Waw (letter)

Last updated
Phonemic representation w, v, o, u
Position in alphabet6
Numerical value6
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician

Waw/Vav (wāw "hook") is the sixth letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician wāw Phoenician waw.svg , Aramaic waw Waw.svg , Hebrew vav ו, Syriac waw ܘ and Arabic wāw و (sixth in abjadi order; 27th in modern Arabic order).

Letter (alphabet) grapheme in an alphabetic system of writing

A letter is a segmental symbol of a phonemic writing system. The inventory of all letters forms the alphabet. Letters broadly correspond to phonemes in the spoken form of the language, although there is rarely a consistent, exact correspondence between letters and phonemes.

Abjad type of writing system where each symbol stands for a consonant

An abjad is a type of writing system where each symbol or glyph stands for a consonant, leaving the reader to supply the appropriate vowel. So-called impure abjads do represent vowels, either with optional diacritics, a limited number of distinct vowel glyphs, or both. The name abjad is based on the old Arabic alphabet's first four letters—a, b, j, d—to replace the common terms "consonantary" or "consonantal alphabet" to refer to the family of scripts called West Semitic.

Phoenician alphabet Oldest verified alphabet

The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, is the oldest verified alphabet. It is an alphabet of abjad type, consisting of 22 consonant letters only, leaving vowel sounds implicit, although certain late varieties use matres lectionis for some vowels. It was used to write Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the ancient civilization of Phoenicia in modern-day Syria, Lebanon, and northern Israel.


It represents the consonant [ w ] in original Hebrew, and [ v ] in modern Hebrew, as well as the vowels [ u ] and [ o ]. In text with niqqud, a dot is added to the left or on top of the letter to indicate, respectively, the two vowel pronunciations.

The voiced labiodental fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨v⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is v.

The close back rounded vowel, or high back rounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨u⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is u.

The close-mid back rounded vowel, or high-mid back rounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨o⟩.

It is the origin of Greek Ϝ (digamma) and Υ (upsilon), Cyrillic У, Latin F and V, and the derived "Latin"- or "Roman"- alphabet letters U, W, and Y.

F letter in the Latin alphabet

F is the sixth letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

U Letter in the Latin alphabet

U is the 21st letter and the fifth vowel in the ISO basic Latin alphabet. It is preceded by T, and is followed by V.

W letter of the Latin Alphabet

W is the 23rd letter of the modern English and ISO basic Latin alphabets.


The letter likely originated with an Egyptian hieroglyph which represented the word mace (transliterated as ḥ(dj)):

Waw (letter)

In Modern Hebrew, the word וָו vav is used to mean both "hook" and the letter's name (the name is also written וי״ו ).

Arabic wāw

Writing system Arabic script
Type Abjad
Language of origin Arabic language
Phonetic usage/w/, //
Alphabetical position4
  • و

The letter و is named واوwāw and is written in several ways depending on its position in the word:

Position in word:IsolatedFinalMedialInitial
Glyph form:

Wāw is used to represent four distinct phonetic features:

In linguistics, vowel length is the perceived duration of a vowel sound. Often the chroneme, or the "longness", acts like a consonant, and may have arisen from one etymologically, such as in Australian English. While not distinctive in most other dialects of English, vowel length is an important phonemic factor in many of the world's languages and dialects, for instance in Arabic, Finnish, Fijian, Kannada, Japanese, Old English, Scottish Gaelic and Vietnamese. It plays a phonetic role in the majority of dialects of British English and is said to be phonemic in a few other dialects, such as Australian English, South African English and New Zealand English. It also plays a lesser phonetic role in Cantonese, unlike other varieties of Chinese.

Varieties of Arabic Family of language varieties

There are many varieties of Arabic in existence. Arabic is a Semitic language within the Afroasiatic family that originated on the Arabian Peninsula. It is classified as a macrolanguage comprising 30 modern varieties, including its standard form. The largest divisions occur between the spoken languages of different regions. Some varieties of Arabic in North Africa, for example, are not easily comprehensible to an Arabic speaker from the Levant or the Persian Gulf. Within these broad regions further and considerable geographic distinctions exist, within countries, across country borders, even between cities and villages.

A monophthong is a pure vowel sound, one whose articulation at both beginning and end is relatively fixed, and which does not glide up or down towards a new position of articulation. The monophthongs can be contrasted with diphthongs, where the vowel quality changes within the same syllable, and hiatus, where two vowels are next to each other in different syllables. A vowel sound whose quality does not change over the duration of the vowel is called a pure vowel.

