilbisches [ u] ) took place in the Middle Ages the same development, the Latin w -sound had already made in Late Antiquity: He became a [v ]. However, there are phoneticians who believe the German w -sound is not a voiced labiodental fricative [v ], but a voiced labiodental approximant [ ʋ ].

The English language, however, preserved to this day the original pronunciation [ w] ( unsilbisches [ u], similar to the German word Bauer, or labiovelarer approximant - both terms are synonymous ).


In Sweden, the letter W was taken by the Svenska academies in the new 13th edition of its dictionary until 2006, and is therefore an independent letter. Before that was the W, now the 29th letter of the alphabet Swedish between V and X, as a variation of the letter V (Double - V) ( one reason for this is the same pronunciation of both letters in Swedish ). Words beginning with the letter W are borrowed from foreign languages ​​words like " whiskey ", " wok" or " webb ". Moreover, W is found in Swedish proper nouns (eg " Wasa ", " Wilhelmina ", Woxna ), the W was often used instead of V and the notation V W now has largely displaced.

In Welsh, the W is used both as a consonant and a vowel, and can according to the rules of vowel lengthening, therefore, be provided with a circumflex.

The rapper / Hip Hopper the U.S. West Coast to use a shaped from the fingers of the hand "W" as a symbol of recognition for the " West Coast ", with ring and middle fingers are superimposed and form the central peak of the W and the outer legs by the small and be molded finger.


In MHG time is written very frequently b for w and vice versa w for b in Bavarian, see WEINHOLD bair. gram. § 124 136, but this can be explained only by a loud approach, not out of complete coincident. ( of the Grimm dictionary )