How did W get its name?

Answered by Jason Smith

The letter ‘W’ has an interesting history and its name can be traced back to the evolution of the English language. In Old English, there was no letter ‘W’ as we know it today. Instead, the runic letter ‘wynn’ represented the sound we now associate with ‘W’. However, with the introduction of the Latin alphabet and the decline of the use of runes in Britain during the Middle Ages, changes occurred in the way certain sounds were represented.

In Old English, the runic letter ‘wynn’ represented the /w/ sound. It looked like a ‘P’ with a vertical line extending upwards from the right side. However, with the influence of Latin, the runic ‘wynn’ was gradually replaced by the letter ‘uu’ (double u), which later evolved into the letter ‘w’.

The substitution of ‘wynn’ by ‘uu’ was primarily due to the absence of the letter ‘w’ in the Latin alphabet. Latin did not have a specific letter to represent the /w/ sound, so the closest approximation was the combination of ‘uu’. Over time, this combination was simplified into a single letter, ‘w’, which eventually became recognized as a distinct letter in the English alphabet.

It is worth noting that the letter ‘w’ did not have its own name initially. It was simply referred to as ‘double u’ because of its resemblance to two ‘u’s placed together. The name ‘double u’ was used in English and many other languages for several centuries. However, as the letter ‘w’ became more commonly used and recognized as a distinct letter, it eventually acquired its own name, pronounced as ‘dub-uhl-yoo’.

The name ‘w’ is derived from the sound it represents in English, as is the case with many other letters in the alphabet. It is interesting to see how the evolution of language, the influence of different writing systems, and the need to represent specific sounds led to the creation and naming of the letter ‘w’.

The letter ‘w’ obtained its name through the gradual substitution of the runic letter ‘wynn’ by ‘uu’ and its subsequent evolution into the recognizable ‘w’. Its name, ‘double u’, was later established based on its visual appearance. The letter ‘w’ serves as a testament to the ever-evolving nature of language and the fascinating history behind the development of our written communication systems.