V (named vee "V", Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (1989); Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (1993); "vee", op. cit.) is the 22nd letter in the English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.
In Latin, a stemless variant shape of the upsilon was borrowed in early times as V—either directly from the Western Greek alphabet or from the Etruscan alphabet as an intermediary—to represent the same sound, as well as the consonantal . Thus, "num"— originally spelled "NVM"— was pronounced and "via" was pronounced . From the 1st century AD on, depending on Vulgar Latin dialect, consonantal developed into (kept in Spanish language), then later to .
During the Late Middle Ages, two forms of "v" developed, which were both used for its ancestor and modern . The pointed form "v" was written at the beginning of a word, while a rounded form "u" was used in the middle or end, regardless of sound. So whereas "valour" and "excuse" appeared as in modern printing, "have" and "upon" were printed as "haue" and "vpon". The first distinction between the letters "u" and "v" is recorded in a Blackletter from 1386, where "v" preceded "u". By the mid-16th century, the "v" form was used to represent the consonant and "u" the vowel sound, giving us the modern letter "u". Capital "U" was not accepted as a distinct letter until many years later.
In English, V is unusual in that it has not traditionally been doubled to indicate a short vowel, the way, for example, P is doubled to indicate the difference between "super" and "supper". However, that is changing with newly coined words, such as "divvy up" and "skivvies". Like J, K, Q, X, and Z, V is not used very frequently in English. It is the Letter frequency in the English language, with a frequency of about 1.03% in words. V is the only letter that cannot be used to form an English two-letter word in the Australian version of the game of Scrabble. C also cannot be used in the American version.
The letter appears frequently in the Romance languages, where it is the first letter of the second person plural pronoun and (in Italian) the stem of the imperfect form of most verbs.
In Japanese, V is often called "bui" (ブイ), possibly due to the difficulty of typing "vi" (ヴィ) or even "vui" (ヴイ), an approximation of the English name which substitutes the voiced bilabial plosive for the voiced labiodental fricative (which does not exist in native Japanese phonology) and differentiates it from "bī" (ビー), the Japanese name of the letter B. Some words are more often spelled with the b equivalent character instead of vu due to the long-time use of the word without it (e.g. "violin" is more often found as バイオリン than as ヴァイオリン).
In Chinese language Pinyin, while is not used, the letter is used by most input methods to enter letter , which most keyboards lack (Romanization Chinese is a popular method to enter Chinese text). Informal romanizations of Mandarin Chinese language use V as a substitute for the close front rounded vowel /y/, properly written ü in pinyin and Wade-Giles.
In Irish Language, the letter is mostly used in loanwords, such as veidhlín from English violin. However the sound appears naturally in Irish when /b/ (or /m/) is Lenition or "softened", represented in the orthography by (or "mh"), so that bhí is pronounced , an bhean (the woman) is pronounced , etc. For more information, see Irish phonology.
This letter is not used in the Polish alphabet, where is spelled with the letter instead, following the convention of German language. In German, the letter sounds like /f/.
v, v., and vs can also be used as an abbreviation for the word when between two or more competing items (Ex: Brown v. Board of Education).