How do you spell w?

If I show you a pair of apples and ask you to write on a piece of paper the number of apples that you see, you can write either “2” or “two”.

If I ask you to identify the 23rd letter of the English alphabet and write it on a piece of paper, you can write either “w” or… what?

“Double u”?




Have you ever seen “w” written out before?

According to, here’s the answer.

“W” written out is “double u”, because the name originated from the Latin letter “uu” — literally dubbed “double u”.

The convoluted evolutionary history seems not worth digging into, but the tl;dr is that in its ancestry, the modern English language had:

  • Three sounds it wanted to make (the sounds that in modern English are associated with the symbols “w”, “v”, and “you”)
  • Four symbols to represent them (“u”, “v”, “uu”, “w”)
  • Three names for those symbols (“double u”, “vee”, “you”)

…and as languages evolved over the centuries, the sounds, symbols, and names got mixed and matched like a Lannister family tree.