Waw (Vav)
By Jeff A. Benner

Characteristics

Ancient Modern
Image Tent Peg  
Meaning Add, Secure, Hook  
Name Waw Vav
Sound w, o, u v



History & Reconstruction

The original pictograph used in the Early Semitic script is a , a picture of a tent peg. The tent pegs were made of wood and may have been Y-shaped to prevent the rope from slipping off.

The Modern Hebrew name for this letter is “vav”, a word meaning “peg” or “hook”. This letter is used in Modern Hebrew as a consonant with a “v” sound and as a vowel. If the Modern Hebrew letter appears as , it is the vowel sound “ow” and if it appears as , it is the vowel sound “uw”. When used as a vowel the ancient pronunciation was also an “ow” or “uw”. In each of the consonant/vowel letters of the Ancient Hebrew language the pronunciation of the consonant is closely related to the pronunciation of the vowel such as the letter “hey” (See above) is “h” and “eh” and the pronunciation of the letter “yud” (See below) is “y” and “iy”. For this reason, it is probable that the original pronunciation of the letter was with a “w”. In Modern Arabic language, this letter is also pronounced with a “w”. Therefore, the original name of this letter would have been “waw” instead of “vav”.

As the pictograph indicates, this letter represents a peg or hook, which are used for securing something. The meaning of this letter is to add or secure.

This letter is frequently used as a prefix to words to mean “and” in the sense of adding things together.

The Early Semitic evolved into the in the Middle Semitic script. This letter then became the of the Late Semitic script and evolved into the Modern Hebrew ו. The Middle Semitic letter was adopted by the Greeks and the Romans to be the letter F but was dropped from the Greek alphabet later. The Late Semitic form of the letter became the number 9.

Semitic Script Charts