There was no letter U in the alphabet. Well, that’s not the entire story. There was the sound for the letter we call U, but it didn’t look like U. It looked like V. The Classical Latin alphabet had only 23 letters, not the 26 that we have today. (This is why the W looks like a double V but is pronounced like a double U. Learn more about the history of W here.)
For a very long time, U and V were allographs. What’s an allograph? An allograph is a variation of a letter in another context. Uppercase and lowercase letters are allographs. Before the use of the letter U, the shape V stood for both the vowel U and the consonant V. In the picture below you can see the letter V used in places were it would be pronounced as a U.
The letters begin to look different in the Gothic alphabet in 1386; however the use of the u was not widespread. When scribes did use a u, it was in the middle of words, e.g. save was saue, but upon was vpon. It wasn’t until printing standardized letter shapes in the 1600s that the letter U became regularly used. First, in the 1500s, Italian printers started distinguishing between the vowel U and the consonant V. However, the V continued to be used for the U sound at the beginning of words. In 1629, the capital U became an accepted letter when Lazare Zetzner, a printer, started using it in his print shop.
The letter Z was almost removed from the alphabet. Read Z’s story here.
Covld you still read if we vsed v for u?
Typo in the first paragraph, forgot the word “look”
Fun info though, thanks for the continued education, this is one of the only approved sites at work so it keeps me entertained
If we vsed V instead of U it would be kinda (well mostly) confusing.
I think it wovld be very hard to, bvt I covld get vsed to it!
Actually it would be just confusing.
It would be like if someone passed you a note saying something like…
“Wovld yov want to go to the aqvrirum with me?”
Just plain confusing, but this article was intresting.
This would be confusing!
That’s really interesting. I have read many literary works that used “v” for “u,” and I always wondered why they did that. Thanks to whoever wrote this!
I could still understand if we used V for U.
I study latin but I never knew that “u” didn’t exist – probably because it’s now standardized for instance there is a u in “aula”. I know that when there is a V in latin when you see a V you pronounce in “W” like “vulnus” is pronounced “wulnus”. But V and U are different letters in Latin or at least I thought so
wow that is weird covering a v instead of a u???????????????????????
In covld you still read if we vsed v for u……the you covld havae been yov.
What’s the story abovt W, dictionary.com?
yov pronovnce it dovble u, when some people write it like dovble v?
That wovld be a good Hot Word.
While typing this, I realized I vse the letter u in my sentences a lot. Well, everybody does. I thovght u wasn’t vsed as much as a or e, which is trve…
V instead of u for life!!!!!!!!
@John, I beg to differ. It’s sort of like vowels. For example, A can be pronounced like the a in name, or it can be pronounced like the a in announcement. Ay and ah. It’s the same inception with the v and u.
would yov like this thing cavse i wovld not like this.
*concept, not inception. Curse you, automatic spell checker!
We should get rid of X….
and either E or I …..and C
We have a lot of unnecessary letters in English.
So, the Roman V (‘vee’) was like the Greek Ω (‘oh/Uu-mega’) which was like the Hebrew ו (‘waw’), but leaning toward the Hebrew ב (‘veth’).
Note also that capital B is like a sideways W (‘double-U’ not ‘double-V’) with a cap-bar on the leading side, and pronounced likewise capped, And M is like upside-down W.
So, Why didn’t the Romans do a W like their B and M?
so like, the color purple would be Uiolet… what if Violet was your name… that would stink
Texting is like a new language. We use u for you and r for are. Why would v and u be confusing? That said, it would be more annoying than hives.
I thovght this article was pretty interesting. I never knew this stvff. Now I want to read the article abovt the letter Z and how it covld’ve disapeared.
Oh and BTW, I totally agree with Mackenzie.
