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In English, we call w "double-u", referring to the original representation of [w], which looked like uu, or two us. Then, in French, they pronounce it "double-veh", presumably because the modern form looks like two vs or "veh".

The question is: do all languages which utilise the Latin alphabet do a similar thing, giving a name to the letter which refers to either the letters u or v? Or the converse question: is there any language which has a unique name for w, whose etymology is not linked to another letter in any recognisable way?

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    Yes, the letter <w> is pronounced /we/ in German, which is not derived from either <u> /?u/ or <v> /fau/.
    – robert
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 21:51
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    To the down-voter, is this question off-topic?
    – Lou
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 11:42
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    Originally there was no difference between "U" and "V" in the Latin alphabet. When "w" was invented, it was indeed a doubled form of that letter, hence some languages call it "double u" yet others "double v".
    – Joe Pineda
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 2:20
  • @JoePineda didn't the sound /w/ exist before w's invention? Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 7:48
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    @LưuVĩnhPhúc of course it did, in Latin at least. Emperor Claudius, being the keen amateur linguist he was, readily noticed that slight ambiguity in Latin's spelling (having same letter for both "u" and "w" sounds) and proposed a new letter, an upside-down "F", to denote the "w" sound. He went on and invented 2 other ones for "bs" and "y" sounds - the last one solving the ambiguity still present in modern Romance spellings of using "i" for both "ee" as in "bee" and "y" as in "young".
    – Joe Pineda
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 21:06

2 Answers 2

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    As stated, Germans and Poles call V /faw/ and W /ve/ and /vu/ respectively, so there is no direct link between them.
    – Arsen
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 13:31
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    I didn't say there are any relation between German and Polish Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 13:34
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    @LưuVĩnhPhúc I think Arsen is saying there's no link between the names for <v> and <w>, as specified in the question.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 16:14
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    There's a similar phenomenon to that of Italian in Belgian French, where the usual /dublœve/ is instead /we/ in acronyms. Other French dialects don't do this afaik Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 19:29
  • In Welsh, the letter <w> is simply pronounced /u/; there's no ambiguity because <u> is not pronounced /u/. Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 21:11
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As Robert said, it is /ve/ in German, and thus also in Dutch.

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    ...and thus also in Afrikaans! Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 19:17
  • It's /we/ in Dutch; /ve/ is the letter V. /w/ may be realised phonetically as [ʋ] in Netherlandic dialects but it still contrasts with /v/.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 20:37

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