How Is W Pronounced in French?

The letter entered French via foreign words

The letter "w" is uncommon in French words. While the sound is used in words like oui, you will be hard-pressed to find a French word that begins with a "w," which is one of two letters—the other is the letter "k"—that were not in the original French alphabet, so it only appears in foreign words. However, with the increasing encroachment of foreign words into this Romance language, the letter "w" is popping up more in French. So, it's important to understand how the letter is pronounced and in what context it is generally used.

The French Use of the Letter "W"

While the French language uses the Latin (or Roman) alphabet with 26 letters today, this was not always so. The letter "w" was added in the 19th century, most likely because of its use in the languages of other countries with whom the French interacted. 

The same can be said for the letter "k," which made an even later appearance in the French alphabet.

How to Pronounce the French "W"

When reciting the alphabet in French, the "w" is pronounced doo-bluh-vay. This literally means "double v" and is similar to the Spanish "w." (Spanish is another Romance language where the letter "w" is not native.)

In use, the letter "w" is found primarily in words borrowed from other languages. In almost every instance, the letter takes on the sound from the source language. For instance, it sounds like a '"v" for German words and like an English "w" in English words.

French Words With "W"

Due to the nonnative nature of "w" in French, the vocabulary list for this letter is somewhat brief. The French word is listed on the left and the English translation on the right. Click on the links for the French words to bring up a sound file and hear how these French "w" words are pronounced:

Walloon is a member of a Celtic people living in south and southeast Belgium. The Walloons, interestingly, speak French. So, this group of people, who speak the Romance language, could not be described in French until this foreign word—Wallon—was adopted and adapted into the French language, along with the elusive "w." Walloon is also a region in southeast Belgium, called Wallonia. Never a language to adopt words without some alteration, the name of the region is Wallonie in French.

Other French "W" Words

With the growth of foreign words in French, words starting with "w" in this Romance language are becoming more common. Collins French-English dictionary lists the following among the words that begin with "w" in French. English translations have been omitted in most cases where the translations are obvious.

  • Walkman
  • Warrant
  • Water-polo
  • Waters
  • Watt
  • WC
  • Web
  • Web profond > deep web
  • Web sombre > dark web
  • Webcam
  • Webdesign
  • webdesigner
  • Webinaire
  • Webmaster
  • webmestre
  • Webzine
  • Western
  • Westphalie
  • Whisky > whiskey
  • White-spirit
  • Widget
  • Wifi
  • Wishbone
  • Wok

So, brush up on your "w's"—you just may need to use the letter when you're in France.