w is a Linux command that allows the system's administrator to discover not only who is logged into the system queried, but also what those users are doing, which makes w a much more powerful tool than the much more commonly used who command.


Perhaps you've noticed the preponderence of Welsh words with no "vowels" in it, but with a w instead. Most people mistakenly believe that this, being a w, is a consonant. However, it is not only a consonant, but also a vowel.

In Welsh, there are two uses of w. The first is that of a consonant: "gwyn" (white) pronounced "GWIN." As is pointed out above, "GWIN" is really pronounced "GOOIN," with the "OO" being said rather quickly, as opposed to the second use, which is a vowel: "cwn" (hound) prounounced "COON"--here the "OO" sound is drawn out and made a vowel in its own right.

Why do the Welsh write like this? Well, it goes back to the Greek. In Greek, a long "O" is an omega: Ω , which the lowercase is written: ω --rather like a w, isn't it? It is also interesting to note that in some manuscripts like the Red Book of Hergest and the Book of Taliesin, there are two forms of what we write as a w: the first is rather like a v with a line over it: 6 (as an aproximation). The other looks like two l's and a z: llz (being a very bad aproximation). The first represents a vowel, the second a consonant.

It should come as no surprise that the Greek alphabet could have a direct influence on Welsh writing, without the intermediating of Latin; it is said by Julius Caesar that the Celts wrote using the Greek alphabet (ogham was only for monuments). Greek manuscripts are said to have come to Ireland before and after the fall of Rome, and there was a good deal of comings and goings between Ireland and Britain during the late-Empire, early-medieval period, particularly with monks.


In an early stage of the Ancient Greek language there was a semivowel called wau or digamma (double Γ, because of the F-like shape). It was positioned between the ε and the ζ.

The wau was still in use when Homer composed his Iliad and Odyssey. But by the time they were written down the wau had disappeared from the Greek alphabet. Many apparent irregularities of epic verse (e.g. hiatuses) can be explained only by supposing the semivowel W was actually sounded.

This proves the W's always got an ambiguous role, being neither fully a vowel nor a consonant. And even though in most cases there's a clear tendency towards one of the two, it still is a semivowel and most likely will remain one forever.

Thus we can conclude W is never a vowel.

Renaming the Letter W

Of all the letters in the English (and many Romance) languages, the letter W is perhaps one of the strangest. With all other letters, the name of the letter can be pronounced by combining the sound of the letter with a vowel sound.

However, the letter W is pronounced by calling it what it looks like, or rather, what it used to look like, "Double U". This break in the naming convention of letters is intolerable and reflects a lazy attitude towards language. Therefore, the letter W, and all of its equivalents in other languages must be renamed.

However, the renaming of a letter is not a task to be taken lightly. If we ignore the naming conventions of the other letters, we will simply be recreating the folly we are attempting to correct. A quick survey of the English letters reveals the following conventions in order of frequency:

Except for the special cases of H, Q, and Y, all the letters follow a simple letter + vowel pattern for their pronunciation. Even in the cases of H, Q, and Y, the sound of the letter appears at least somewhere in their name. W, then, should be renamed to follow this convention. Of the possibilities presented above, the applicable cases are to add an e or an a before or after the letter. This results in:

  • wee
  • ewe
  • wae
  • awe

Of these choices, I submit that the best choice for the letter W would be "wee". The way the W sound is made by the mouth is most similar to the consonants that take a following e. "ewe" is too close to U, and "awe" is awkward between V and X. "wae" would be fine, except that W has little in common with the way the J and K sounds are made.

So join me in my crusade. Write your congressperson or equivalent. Demand that the slipshod attitude towards the naming of letters has gone on far too long. Demand change for the betterment of the English language and ourselves.

1 H and Y are vowel-like in their pronunciation, resulting in their odd pronunciations. However, this does not exempt them from being changed and I think changing H to "Hae" and Y to "Ya" would be proper. Incidentally, I believe this also proves the group OutKast agrees with these changes, given the name of their hit song.
2 Q cannot be pronounced the same as any of the other letters because of the nature of the sound. It can never occur without an accompanying diphthong, unless it is sounded as a different letter, usually K.

W is a J-Pop duo consisting of Tsuji Nozomi and Kago Ai, former Morning Musume members, and is part of the Hello! Project.

All of their songs that are not covers are written by Tsunku, the mastermind behind all the girls of the Hello! Project.


  1. 2004-05-19 Koi no Vacance
  2. 2004-08-18 Aa Ii na!
  3. 2004-10-14 Robokiss
  4. 2005-02-09 Koi no Fuga
  5. 2005-05-18 Ai no Imi wo Oshiete!


  1. 2004-06-02 Duo U&U
  2. 2005-03-02 2nd W

Offical website: http://www.helloproject.com/w/

W (double-yoo),

the twenty-third letter of the English alphabet, is usually a consonant, but sometimes it is a vowel, forming the second element of certain diphthongs, as in few, how. It takes its written form and its name from the repetition of a V, this being the original form of the Roman capital letter which we call U. Etymologically it is most related to v and u. See V, and U. Some of the uneducated classes in England, especially in London, confuse w and v, substituting the one for the other, as weal for veal, and veal for weal; wine for vine, and vine for wine, etc. See Guide to Pronunciation, §§ 266-268.


© Webster 1913.

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