Letters u, v and w

The letter u was used interchangeably with the letter v in later medieval and early modern times. Grant Simpson, in his book Scottish Handwriting 1150-1650, reports a tendency in the later Middle Ages to use the letter v at the beginning of a word and u within a word. For example: the word unused might be written vnused. To confuse matters, the letter w, which was invented in the middle ages, was simply a double u. In Secretary Hand it often looks like a v and a u combined (see below). The words are sowme and walker.

sowme, walker

The letters u, v and w were all used interchangeably. So a word like underwoven might easily be found in the form wndervouen.

To make matters worse (or should that be vorse?), you should look out for the Scots form quh for w, as in quhat (what), quhair (where), quhilk (which) and quha (who), as shown below. It is common for these words to be abbreviated. The examples below show a mixture of abbreviated and unabbreviated quh words.

quhat, quha, q[uhi]lk, quhair, quhan, Q[uhai]rvpone

quhat, quha, q[uhi]lk, quhair, quhan, Q[uhai]rvpone

For a bit of u,v,w practice try writing out all the variations of the word quhatsumever (meaning whatsoever):


and so on (there should be 9 variations).