Why is the letter 'W' pronounced like double-'U' in English and pronounced as double-'V' in French? I've always wondered this. Typographically, the letter 'W' can be written with curvy bottoms (sorry for the lack of typography jargon) which looks like two U's side by side (uu). It can also be written with hard edges which make it look more like two V's side by side (vv). I thought this was pretty interesting.

1 Answer 1


According to the Oxford Dictionaries:

English uses the Latin alphabet of the Romans. However, this had no letter suitable for representing the speech sound /w/ which was used in Old English, though phonetically the sound represented by /v/ was quite close.

In the 7th century scribes wrote uu for /w/; later they used the runic symbol known as wynn. European scribes had continued to write uu, and this usage returned to England with the Norman Conquest in 1066.

Early printers sometimes used vv for lack of a w in their type. The name double-u recalls the former identity of u and v, which you can also see in a number of words with a related origin, for example flour/flower, guard/ward, or suede/Swede.

(Based on the Oxford Companion to the English Language)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.