BTW, my name really isn’t “hi”. LOLZ =D XD
i really enjoy the hot word blog. but i must ask what of the ancient greek alphabet? it had U while it did not have V. you may ask what significance this has well english is from latin and latin is from greek. the upsilon had a place in ancient greek while the V did not so where did the V get phased in as the U was in some form of limbo
The info reminds me of an instance In Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. Enoch Emery, a country yokel, sees the word “museum” etched into the facade of the local museum as MVSEVM, and reads it aloud as “muv see vum.” So for at least one literary character, the loss of the “u” was confusing.
Actually, if we still used V instead of U it wouldn’t be confusing at all; the reason being that we would all be used to using the letter V.
what I dont get this?
[...] When did the letter U enter the alphabet? It will surprise you. The Hot Word | Hot & Trending Wo…. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]
It wovld be a bit odd at first, bvt I covld get vsed to it. Perhaps if I had more time to try it ovt I covld give a more definite answer.
I vse Google Chrome, and the spell check is telling me that the words with v’s are misspelled. Stvpid sqviggly red lines.
awesome experiences ever!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanx hi! thanx for copying my “v instead of u for life!!!!!” theory…..i know ur name isnt hi, who’s name is hi anyway?
R Cain Tawpick, texting is like a new language but we only abbreviate stuff like LOL for laughing out loud or TBH for to be honest. so v and u might be confusing for texters who just started texting…..
Fleur Delacour (from harry potter; has a thick accent) says, “‘Ow ‘orrible (how horrible..) and “Ve are going” (we are going)
when you phonetically write Fleur’s little language out, v is used wayyyy more often than u.
not that i dont agree with u, i probably just confused you too much. Im just looking from a different point of view.
I have an inflamed vvvla, and my girlfriend has a sore vvlva. I wonder if both are cavsed by the same bvg, and if so, whv got if from whv.
ooooh well we’ll have to get vsed to it bvt it wovld be strange and my name wovld be strange it wovld be Lv-Lv
Wow. And I always wanted to live back in that time-period. I remember reading something like that when u and v were interchangable back then. No wonder people didn’t read in the 1300’s, it was too hard!
Actually, it would be pretty interesting if we still didn’t use the letter “U”. Thank God we have it now though.
I fovnd this V vs V thing very confvzzling. VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV
Actually, in Japanese, which doesn’t have a V sound, they add marks to their U character to vocalize it in order to replicate (as well as they can) the V sound in foreign names. So phonetically there is clearly a very close relationship between the two sounds.
How would it be possible to spell “uvula”?
vncle mvrry vttered vnderstandable vvords bvt yov mvst vunderstand
vroom vroom vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv
vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv vvvvvvvvvvv vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv
very sqvigily linezzz
I am pretty sure that most people would be sad if the letter U got kicked out.
Do u agree with me anyone?????
The title of this should be ” I Miss V” Or ” I Miss U” Lol
hi guys i really like this current alphabet then that!!
hello wovld you like to see the vnderworld aqvarivm with me?
this is interesting. lol!
It was quite interesting.
My BFFL said “I can’t believe V is after U in the alphabet!” and I said “Why?” She said “Read a dictionary, and what’s my name?” I said “Sorry Violet ” She can be a drama at times, then i told her this info (emailed it to her) and she wrote back, “See what I mean Jessy?” I usually keep giving her an evil glance (in a nice way though) and we both end up laughing
Think it’s stupid like who beable to read it, you’d get confused
who would use it like that+-+ =)
Ahh, maybe one example is the ‘Bvlgari’ which is, as we all pronounce, ‘Bulgari’.
You want confusing, old Arabic only had 8? letters (could have been 6) which were unique to itself. God’s breakfast, or Dog’s breakfast, or even Bog’s breakfast, that’s something which was/is impossible to know.
its better to change U to V,and go back before birthday of U,haha
In my university there was a historical gate with the sign reads “VNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG” and all freshmen were told a ghost story about it… something like the people got killed by Japanese changed the letter U to V after they died…
But the university started in 1887 so the letter U should be introduced by that time according to this article, so maybe it was the ghost who did it.
