U The Least Used Vowel (2023)

U: The LEAST Used Vowel (Top 7 Facts)

Have you ever tried searching for the letter U? I guess most people don’t know that U is the least used vowel in the English alphabet. But many more interesting facts about U are not known at all. The search volumes for U are huge. More than 4.5M monthly searches, and over 700k searches just in the United States. Surprised? I was.

The letter U has a rich history, dating back to the ancient Phoenician writing system. Here are 7 facts you need to know about the letter U in 2023.

U: 7 Facts You Need To Know in 2023

1. U is the least-used vowel

The letter U is the least frequent of the 5 vowels, as you can see in the following chart, courtesy of Behrouz Bakhtiari. He wrote a fantastic article about frequency analysis in Wordle that you can read here. Behrouz is an Assistant Professor at DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University.

U: The least used vowel (2023)
U: The least-used vowel

2. the first search result is not Wikipedia

Unlike the letter E, which is both the most used and the most searched for, when searching for U on Google, you will see that the first search result is a video: a song by Gareth Emery and Bo Bruce called U.

U search results on Google (Jan 2023)

3. U is also a consonant

While the letter U is usually considered a vowel, there are cases where it doesn’t act as a vowel in a word. 

  • The letter U acts as a consonant when it comes right after the letter Q, as in quit or mosquito.
  • The letter U is also a consonant anytime it spells the sound usually spelled with a W, the sound you hear at the beginning of will and won’t. This happens with the letter Q as in queen, and also in a few words, such as penguin, when it follows the letter G.

4. U is a variation of the letter V

The lowercase U has evolved over time, starting as a variation of the letter “v” in the Middle Ages. By the mid-16th century, the “v” form was used to represent the consonant and “u” the vowel sound, giving us the modern letter V. U and V were not accepted as distinct letters until many years later. The rounded variant became the modern-day version of U, and the letter’s former pointed form became V.

5. ChatGPT writes a beautiful poem about U

I asked ChatGPT to write a poem about the letter U, and the result was beautiful. Here you can check the full output.

U - A poem about U by ChatGPT (2023)

And also a text version:

A poem about the letter U:

Oh, letter U, the shape so round, A symbol simple, yet profound. A vowel, you are, that’s not in doubt, Completing words, you help them shout.

In “tune” and “dune,” you make a sound, A pleasing voice, to which we’re bound. With “unit” and “uniform,” you’re found, A consonant too, you wear many a crown.

You join with others, to make a diphthong, A blending of sounds, that’s never wrong. In mathematical symbols, you belong, A union of sets, you’re never gone.

Oh “u,” in computer code, you’re key, An important part, in technology. A chemical symbol, for uranium, A source of energy, that’s abundant.

So here’s to you, oh letter “u,” A part of our lives, that’s always true. A symbol small, yet mighty too, In the English alphabet, you’re one of a few.

ChatGPT 🙂

6. Cultural Significance

The letter U has cultural significance in many different cultures and writing systems. For example, in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the letter U was used to represent the sound of a sheep’s bleat, and the shape was thought to resemble the shape of a sheep’s head.

U Egyptian Hieroglyph

7. Rare Words and Letters

The letter U is a relatively rare letter in the English language. There are only a few words in the English language that start with “u,” and many of these are technical terms or names of specific objects.

U is also a rare letter in other alphabets, such as the Greek alphabet. In the Greek alphabet, there are only two letters that are used less frequently than “u.”

More facts about the letter U

  1. The letter U is the 21st letter of the modern English alphabet.
  2. U is a vowel, representing the sound /juː/ as in the words “tune” and “dune”.
  3. In some languages, such as French, U is used to form diphthongs with other vowels.
  4. The letter U is also used in many languages to represent the sound /ʊ/ as in the word “foot”.
  5. The lowercase U was developed in the Middle Ages as a variation of the letter V.
  6. In mathematics, the symbol U represents the union of two sets.
  7. The letter U is also used in chemical symbols, such as U for Uranium.
  8. In modern computing, the letter U is used in various computer programming languages and internet addresses.

U: The bottom line

Hope you enjoyed this post with random facts. As usual, feel free to let me know your thoughts, or reach out to me here, or via Instagram!

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