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V (named vee /viː/ ) is the 22nd letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.
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 as in "moon". This was later fronted to , 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 . From the 1st 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' was not accepted as a distinct letter until many years later.
In the International Phonetic Alphabet, /v/ represents the voiced labiodental fricative. See Help:IPA.
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'. Like J, K, Q, X, and Z, V is not used very frequently in English. It is the sixth least frequently used letter in the English language, with a frequency of about 1.03% in words. V is the only letter that cannot be used to form an English two-letter word in the Australian version of the game of Scrabble. C also cannot 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 other languages
In Japanese, V is often called "bui" (ブイ), possibly due to the difficulty of typing "vi" (ヴィ) or even "vui" (ヴイ), 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. 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, or . In Corsican, it is pronounced , , or , depending on the position in the word and the sentence. In current German, it is pronounced in most loan-words while in native German words, it is always pronounced . In standard Dutch it is traditionally pronounced as but in many regions it is pronounced as in some or all positions.
In Native American languages of North America (mainly Iroquoian), ⟨v⟩ represents a nasalized central vowel, /ə̃/.
In Chinese Pinyin, while ⟨v⟩ is not 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 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 , an bhean (the woman) is pronounced , etc. For more information, see Irish phonology.
This letter is not 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.
In the 19th century, ⟨v⟩ was sometimes used to transcribe a palatal click, /ǂ/, a function since partly taken over by ⟨ç⟩.
V is the symbol for vanadium. It is number 23 on the periodic table. Emerald derives its green coloring from either vanadium or chromium.
v, v., and vs can also be used as an abbreviation for the word versus when between two or more competing items (Ex: Brown v. Board of Education).