In Latin, a stemless variant shape of the upsilon was borrowed in early times as V—either directly from the Western Greek alphabet or from the Etruscan alphabet as an intermediary—to represent the same /u/ sound, as well as the consonantal /w/. Thus, 'num' — originally spelled 'NVM' — was pronounced /num/ and 'via' was pronounced [ˈwia]. From the 1st century AD on, depending on Vulgar Latin dialect, consonantal /w/ developed into /β/ (kept in Spanish), then later to /v/.
In Roman numerals, the letter 'V' is used to represent the number 5. It was used because it resembled the convention of counting by notches carved in wood, with every fifth notch double-cut to form a 'V'.
During the Late Middle Ages, two forms of 'v' developed, which were both used for its ancestor /u/ and modern /v/. The pointed form 'v' was written at the beginning of a word, while a rounded form 'u' was used in the middle or end, regardless of sound. So whereas 'valor' and 'excuse' appeared as in modern printing, 'have' and 'upon' were printed as 'haue' and 'vpon'. The first distinction between the letters 'u' and 'v' is recorded in a Gothic script from 1386, where 'v' preceded 'u'. By the mid-16th century, the 'v' form was used to represent the consonant and 'u' the vowel sound, giving us the modern letter 'u'. Capital 'U' was not accepted as a distinct letter until many years later.
Like J, K, Q, X, and Z, V is not used very frequently in English. It is the 6th least common letter in the English language, with a frequency of about 1.03% in words. It appears frequently in the Spanish (where its pronunciation is the same as B), French and Portuguese languages. In Italian it is the distinctive sound of the ending (desinence) for imperfect (imperfective past tense) of all verbs exception made for the verb essere (to be).
In English, V is unusual in that it has not traditionally been doubled to indicate a short vowel, the way for example P is doubled to indicate the difference between 'super' and 'supper'. However, that is changing with newly coined words, such as 'divvy up' and 'skivvies'.
- Catalan: ve, pronounced [ˈve], but in dialects that lack the /v/ sound is named ve baixa [ˈbe ˈbajʃə] "low vee".
- Czech: vé [vɛː]
- French: vé [ve]
- German: fau [ˈfaʊ]
- Italian: vu [ˈvu] or vi [ˈvi]
- Portuguese: vê [ˈve]
- Spanish: uve [ˈuβe] is recommended, but ve [ˈbe] is traditional. If V is pronounced in the second way, it would have the same pronunciation as the letter B in Spanish (i.e. [ˈbe] after pause or nasal sound, otherwise [ˈβe]); thus further terms are needed to distinguish ve from be. In some countries it is called ve corta, ve baja, ve pequeña, ve chica or ve labiodental.
In Japanese, V is often called "bui" (ブイ). This name is an approximation of the English name which substitutes the voiced bilabial plosive for the voiced labiodental fricative (which does not exist in native Japanese phonology) and differentiates it from "bī" (ビー), the Japanese name of the letter B. The sound can be written with the relatively recently developed katakana character 「ヴ」 (vu) va, vi, vu, ve, vo (ヴァ, ヴィ, ヴ, ヴェ, ヴォ?), though in practice the pronunciation is usually not the strictly labiodental fricative found in English. Moreover, some words are more often spelled with the b equivalent character instead of vu due to the long-time use of the word without it (e.g. "violin" is more often found as baiorin (バイオリン?) than as vaiorin (ヴァイオリン?) due partly to inertia, and to some extent due to the more native Japanese sound).
In most languages which use a Latin alphabet, 〈v〉 has a [v]-like sound (voiced labiodental fricative). In most dialects of Spanish, it is pronounced the same as 〈b〉, [b] or [β̞]. In Corsican, it is pronounced the same as [b], [v], [β] or [w], depending on the position in the word and the sentence. In German and Dutch it can be either [v] or [f].
In Chinese pinyin, 〈v〉 is not used, as there is no sound [v] in Standard Mandarin; but the letter 〈v〉 is used by most input methods to enter letter 〈ü〉, which most keyboards lack. Romanised Chinese is a popular method to enter Chinese text phonetically.
In Irish, the letter 〈v〉 is mostly used in loanwords, such as veidhlín from English violin. However the sound [v] appears naturally in Irish when /b/ is lenited or "softened", represented in the orthography by 〈bh〉, so that bhí is pronounced [vʲiː], an bhean (the woman) is pronounced [ən̪ˠ ˈvʲan̪ˠ], etc.
Related letters and other similar characters
- 𐤅: Phoenician letter waw, the ancestral glyph
- Υ υ : Greek letter upsilon, from which V is descended
- У у : Cyrillic letter u, descended from upsilon
- Y y : Latin letter Y, which, like V, is also descended from upsilon
- U u : Latin letter U, descended from V
- W w : Latin letter W, also descended from V
- Ѵ ѵ : Cyrillic letter izhitsa, a letter of the early Cyrillic alphabet
- Ν ν : Greek letter nu, which appears like a "v" in lowercase
- Վ վ : Վ from Armenian alphabet
|Unicode name||LATIN CAPITAL LETTER V||LATIN SMALL LETTER V|
|Numeric character reference||V||V||v||v|
- 1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.
- "V", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "vee", op. cit.
- Pflughaupt, Laurent (2008). Letter by Letter: An Alphabetical Miscellany. trans. Gregory Bruhn. Princeton Architectural Press. pp. 123–124. ISBN 978-1-56898-737-8. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
- "2-Letter Words with Definitions". Australian Scrabble® Players Association (ASPA). 8 May 2007. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- Hasbro staff (2014). "Scrabble word lists:2-Letter Words". Hasbro. Retrieved March 2014.
- Díez Losada, Fernando (2004). La tribuna del idioma (in Spanish). Editorial Tecnologica de CR. p. 176. ISBN 978-9977-66-161-2.
- Not an entirely new character, 「ヴ」 is simply the character for u (ウ) with the addition of a dakuten, the same mark used to change the sound of other kana. The dakuten is, for example, used to transform ka (カ) to ga (ガ), hi (ヒ) to bi (ビ) and ta (タ) to da (ダ).
- Media related to V at Wikimedia Commons
- The dictionary definition of V at Wiktionary
- The dictionary definition of v at Wiktionary