Waw (letter)

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

Phonemic representationw, v, o, u
Position in alphabet6
Numerical value6
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician

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.

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.


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

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 systemArabic script
Language of originArabic language
Phonetic usage/w/, //
Alphabetical position4
  • و

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

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
و ـو ـو و

Wāw is used to represent four distinct phonetic features:

  • A consonant, pronounced as a voiced labial-velar approximant /w/, which is the case whenever it is at the beginnings of words, but normally occurs also in the middle or end.
  • A long /uː/. The preceding consonant could either have no diacritic or a short-wāw-vowel mark, damma, to aid in the pronunciation by hinting to the following long vowel.
  • A long /oː/ In many dialects, as a result of the monophthongization that underwent the diphthong /aw/ in most of the words.
  • A part of a diphthong, /aw/. In this case it has no diacritic, but could be marked with a sukun in some traditions. The preceding consonant could either have no diacritic or have fatḥa sign, hinting to the first vowel /a/ in the diphthong.

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 وَلَكِن wa-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 والله wallāh ("By Allah!" or "I swear to God!").

Derived letters

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ۋ ـۋ ـۋ ۋ

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: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ۆ ـۆ ـۆ ۆ

/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, for example "u" in bull (بۆل)

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ۉ ـۉ ـۉ ۉ

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

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ۈ ـۈ ـۈ ۈ

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

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ۊ ـۊ ـۊ ۊ

/ʉː/ in Southern Kurdish.

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ۏ ـۏ ـۏ ۏ

In Jawi script: Used for /v/.

Other letters

See Arabic script in Unicode

Hebrew Waw

Orthographic variants
Various print fonts Cursive
ו ו ו

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 NiqqudNamePhonemic valuePhonetic 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:ו or יו



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



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:

  • vav conjunctive (Vav Hachibur, literally "the Vav of Connection"—chibur means "joining, or bringing together") is a vav connecting two words or parts of a sentence; it is a grammatical conjunction meaning 'and' , cognate to the Arabic. This is the most common usage.
  • vav consecutive (Vav Hahipuch, literally "the Vav of Reversal"—hipuch means "inversion"), mainly biblical, commonly mistaken for the previous type of vav; it indicates consequence of actions and reverses the tense of the verb following it:
    • when placed in front of a verb in the imperfect tense, it changes the verb to the perfect tense. For example, yomar means 'he will say' and vayomar means 'he said';
    • when placed in front of a verb in the perfect, it changes the verb to the imperfect tense. For example, ahavtah means 'you loved', and ve'ahavtah means 'you will love'.

(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.)

  • vav explicative


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

  • Alone, a single vov ו represents the vowel [u] in standard Yiddish.
  • The digraph וו, "tsvey vovn" ('two vovs'), represents the consonant [v].
  • The digraph וי, consisting of a vov followed by a yud, represents the diphthong [oj].

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

Madnḫaya Waw
Serṭo Waw
Esṭrangela Waw

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

UTF-8215 149D7 95217 136D9 88220 152DC 98224 160 133E0 A0 85239 172 181EF AC B5239 173 139EF AD 8B
Numeric character referenceווووܘܘࠅࠅוּוּוֹוֹ
UTF-8240 144 142 134F0 90 8E 86240 144 161 133F0 90 A1 85240 144 164 133F0 90 A4 85
UTF-1655296 57222D800 DF8655298 56389D802 DC4555298 56581D802 DD05
Numeric character reference𐎆𐎆𐡅𐡅𐤅𐤅


  1. "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.
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