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Why is a w a “Double u”, but an m is not a “Double n”?

Is there any reason/history as to why "w" is the only letter in English alphabet that is not pronounced as one syllable?

marked as duplicate by Matt E. Эллен, RegDwigнt May 17 '12 at 11:30

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    @MattЭллен Not really. That question implies more on the visual representation of the alphabet rather than it's pronunciation. – John Isaiah Carmona May 17 '12 at 8:47
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    Except that the answer is the same. – Matt E. Эллен May 17 '12 at 8:58
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    I've always wanted to go on Wheel of Fortune, just so I could say, "I'll have a D, as in double-u." – J.R. May 17 '12 at 9:08

Because it is. I'm sorry, but that is the only real answer to the question. In French "w" has a polysyllabic name, but so does "y"; in German "y" has a polysyllabic name.

It's historical accident.

By the way an "alphabet" means a complete set of letters a-z (or whatever the list is in another language). The individual items are called "letters".


W was originally written as uu, or double u, as this extract from the OED’s etymological note on w explains:

The ordinary sign for /w/ was at first uu , but in the 8th c. this began to be superseded by ƿ, a character borrowed from the Runic alphabet, in which its name was wyn (Kentish wen ). Eventually the use of ƿ became almost universal, but in the mean time the uu was carried from England to the continent, being used for the sound /w/ in the German dialects, and in French proper names and other words of Germanic and Celtic origin. In the 11th c. the ligatured form was introduced into England by Norman scribes, and gradually took the place of ƿ, which finally went out of use about a.d. 1300. The character W was probably very early regarded as a single letter, although it has never lost its original name of ‘double U’.

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