The letter vav does yeoman service in the Hebrew language. It is the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and also the Hebrew word for “and.” In previous lessons we have seen vav as a vowel: a dotted vav (וֹ), called ḥo·LAM, is pronounced “o” as in the word “note,” and a vav with a dot to its left (וּ), called shu·RUK, is pronounced “u” as in “flu.” Primarily, however, vav is a consonant, the Hebrew “v” sound.
As we saw in Lesson 3, Hebrew vowels are not a formal part of the alphabet and were not written until the sixth century C.E. In a text with no vowel signs, one distinguishes between a vav that has the “v” sound and a vav that is pronounced “o” or “u” solely from the context in which it occurs.
Vav also is one of the many Hebrew letters that are words in their own right. Such a word does not stand alone like the English word “a,” but is attached to the word that follows. Vav usually is translated in English as “and,” but, as we will see, this is not always an accurate translation.