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He               Waw               Zayin
Phoenician Hebrew Aramaic Syriac Arabic
Waw ו Waw ܘ و
Greek Latin Cyrillic
Phonemic representation: w, ʋ, v, o, u
Position in alphabet: 6
Numerical (Gematria/Abjad) value: 6

Waw (wāw, also spelled vav or vau) (In Hebrew: Vav) is the sixth letter of many Semitic alphabets, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic (in abjadi order; it is 27th in modern Arabic order). In most Semitic languages it represents the voiced labial-velar approximant IPA: [w], and in some (such as Hebrew and Arabic) also the long close back rounded vowel /uː/ depending on context, while in Hebrew it represents a labial approximant, either IPA: [v] or /β/, a pattern shared by the non-Semitic languages using the Arabic alphabet (e.g. Persian and Urdu).

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek digamma (Ϝ, whose name in Greek was probably Ϝαυ) and upsilon (Υ), and Etruscan V (V, V); V later developed into U and W.

Waw is derived from a hieroglyph depicting a hook.


Hebrew Vav

Phoenician alphabet
(ca. 1050–200 BCE)
𐤀    𐤁    𐤂    𐤃    𐤄    𐤅
𐤆    𐤇    𐤈    𐤉    𐤊    𐤋
𐤌    𐤍    𐤎    𐤏    𐤐
𐤑    𐤒    𐤓    𐤔    𐤕
Semitic abjads · Genealogy
Hebrew alphabet
(400 BCE–present)
א    ב    ג    ד    ה    ו
ז    ח    ט    י    כך
ל    מם    נן    ס    ע    פף
צץ    ק    ר    ש    ת
History · Transliteration
Niqqud · Dagesh · Gematria
Cantillation · Numeration
Syriac alphabet
(200 BCE–present)
ܐ    ܒ    ܓ    ܕ    ܗ    ܘ
ܙ    ܚ    ܛ    ܝ    ܟܟ    ܠ
ܡܡ    ܢܢ    ܣ    ܥ    ܦ
ܨ    ܩ    ܪ    ܫ    ܬ
Arabic alphabet
(400 CE–present)
ا    ب    ت    ث    ج    ح
خ    د    ذ    ر    ز    س
ش    ص    ض    ط    ظ    ع
غ    ف    ق    ك    ل
م    ن    ه    و    ي
History · Transliteration
Diacritics · Hamza ء
Numerals · Numeration
Orthographic variants
Various Print Fonts Cursive
Serif Sans-serif Monospaced
ו ו ו Hebrew letter Vav handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Vav Rashi.png


Vav has three orthographic variants, each with a different phonemic value and phonetic realisation[1]:

Variant (with Niqqud) without Niqqud Name Phonemic Value Phonetic Realisation English example


as initial letter:ו

Consonantal Vav
(Hebrew: Vav Itsurit
(IPA: [vav itsuˈʁit] / ו׳ עיצורית)
/v/ [v] vote
as middle letter:וו
as final letter:ו or יו



Vav Shruka ([vav ʃʁuˈka] / ו׳ שרוקה) or
Shuruq ([ʃuˈʁuk] / שׁוּרוּק)
/u/ [u] glue



Vav Chaluma ([vav χaluˈma] / ו׳ חלומה) or
Holam Male ([χɔˈlam maˈlɛ] / חוֹלָם מָלֵא)
/o/ [ɔ̝] no, noh

Vav as consonant

Consonantal vav (ו) represents a voiced labiodental fricative (like the English v) in Ashkenazi, European Sephardi, and modern Israeli Hebrew; and a labial-velar approximant (/w/) by most Jews of Eastern origin.

Vav with a dot on top

Vav can be used as a mater lectionis for an 'o' vowel, in which case it is known as a holam male, and in pointed text is marked with a dot above and to the left and is usually pronounced [o].

This vowel can also appear without the vav, as just the dot, and is known then as holam haser. (The vav may still take a holom haser and thus appear identical to this vowel although the consonant is pronounced, thus representing the sound vo as in mitzvot .)

