VAV (Waw; Heb. ו;וָו), the sixth letter in the Hebrew alphabet; its numerical value is therefore 6. In the mid-second millennium B.C.E. proto-Sinaitic inscriptions the letter resembled a mace or a peg (= vav) . Later the circular top opened and in the tenth century B.C.E., the letter had two variants: the Y-shaped vav and the 4-shaped one . While the first form was accepted in the Hebrew script and was written (Samaritan ), the Phoenician and the Aramaic scripts adapted the 4-shaped vav. In the Phoenician script it developed , and in the Aramaic – . The Nabatean vav closed its top and hence the Arabic evolved. The Jewish vav basically preserved the Aramaic shape of the letter.

The old Phoenician waw is the ancestor of some Latin letters: the consonant "F", which developed from the Archaic Greek digamma; "Y" (the Greek vowel (upsilon), which is the first of the five letters added by the Greeks to their alphabet and which the Romans turned into "U" and "V". See *Alphabet, Hebrew.

[Joseph Naveh]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.