The Wu dialect of Chinese is spoken by some 77.2 million people in and around the Jiangsu province, which belonged to the Wu kingdom during the Three Kingdoms and Spring and Autumn eras of Chinese history. It is said to be a jumble of highland dialects, hard for outsiders to understand.
The kingdom of Wu -
- and by extension the Wu dialect and the Wu family - were named for a word meaning big
in the local dialect, written as a mouth -
- at the top of heaven -
...or possibly a man with a tilted head shouting. The word has come to mean boast
Like many Chinese syllables transliterated into Roman characters, wu has a huge array of possible meanings, divided between four quite different ways of pronouncing it (the pinyin node covers the tonal character of Chinese speech). At least twenty-eight Chinese characters are transliterated into English as wu (or sometimes oo). The best-known of these - 無 - can mean without, not or non-being; it denotes absence or negation. In reply to questions like does a dog have Buddha nature?, wu suggests the impossibility of a good answer. Only by not asking such questions can one know the answer to them, as Douglas Hofstadter puts it. There is more on this - and an ASCII picture of the character - under mu, its Japanese pronunciation.
Some of the other characters usually spelt wu, with pipelinked translations:
烏 (as in 烏龍茶, literally 'black dragon tea')
If these just look like big squares to you (or worse) and you want to know what they are supposed to look like, please see How to read Japanese characters in E2 (if you can see Japanese, you can pretty much see Chinese).
(as in 武術)
(as in 五蝠)
See Unicode Chinese for information about finding Unicode numbers using www.zhongwen.com, a fine site, which also provided most of the meanings listed here. www.wujiaquan.com provided information about the dialect and the family name, and provides the 'mouth over heaven' explanation of the pictograph. zhongwen.com describes it as 'talk/mouth with tilted head.'