Vav with a dot in the middle

Vav can also be used as a mater lectionis for an 'oo' vowel, in which case it is known as a shuruk, and in text with niqqud is marked with a dot in the middle (on the left side) and is usually transcribed as /ʊ/.

Numerical value

Vav in gematria represents the number six, and when used at the beginning of Hebrew years, it means 6000 (i.e. ותשנד in numbers would be the date 6754.)

In foreign words

Modern Hebrew has no way to distinguish orthographically between [v] and [w]. The pronunciation is either determined by prior knowledge or must be derived through context.

Some non standard transliterations of the sound [w] are sometimes found in modern Hebrew texts, such as two Vavs side by side (officially used in a text without Niqqud to mark a non initial and a non final Vav as the consonant (phoneme) /v/, as opposed to the vowels (phonemes) /u/ and /o/ which are always represented by a single Vav) or a Vav with a chupchik (like an apostrophe).

Loanwords with English W are often pronounced with [w].

Words written as vav

Vav at the beginning of the word has several possible meanings:

  • Vav Conjunctive, when a vav connects two words or parts of a sentence; it is a grammatical conjunction meaning 'and' , cognate to the Arabic. This is the most common usage.
  • Vav Consecutive (Vav Hahipuch, literally "the Vav of Reversal"), mainly biblical, commonly mistaken for the previous type of vav; it indicates consequence of actions and reverses the tense of the verb following it:
    • when placed in front of a verb in the imperfect tense, it changes the verb to the perfect tense. For example, yomar means 'he will say' and vayomar means 'he said';
    • when placed in front of a verb in the perfect, it changes the verb to the imperfect tense. For example, ahavtah means 'you loved', and ve'ahavtah means 'you will love'.

(Note: Older Hebrew did not have "tense" in a temporal sense, "perfect," and "imperfect" instead denoting aspect of completed or continuing action. Modern Hebrew verbal tenses have developed closer to their Indo-European counterparts, mostly having a temporal quality rather than denoting aspect. As a rule, Modern Hebrew does not use the "Vav Consecutive" form.)

Syriac Waw

Waw's pronunciation as a consonant is w (labial-velar approximant) and as mater lectionis a u (close back rounded vowel) or o.

Arabic wāw

The letter و is named واو wāw, and is written is several ways depending in its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Initial Medial Final
Form of letter: و (None) (None) ـو

Wāw is used to represent three distinct phonetic features:

  • A consonant, pronounced as a voiced labial-velar approximant /w/, which is the case whenever it is at the beginnings of words, but normally occurs also in the middle or end. In this case it is followed by one of the three short vowels marked by diacritic on it, a long [aː] or a sukūn, indicating the absence of a short vowel.
  • A long close back rounded vowel /uː/. In this case it has no diacritic, but could be marked with a sukun in some traditions. The preceding consonant could either have no diacritic or a short-wāw-vowel mark, damma, to aid in the pronunciation by hinting to the following long vowel.
  • A diphthong, /au/. In this case it has no diacritic, but could be marked with a sukun in some traditions. The preceding consonant could either have no diacritic or have fatḥa sign, hinting to the first vowel /a/ in the diphthong. In some dialects, the diphthong may be reduced to the long monophthong [oː]. See varieties of Arabic.

As a vowel, wāw can serve as the carrier of a hamza: ؤ.

Wāw serves several functions in the Arabic language. Perhaps foremost among them is that it is the primary conjunction in Arabic, equivalent to "and"; it is usually prefixed to other conjunctions, such as ولكن wa-lakin, meaning "but". Another function is the "oath", by preceding a noun of great significantly valued by the speaker. It is often literally translatable to "By..." or "I swear to...", and is often used in the Qur'an in this way, and also in the generally fixed construction والله wallah ("By Allah!" or "I swear to God!").

Persian vâv

The Arabic alphabet is used in the Iranian dialect of the Persian language as vâv, though this is kept as wâw in classical Dari.


  1. ^ Announcements of the Academy of the Hebrew Language

Simple English

Waw (wāw, also spelled vav or vau) (In Hebrew: Vav) is the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

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