In French the W is pronounced “doo-bleh veh”
up up and away
up up and away
I knew V was used for U in printing and engraving because the roundness of the u was too hard to make with their tools, but I thought U was handwritten as a U. Cool trivia. Glad it’s standardized now–English is confusing enough (just listen to a child or a foreigner try to speak it) without mixing U for V I too think we should ditch X, C and either I or Y.
I also stvdy Latin bvt I know enovgh of the medieval times to know abovt this letter. As to what Aemy said, there are many letters, especially “e” or “i,” that have a reason for remaining in the alphabet: there is no other way to create that very specific sovnd.
Thanks, dictionary.com! I look forward to reading yovr new articles.
It would sure make words like “uvula” and “chauvinist” more difficult to decipher
[...] ‘Rune’ with a VU — or absence of V — With simply ‘the letter U’ — We’d truly be lost without U — Sarcasm withholding — The Vulpine Lox and [...]
Goodbye, mind. YoV’ve been bloVVn.
How about the Hawiian lanquage that uses the Latin pronunciation for the vowels. A, E, I ,O and U are pronounced ah, ae, ee oe, oo (as in cool) and the w is pronounced /v/ like Hava’ii.
I think that it wovld be very confusing caves yov wouldn’t know if it was a consonant or a vowel
This article is very cool. It’s nice to know this information. Language is interesting.
i think it will be confvsing becavse we have been vsing the letter u insted v,if we were vse to the letter v, it wovldn’t be as confvsing…it wovld be interesting to see how the vse of v,wovld look like
I still think of Mel Brooks’ “History of the World” when Ron Carey is talking to Mel Brooks (in the Roman period of the movie) and and says, “You’re nuts. N.V.T.S. Nuts.”
WOW I REALLY CARE
Why did the ‘u’ and ‘v’ sounds have the same letter? They don’t sound particularly like each other.
DID NOT FIND WHERE TO PRINT A WORD TO FIND IN THE THESAURUS?
It seems like it would just confuse a lot of people today probably because of the fact we are use to spelling the things we do now. If things never changed then I’m pretty sure we would catch on to it just like how we caught on to spelling today… This is by far the most interesting thing I’ve read yet. (:
I’ve been working on a newer (than 1795) history of my home state, and read long S (they look like italicized, low case “f”) and “u” for “v” in every volume of the hundreds of long out of print volumes I’ve used researching the state. By extension, Readers, now you know why a “W” looks like two “Vs” and “I” looks like “I” – but isn’t. It’s a “J.” Without keyboards, it’s even more obfuscating. In the 1600s, England was much ‘closer’ historically to the 1066 A.D. invasion of Wm. the Conquerer, and the imposition of French, so there’s no surprise at Anglo-Saxon words having way more “ou” combinations than early Colonists here were willing to tolerate. Do me a favor: do a Brit a favour. We live in neighborhoods: Brits live in “neighbourhoods.” As for “long Ss,” don’t bother to try to figure out why sometimes a double ff (which looks like double ffs) is in the middle of a sentence, or at the end, OR (worse yet!) combined w/one “regular, familiar “s” next to a “long s” that looks like an “f.” There’s IS no rule regarding what to use when or where, or whether to mix ‘em up! Beyond the Revolutionary War, the word, Congress, may have looked like Cogresf, Congreff, Congress, or Congrefs. They’re all spelled C O N G R E S S,but you’ll likely find the English and American-English world spelling it with one form of “s.”
