THE 23d letter of the English alphaj bet. It is peculiar to some of the Teutonic and Celtic languages, being foreign to the Romanic, and in sound, though not in form, also to the Slavic branches of the Indo-European family, while retained by its Asiatic branches. Its earliest historical appearance is in a diploma of Clovis III. at the end of the 7th century. It is formed, as its name in English shows, by the doubling of the letter u or v. In English, Welsh, Dutch, and Flemish, and in German (as spoken in some parts) after sch and z, it is so pronounced that while most writers describe it as a semi-vowel, others, including Noah Webster, have classed it as a pure vowel, equivalent in fact to the English oo; but Léon Vaisse contends that in these cases it is a perfect consonant of the labial class, being produced by a movement of the larynx, while the vowels are sounded by a steady tension of the walls of the pharynx. Jakob Grimm also classes it as a labial aspirate. In German, except in the cases above mentioned, and in Swedish, in which it has long been comparatively disused, it has the value of our v, as it lias in the vulgar English of London. In Danish and Icelandic it is used only in writing foreign words.

In Welsh w is used as a vowel, representing the English oo, as pwll, pool; and its combinations with other vowels, in which the sound is the same as in English, are classed as diphthongs. In English, at the end of words, it is either silent, as in low, crow, or modifies the preceding vowel, as in new, paw, how; at the beginning of words it is silent before r, as in write, wrong. - W was doubtless originally a guttural. In French writing of the llth-14th centuries it was used indifferently instead of g, the word guide, for instance, being then often written wide; while on the other hand g is used as an equivalent for w, as in Guillaume, William, Galles, Wales, Gauthier, Walter. The same interchange of letters takes place in English in ward and guard, warranty and guaranty. In many English words beginning with wh, the w is of modern introduction; thus, whole, Sax. Jial, was written without a w until the latter part of the 16th century.