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Placed conclusion as a separate edit in order to reference it. This was due to running over the character limit for answers. I had previously attempted to make it as another post but it was deleted by a mod.
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As of this writing, there is a comment on this answer that says, “Based on etymological considerations, it seems pretty clear that Latin V was originally [w]”, to which I must say au contraire! Evidence of the etymology of the Latin consonantal V favors a V sound. This is especially so with the witness of Sanskrit.

The proponents of the W sound are always unable to explain the interchange of B and V (at least not that I have yet come across). There are inscriptions that show this, such as this one that has “REBOCA” for “REVOCA”, and “IN BIA LATA” for “IN VIA LATA”:


Muratori, Lodovico Antonio. Novus Thesaurus Veterum Inscriptionum. Ex Aedibus Palatinis, 1739. Page 479.

There are two other inscriptions on the same page that also spell “REBOCA” for “REVOCA” (see inscriptions 4 and 5).

Nor can they explain the affinity of F and V, as can be found in other inscriptions:



Guter, Janus. Inscriptiones Antiquae. Ex Officina Commeliniana, 1603. Page 643.

“FICTORIAN” twice for for “VICTORIAN”


Ibid. Page 886.

This is comparable to the relation of F and V in English, as can been seen in the plural forms of certain words:

  • wolf, wolves
  • hoof, hooves
  • leaf, leaves
  • half, halves
  • yourself, yourselves
  • life, lives
  • knife, knives
  • shelf, shelves

There is also circumstantial evidence for the sound of V. During his reign, Emperor Claudius introduced three new letters into the Latin alphabet, with one of the new letters representing the consonantal V. Out of all the symbols and glyphs he could have used, Emperor Claudius chose Ⅎ, an upside-down reversed F. This could also be called the inverse of F. The sound of V is the inverse of the sound of F, since a large force of air is expelled from your mouth when pronouncing syllables of F, whereas very little air is expelled when pronouncing syllables of V:

  • fa, va
  • fe, ve
  • fi, vi
  • fo, vo
  • fu, vu

The fact that the Latin V was represented in Greek by ου and β during the same time period shows that ου and β were only approximations to the Latin V. This can be seen most clearly where both ου and β are used in a Greek transliteration of Mevianus as Μηουβιανός (see page 62 in Leonhard Tafel's Latin Pronunciation and the Latin Alphabet. Philadelphia: I. Kohler; New York: B. Westermann & Co., 1860.).

The relation of V as a consonant and its corresponding vowel sound of U goes back all the way to Hebrew, where the ו Vav can act as the vowel U, and also O. Note the varying position of the dot, beside and above the Vav:

ו = V
וּ = U, also וֹ = O

This can also be seen most clearly in the Sanskrit and Latin words for boat or ship, or of pertaining to a boat or ship:

Sanskrit: नौ “naú” and नाव “nāva
Latin: “nauticus” and “navis

The sound of V easily glides into the sound of U, and U into V, in English as well:

  • absolve ↔ absolution
  • convolve ↔ convolution
  • involve ↔ involution
  • resolve ↔ resolution
  • revolve ↔ revolution

English is always held as the exemplar of retaining the original sound of the Latin V by the proponents of the W sound

The sound often derives from an Indo-European w, though at the present day this has been preserved as such almost only in English....

Allen, W. Sidney. Vox Latina. Second Edition. Cambridge University Press, 1978. Page 41.

yet W never glides into U in English (I would actually be very grateful if someone could point out any instances where this occurs).

The proponents of the W sound also always try to appeal to the English word wine coming from the Latin vinum, yet always fail to mention how vine comes from the Latin vinea, or how

and the many other words that retain the V sound. The few English words that begin with a W sound that come from Latin words beginning with V are far outnumbered by the amount of English words that retain the V sound.

The evidence for a V sound for the Latin consonantal V is very great. So great that perhaps only an audio recording could prove otherwise.

But an audio recording is not needed, because the most definitive evidence of all, that is completely absolute and irrefutable, is Julius Caeser's famous line of “Veni, vidi, vici” (vay-nee, vee-dee, vee-kee), I came, I saw, I conquered. No world conqueror would ever say something so dumb-sounding as way-nee, wee-dee, wee-kee.*

*Just a joke for anyone who managed to read to the end.

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