Now, let me tell you about a real double “f” starting someone’s name, instead of a high case, “F” It wasn’t SPOKEN as a “double low-case ‘f’” – but it was commonly written that way. It’s a ‘place,’ so to speak, where what looks like a “long S” is actually a double low-case F. To my knowledge, like the long “Ss” that look like italicized “Fs,” there’s no rule about when to use low-case “ff” and when to use a solo, high-case, “F.” There are oodles more changes in the very letters we use today, that are relatively new. It’s fascinating stuff… Written language is as fluid and ever-changing as are simple words and expressions whose meaning today is very different than they were one or two centuries ago. But that’s quite enough for one sitting, eh? It’s fascinating stuff! You should see how the British mangled the calendar! But that’s another bit of language detail that will have to wait for a Dictionary.com excuse to share…
Wow! This wovld be very confvsing, don’t yov think?Its like yov wovld have to think abovt what yov’re reading when youv’re abovt to read a word or sentence with a u or v.
Like, “Hmm is it Vtopia or Utopia?” OR “Hold up. Is it Svmmer or Summer?OMG THIS IS MUY DIFICIL!!!!”
yeah… and just THINK about the computer going wacko with all the spell checks.
Well, the letter that used to be an allograph of u has fallen off my keyboard! So if we always used that letter, e_eryone would get really confused, because there would be loads of ranomd underscores in the sentence, that is if I was typing at that time.
First of all, wow, lots of comments for a single day, but this is very interesting…yov have to think abovt how confvsing it would be….if there was a word yov didn’t know, wovldn’t it be hard to tell what the word and its pronovunciation was? Thanks, cool information. Not going to say it was entertainment (Tyson) but it’s fascinating…and as an Author, I don’t agree with Donna Hatch. _(I) wovld hate not hav_(i)ng any letter, even if it’s not an e_(x)tremely necessary letter, svch as when “c” and “k” make the same sovnd…
PS i keep pvtting “U” instead of “V”! See how we need all letters?
June, u commented…and im gonna be a critic….some comments dont make sense?
Very interesting…this is a nice article
lol so fun to do but like confusing in alo of ways like:
yov covld yov be nice and go ovt with me so we can do the vndersatdment thing together =P
that wovld be weird and confvsing
i wovld hate it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It would make it very hard to figure out how to pronounce vuvuzela..
This was so mvch fvn to read! Thanks!
i think that it would be very confusing to tell which words contain a v, and which words contain a u.
I have no idea what you are talking about
interesting indeed! So the U came into being proper after 1629!
The chinese pinyin system has a similar thing. When yov type the word 女， yov have to type in “nv” instead of “nu”! Confvsing, but I wovldn’t mind it! Bvt think abovt having to remake all the keyboards and dictionaries, and laptops in the world jvst to remove the “u”! And we wovld have to text the word yov instead of a simple u!
I wovldn’t mind cavse I read so fast my brain avto-fills certain gaps where letters look the same.
“W” is pronounced double “V” in French!
KAOS IN CE KLASRUM
You must often have thought English spelling is unnecessarily
difficult. Just look at words like Cough, Plough, Rough, Through and
Thorough. The great writer, Bernard Shaw, wanted us to change our
alphabet, and someone worked out this way of doing it.
In the first year, for example, we would suggest using ‘’s” instead
of soft ”c.” Sertianly all students in all sites of the land would
reseive this news with joy. Then the hard ”c” would be replased by
”k,” sinse both letters are pronounsed alike. Not only would this
klear up the konfusion in the minds of spellers, but keyboards
kould all be built with one less letter.
There would be great exsitement when it was at last announsed
that the troublesome ”ph” would henseforth be written ”f.” This
would make words like Fotograf twenty per sent shorter in print.
In the third year publik interest in a new alfabet kan be expekted
to have reatshed a point where more komplkated tshanges are
nesessary. We would suggest removing double leters whitsh have
always ben a nuisanse and a deterent to akurate speling.
We would al agre that the horible mes of silent ”e’s” in our
language is disgraseful. Therfor, we kould drop thes and kontinu to
read and writ merily along as though we wer in an atomik ag of
edukation. Sins by this tim it would be four years sins anywun had
used the leter ”c,” we would then sugest substituting ”c” for ”th.”
