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W - The 23rd letter

Posted 24/08/2023

Wikipedia can tell you all about the evolution of the letter w (which of course our friends the Romans didn't have). The shape and pronunciation of w have evolved in European languages over the past 400 years but this is the version we commonly see today.

However, there was a time in the 18th century where w took a slightly different form and this sometimes confuses people who see it on a headstone or other carved inscription dated around 1700 to 1775.

The w took the form of a lower case n with an upward loop on the right hand stroke, like this:

The word here is 'who'.

That's it really, after the late 18th century the w usually takes the form of the letter v, doubled and joined, for upper and lower case. Of course, you may never have encountered the cursive w, but in that case, here are just a few examples I have seen on my travels:

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