V (named vee /ˈv/,) is the twenty-second letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.


Ancient Corinthian vase depicting Perseus, Andromeda and Ketos. The inscriptions denoting the depicted persons are written in an archaic form of the Greek alphabet. Perseus (Greek: ΠΕΡΣΕΥΣ) is inscribed as ΠΕΡΣΕVΣ (from right to left), using V to represent the vowel [u].

The letter V comes from the Semitic letter Waw, as do the modern letters F, U, W, and Y. See F for details.

In Greek, the letter upsilon 'Υ' was adapted from waw to represent, at first, the vowel [u] as in "moon". This was later fronted to [y], the front rounded vowel spelled 'ü' in German.

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 first century AD on, depending on Vulgar Latin dialect, consonantal /w/ developed into /β/ (kept in Spanish), then later to /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 'valour' 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' wasn't accepted as a distinct letter until a large number of years later.


In the International Phonetic Alphabet, /v/ represents the voiced labiodental fricative. See Help:IPA.

In English, V is unusual in that it hasn't traditionally been doubled to indicate a short vowel, the way for example P is doubled to indicate the difference between 'super' and 'supper'. Notwithstanding that's changing with newly coined words, such as 'divvy up' and 'skivvies'. Like J, K, Q, X, and Z, V isn't used quite frequently in English. It is the sixth least common letter in the English language, with a frequency of about 1.03% in words. V is the only letter that can't be used to form an English two-letter word in the Australian version of the game of Scrabble. C additionally can't be used in the American version.

The letter appears frequently in the Romance languages, where it is the first letter of the second person plural pronoun and (in Italian) the stem of the imperfect form of most verbs.

Name in additional languages

In Japanese, V is often called "bui" (ブイ), an approximation of the English name which substitutes the voiced bilabial plosive for the voiced labiodental fricative (which doesn't exist in native Japanese phonology) and differentiates it from "bī" (ビー), the Japanese name of the letter B. 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)).

Use in writing systems

In most languages which use the Latin alphabet, ⟨v⟩ has a voiced bilabial or labiodental sound. In English, it is a voiced labiodental fricative. In most dialects of Spanish, it is pronounced the same as ⟨b⟩, that is, [b] or [β̞]. In Corsican, it is pronounced [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 Native American languages of North America (mainly Iroquoian), ⟨v⟩ represents a nasalized central vowel, /ə̃/.

In Chinese Pinyin, while ⟨v⟩ isn't used, 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).

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/ (or /m/) is lenited or "softened", represented in the orthography by ⟨bh⟩ (or "mh"), so that bhí is pronounced [vʲiː], an bhean (the woman) is pronounced [ən̪ˠ ˈvʲan̪ˠ], etc. For more information, see Irish phonology.

This letter isn't used in the Polish alphabet, where /v/ is spelled with the letter ⟨w⟩ instead, following the convention of German. In German, the letter ⟨v⟩ sounds like /f/.

Informal romanizations of Mandarin Chinese use V as a substitute for the close front rounded vowel /y/, properly written ü in pinyin and Wade-Giles.

Other systems

In the nineteenth century, ⟨v⟩ was at times used to transcribe a palatal click, /ǂ/, a function after partly taken over by ⟨ç⟩.

Related characters

Descendants and related letters in the Latin alphabet

Ancestors and siblings in additional alphabets

  • ?: Semitic letter Waw, from which the following symbols originally derive
    • Υ υ : Greek letter Upsilon, from which V derives
      • Y y : Latin letter Y, which, like V, additionally derives from Upsilon (but was taken into the alphabet at a later date)
      • Ѵ ѵ : Cyrillic letter izhitsa, additionally descended from Upsilon
      • У у : Cyrillic letter u, additionally descended from Upsilon via the digraph of omicron and upsilon

Ligatures and abbreviations

Computing codes

Numeric character referenceVVvv
EBCDIC family229E5165A5
ASCII 1865611876
1 Also for encodings based on ASCII, including the DOS, Windows, ISO-8859 and Macintosh families of encodings.

Other representations

V is the symbol for vanadium. It's number 23 on the periodic table. Emerald derives its colour green from either Vanadium or Chromium.