As a vowel, wāw can serve as the carrier of a hamza: ؤ.

Wāw serves several functions in Arabic. Perhaps foremost among them is that it is the primary conjunction in Arabic, equivalent to "and"; it is usually prefixed to other conjunctions, such as وَلَكِنwa-lākin, meaning "but". Another function is the "oath", by preceding a noun of great significantly valued by the speaker. It is often literally translatable to "By..." or "I swear to...", and is often used in the Qur'an in this way, and also in the generally fixed construction واللهwallāh ("By Allah!" or "I swear to God!").

Derived letters

Position in word:IsolatedFinalMedialInitial
Glyph form:

With an additional triple dot diacritic above waw, the letter then named ve is used to represent distinctively the consonant /v/ sometimes in Arabic-based Sorani Kurdish and in Arabic-based Uyghur.

Position in word:IsolatedFinalMedialInitial
Glyph form:

/o/ in Sorani Kurdish; /v/ in Arabic-based Kazakh; /ø/ in Uyghur.
Thirty-fourth letter of the Azerbaijani Arabic script, represents Ô /ɔ/.
It is also used for short vowel /o/ or /u/ in a lot of languages,[ specify ] for example "u" in bull (بۆل)

Position in word:IsolatedFinalMedialInitial
Glyph form:

for // or /u/, used in a lot of languages,[ specify ] for example o in bold (بۉلد)

Position in word:IsolatedFinalMedialInitial
Glyph form:

/y/ in Uyghur and also in other languages[ specify ] with a similar vowel.

Position in word:IsolatedFinalMedialInitial
Glyph form:

/ʉː/ in Southern Kurdish.

Position in word:IsolatedFinalMedialInitial
Glyph form:

In Jawi script: Used for /v/.

Other letters

See Arabic script in Unicode

Hebrew Waw

Orthographic variants
Various print fonts Cursive
Serif Sans-serif Monospaced
ווו Hebrew letter Vav handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Vav Rashi.png

Hebrew spelling: וָו or וָאו or וָיו.

Pronunciation in Modern Hebrew

Vav has three orthographic variants, each with a different phonemic value and phonetic realisation: [1]

Variant (with Niqqud) Without Niqqud Name Phonemic value Phonetic realisationEnglish example


as initial letter:ו

Consonantal Vav
(Hebrew: Vav Itsurit ו׳ עיצורית)
/v/, /w/[ v ], [ w ]vote
as middle letter:וו
as final letter:וorיו



Vav Shruka ([väv ʃruˈkä] / ו׳ שרוקה) or
Shuruq ([ʃuˈruk] / שׁוּרוּק)
/u/[ u ]glue



Vav Chaluma ([väv χäluˈmä] / ו׳ חלומה) or
Holam Male ([χo̞ˈläm maˈle̞] / חוֹלָם מָלֵא)
/o/[ ]no, noh

In modern Hebrew, the frequency of the usage of vav, out of all the letters, is about 10.00%.

Vav as consonant

Consonantal vav (ו) generally represents a voiced labiodental fricative (like the English v) in Ashkenazi, European Sephardi, Persian, Caucasian, Italian and modern Israeli Hebrew, and was originally a labial-velar approximant /w/.

In modern Israeli Hebrew, some loanwords, the pronunciation of whose source contains /w/, and their derivations, are pronounced with [ w ]: ואחד/ˈwaχad/ (but: ואדי /ˈvadi/).

Modern Hebrew has no standardized way to distinguish orthographically between [ v ] and [ w ]. [1] The pronunciation is determined by prior knowledge or must be derived through context.

Some non standard spellings of the sound [ w ] are sometimes found in modern Hebrew texts, such as word-initial double-vav: וואללה/ˈwala/ (word-medial double-vav is both standard and common for both /v/ and /w/, see table above) or, rarely, vav with a geresh: ו׳יליאם/ˈwiljam/.

Vav with a dot on top

Vav can be used as a mater lectionis for an o vowel, in which case it is known as a ḥolam male , which in pointed text is marked as vav with a dot above it. It is pronounced [ ] (phonemically transcribed more simply as /o/).

The distinction is normally ignored, and the HEBREW POINT HOLAM (U+05B9) is used in all cases.

