Absurdities of English spelling

1: Silent letters

Many people are perhaps not aware of the astonishing fact that nearly every letter of the English alphabet is silent in some word. (Silent letters are also sometimes called mute letters.) The following list was compiled with the help of Ellis, Plea for Phonetic Spelling, 1848.

a is silent in head, bread, deaf, meant
b is silent in debt, lamb, bomb, tomb
c is silent in muscle, blackguard, yacht, indict
d is silent in Wednesday, handkerchief, handbag
e is silent in pirate, more, have, give
f is silent in stiff, cuff, scoff
g is silent in gnaw, gnome, phlegm, straight
h is silent in honour, heir, ghost, night
i is silent in business, fashion, cushion
k is silent in know, knee, knock, blackguard
l is silent in talk, folk, salmon, colonel
m is silent in mnemonic
n is silent in hymn
o is silent in leopard, jeopardy
p is silent in psalm, pneumatic, cupboard, receipt
q(u) is silent in lacquer
r is silent in myrrh, catarrh
s is silent in isle, aisle, viscount, mess
t is silent in often, thistle, fasten, mortgage
u is silent in build, guild, plague
w is silent in whole, write, sword
y is silent in prayer, mayor
z is silent in rendezvous


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James Chandler 1999.