Kontinuingcis proses year after year, we would eventuali hav a
reali sensibl writen languag. After twenti years wi ventyur tu sa
cer wud bi no mor uv ces teribl trublsum difikultis. Even Mr.
Yaw wi beliv wud be hapi in ce noleg cat his drims finali kam tru.
very nice ya
add more of the pvzzle-like for vs to solve!!:)
We find these changes and innovations only after the etymologists found after long researches. If they had not done the researches and found the yester year usages as confusing or not correct and evolved the current usages we would not have any confusion. I mean the general public. We would be following the the olden usage with ease. We would not find any confusion. Because of the innovations we compare the old usage with modern usage and get confused. What happened to Queen’s English.. Will any body understand it now? It is still . I am 75 nowworst after computer English and mobile phone English. There are chances for more changes and more confusions for elderly persons.I am 75 now and have been watching all the changes not only in English but in other languages too.
Only approve site @ work…any stroy is great!!!
V are U!! – Me is U? – No, U are V! OK U are confusing ME….
It gets even weirder if you took Greek as a child like i did… the lower case “v” is the equivalent of an “n” in the english alphabet. Of course the upper case is an N…
Always fun to mess around with pronunciations by intentionally using other languages’ rules.
now im goona vse all the u with the v
Ohgog if we used v instead of u I would read everything with a cheesy count dracula accent c: silly me
that is strange how v would take u place
I doubt if save was saue. You substituted a u for a v, not a v for a u. So, would suave have been svave?
I was told the U was not used on carvings because a V was easier to carve. But that didn’t make sense with all of the other curved letters that were used. This does make sense. Interesting article.
Eh. It’s not really confvsing to me, plvs people wovld get vsed to it after a day or so. It does look kind of medieval thovgh. I actvally really like it, I think it shovld go back to this way with v and u being interchangeble… bvt I gvess u wovld then be completely eliminated for the alphabet.
Well, then we shovld vse w as v and v as u and w and get rid of u =D
I lowe yov! =D
so instead of my name being Vyckie it covld haue been Uyckie wow that kinda weird isn’t it. now im gonna start writng like that by making all with u and v like instead “have” it will be “Haue” and “Vse” instead of “use”
R Cain Tapwick,
thanx. i knew it was confusing…..LOL
Are you the real Aishwarya Rai? Prob not.
Epik vse of leterz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yov ar osvm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wow! I had no idea abovt this! Thanks for the information, it’s really vnexpecting that they vsed v for u. Really weird, hvh?
Only hipsters use V’s as U’s
i love you !!!!!!!!
mary torres, mary torres………U ROCK!
I didn’t read every comment so I may have missed this observation from someone else: From the description here, there is a very logical inference that the tastes were experienced differently independent of the sounds. When you eat any food, particularly rich or sweet foods, subsequent servings taste different than the original “rush” of flavor. I would suggest the effect is due, at least in part, to the fact that “savory” flavors are more complex and would be noticed first while simply “sweet” flavors are more of the aftertaste that remains when your taste buds are already accustomed to the more complex flavors.
thank you im am also loved lol
Umm… That’s interesting…
It’s confusing because sometimes you don’t know when to switch to reading it with a v or a u.
HIYA!!! ummm…i think it wouldn’t be THAT confusing but still…
how would people figure out Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis?
has anyone had pneVmonoVltramicroscopicsilicoUolcanoconiosis???
wow that is just freaky…i’ve had pneumonia volcanoitis
I don’t think it would be confusing. You just need a looootttt of common sense
It would need not to be confusing. English is worst. Try to read laughter. Now, put and “s’ in front and read again: slaughter.
The first Romans had it easy. There were no exceptions.
wow this is very interesting, vsing the letter v to stand in for u
It wovld be so louely and perfect
while reading everyone’s comment where they replaced the letter u with the letter v it actually comes naturally to me that I am able to read this clearly without the need to change the letters back to their original spelling……weird huh?
you gotta love dictionary.com. best website in the world.