Duolingo introduces the sound ''we'' as ウェ.

According to my phonetics chart this should be ''ue'' read as one mora, not ''we''.

I did a bit of research and discovered that ゑ and ヱ used to exist for what I think of as ''we''.

Is ウェ read the same as ヱ was read ?

Is ''we'' the official romaji for ウェ ?

1 Answer 1


ウェ belongs to so-called extended katakana. That is, this spelling is only used for approximating the pronunciation of foreign words, and no traditional Japanese words (wago and kango) contains this sound.

This also means there is no "official" romaji for this sound. Both kunrei and Hepburn systems have never defined how to romanize ウェ. Still, since we use ウェ mainly to represent the sound of "we" as in "wet" or "Wednesday" in English, you could say we is the de facto standard romaji for ウェ. Of course ue is not a reasonable option here because it's not distinguishable from two-mora ウエ.

As for ヱ, yes, in ancient times, it was pronounced like how we pronounce ウェ today. But its pronunciation became closer to イェ (as in English "yes") already around the 13th century, and エ in the 18th century. As I said, wago we use today no longer contains the ウェ sound.

  • 1
    A good example of ヱ in recent use is in ヱビス, a beer brand, romanised as 'Yebisu'.
    – Bakabaka
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 9:56

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