The vowel can be denoted without the vav, as just the dot placed above and to the left of the letter it points, and it is then called ḥolam ḥaser . Some inadequate typefaces do not support the distinction between the ḥolam maleוֹ/o/, the consonantal vav pointed with a ḥolam ḥaserוֺ/vo/ (compare ḥolam maleמַצּוֹת/maˈtsot/ and consonantal vav-ḥolam ḥaserמִצְוֺת/mitsˈvot/). To display a consonantal vav with ḥolam ḥaser correctly, the typeface must either support the vav with the Unicode combining character "HEBREW POINT HOLAM HASER FOR VAV" (U+05BA, HTML Entity (decimal) ֺ) [2] or the precomposed character וֹ (U+FB4B).

  • Compare the three:
    1. The vav with the combining character HEBREW POINT HOLAM: מִצְוֹת
    2. The vav with the combining character HEBREW POINT HOLAM HASER FOR VAV: מִצְוֺת
    3. The precomposed character: מִצְוֹת

Vav with a dot in the middle

Vav can also be used as a mater lectionis for [ u ], in which case it is known as a shuruk , and in text with niqqud is marked with a dot in the middle (on the left side).

Shuruk and vav with a dagesh look identical ("וּ") and are only distinguishable through the fact that in text with niqqud, vav with a dagesh will normally be attributed a vocal point in addition, e.g. שׁוּק (/ʃuk/), "a market", (the "וּ" denotes a shuruk) as opposed to שִׁוֵּק (/ʃiˈvek/), "to market" (the "וּ" denotes a vav with dagesh and is additionally pointed with a zeire, " ֵ ", denoting /e/). In the word שִׁוּוּק (/ʃiˈvuk/), "marketing", the first ("וּ") denotes a vav with dagesh, the second a shuruk, being the vowel attributed to the first.

Numerical value

Vav in gematria represents the number six, and when used at the beginning of Hebrew years, it means 6000 (i.e. ותשנד in numbers would be the date 6754.)

Words written as vav

Vav at the beginning of the word has several possible meanings:

(Note: Older Hebrew did not have "tense" in a temporal sense, "perfect," and "imperfect" instead denoting aspect of completed or continuing action. Modern Hebrew verbal tenses have developed closer to their Indo-European counterparts, mostly having a temporal quality rather than denoting aspect. As a rule, Modern Hebrew does not use the "Vav Consecutive" form.)


In Yiddish, [3] the letter (known as vov) is used for several orthographic purposes in native words:

The single vov may be written with a dot on the left when necessary to avoid ambiguity and distinguish it from other functions of the letter. For example, the word vu 'where' is spelled וווּ, as tsvey vovn followed by a single vov; the single vov indicating [ u ] is marked with a dot in order to distinguish which of the three vovs represents the vowel. Some texts instead separate the digraph from the single vov with a silent aleph.

Loanwords from Hebrew or Aramaic in Yiddish are spelled as they are in their language of origin.

Syriac Waw

Syriac Eastern waw.svg Madnḫaya Waw
Syriac Estrangela waw.svg Serṭo Waw
Syriac Serta waw.svg Esṭrangela Waw

Syriac letter shapes Waw.PNG

In the Syriac alphabet, the sixth letter is ܘ. Waw (ܘܐܘ) is pronounced [w]. When it is used as a mater lectionis, a waw with a dot above the letter is pronounced [o], and a waw with a dot under the letter is pronounced [u]. Was has an alphabetic-numeral value of 6.

Character encodings

Unicode 1493U+05D51608U+06481816U+07182053U+080564309U+FB3564331U+FB4B
UTF-8 215 149D7 95217 136D9 88220 152DC 98224 160 133E0 A0 85239 172 181EF AC B5239 173 139EF AD 8B
Numeric character reference ווووܘܘࠅࠅוּוּוֹוֹ
Unicode 66438U+1038667653U+1084567845U+10905
UTF-8 240 144 142 134F0 90 8E 86240 144 161 133F0 90 A1 85240 144 164 133F0 90 A4 85
UTF-16 55296 57222D800 DF8655298 56389D802 DC4555298 56581D802 DD05
Numeric character reference 𐎆𐎆𐡅𐡅𐤅𐤅

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  1. 1 2 "Announcements of the Academy of the Hebrew Language" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-04-11.
  2. "List of fonts that support U+05BA at". Fileformat.info. Retrieved 2013-04-11.
  3. Weinreich, Uriel (1992). College Yiddish. New York: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. pp. 27–8.