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V

V, v [Called ‘vee’]. The 22nd LETTER of the Roman ALPHABET as used for English. It originated, along with F, U, W, Y, in the Phoenician consonant symbol waw, which the Greeks adopted first with the form V, then as Υ (called upsilon: that is, Υ-psilón, bare or simple Υ). The Etruscans and then the Romans adopted the first symbol. In LATIN, V was a vowel letter, but in Romance languages such as French and Italian its value before a second vowel evolved to the modern consonantal pronunciation /v/. Until the 17c, v was ambiguous in English, capable of representing the sounds of both u and v. Further ambiguity arose with the introduction of the letter W, which originated as VV. This prevented the doubling of v in the same way as other consonants are doubled in English, except in such rare and recent forms as revving/revved.

Sound value

(1) In English, v nearly always represents a voiced labio-dental fricative. It occurs word-initially (valley), medially (even) and finally, usually supported by a following e (active, drove; rev). (2) Over centuries, there has been a tendency for medial v to become a vowel or disappear: hawk from OLD ENGLISH heafoc, the f pronounced /v/, head from Old English heafod, curfew from Anglo-Norman coeverfu, kerchief from Old French cuevre-chef, lady from Old English hlæfdige, laundry from Old French lavandier, lord from Old English hlaford, manure from Anglo-Norman mainoverer, poor from Middle English povere. (3) The once colloquial and now poetic forms e'en, e'er, ne'er, o'er mark the omitted v with an apostrophe.

Word-initial V

(1) In Old English, initial /v/ did not generally occur, and therefore v was not written word-initially. Latin vannus was for example respelt fan, and most words currently spelt with initial v are of later Romance derivation: for example, vacant, vaccine, vague, vain, valley, value. (2) Exceptions have arisen from dialects in which f-became v (vane, vat, vixen) or are exotic loans (vaishya, Valhalla, Vanuatu, Viking, Vladimir, voltaic). (3) V does not normally occur syllable-initially before other consonants, vroom representing a conspicuous break with customary spelling patterns.

Word-final V

(1) Except for a few modern slang or clipped forms such as lav, rev, spiv, gov, luv, v does not occur as a final letter in English. (2) Where /v/ occurs as a final sound, as in have, give, live, love, the present spelling became fixed before the final e fell silent. Although final e may indicate a preceding long vowel (save, eve, dive, rove), that vowel value is often already indicated by a digraph (waive, leave, sleeve, receive, believe, groove), or a modified value is indicated by r (starve, swerve, curve), and the final e again serves simply to camouflage final v.

Double V

Medial v is found equally in words derived from Old English and Romance sources: anvil, envy, heavy, marvel, over. Because vv was already adopted as an early form of w, English did not double v even to indicate a preceding short vowel, as is common with other consonants (compare comma/coma), and ambiguity as to the length of a preceding vowel letter resulted. The spelling gives no indication of the differing vowel values in: having/shaving, seven/even, driven/enliven, hover/rover, lover/mover. More recently coined words not normally used in formal prose are under no such inhibition: bovver, navvy, revving, skivvy are all written with double v.

Miscellaneous

(1) V does not normally occur after u, since until u and v were regularly distinguished, the sequence uv could equally be read as vu, vv, uu (but note for example uvular). A preceding u-sound is therefore commonly written o, as in dove, love, glove, cover, discovery. However, a modern mock-spelling such as luv for love doubly flouts the conventions, with preceding u and final v. (2) In the 16c, nevewe was respelt nephew, and now usually has a spelling pronunciation with /f/ (but compare French neveu). Similarly, Stephen/Steven are variants, both with a /v/ pronunciation, and etymological variation between b and v occurs in devil/diabolical. (3) Oral variation between v/w formerly occurred in COCKNEY: Sam Weller in DICKENS's Pickwick Papers (1836–7) spells his name Veller, and his father refers to the letter v as we. See, F, U, W.

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V

V1 / / (also v) • n. (pl. Vs or V's) 1. the twenty-second letter of the alphabet. ∎  denoting the next after U in a set of items, categories, etc. 2. (also vee) a shape like that of a letter V: [in comb.] deep, V-shaped valleys. ∎  [as adj.] denoting an internal combustion engine with a number of cylinders arranged in two rows at an angle to each other in a V-shape: a V-engine a 32-valve V8 power plant. 3. the Roman numeral for five. V2 • abbr. ∎  volt(s). • symb. ∎  the chemical element vanadium. ∎  voltage or potential difference: V = IR. ∎  (in mathematical formulae) volume: pV = nRT.

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V

V the twenty-second letter of the modern English alphabet and the twentieth of the ancient Roman one, of which U is a differentiated form.
V-1 a small flying bomb powered by a simple jet engine, used by the Germans in the Second World War. Also called doodlebug.
V-2 a rocket-powered flying bomb, which was the first ballistic missile, used by the Germans in the Second World War.
V-sign a sign resembling the letter V made with the first two fingers pointing up and the palm of the hand facing outwards, used as a symbol or gesture of victory; a similar sign made with the back of the hand facing outwards, used as a gesture of abuse or contempt.

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V

V 22nd letter of the alphabet, derived (as were f, u, and y) from the Semitic letter vaw, meaning hook. It was identical to u in the Greek and Roman alphabets, the Romans using it both as a vowel (u) and a consonant (v), and was not differentiated from u in English until the Middle Ages. In modern English v has only the one consonant sound, as in vole and wove.

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V

V, 22d letter of the alphabet (see U). It is a usual symbol for a voiced labiodental spirant, as in the English vat. In Roman numerals it corresponds to Arabic 5. In chemistry V is the symbol of the element vanadium.

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V

V. V-joint is a beak-joint, i.e. V-shaped used in straight-joint flooring instead of tongued-and-grooved work. V-tracery is like Y–tracery, but with straighter sides.

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V

V The vertical component of a magnetic vector.

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v

v (ital.) Optics, symbol for image distance
• (ital.) Physics, symbol for instantaneous potential difference
• Physics, symbol for instantaneous voltage
• (ital.) Chem., symbol for specific volume
• Spectroscopy, symbol for variable absorption
• (bold ital.) Physics, symbol for velocity
• (ital.) Physics, symbol for a velocity component or speed
• (ital.) Chem., symbol for vibrational quantum number
• Meteorol., symbol for (abnormally good) visibility

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