Words with Silent Letters- Everything You Need to Know

What are silent letters?

A silent letter in an alphabetical system of writing is a letter that in a word doesn’t really match any sound in the word’s pronunciation. A silent letter is typically represented with the null sign U+2205 EMPTY SET, in linguistics. A null segment is one that is unpronounced or unwritten. The symbol is similar to the Scandinavian letter as well as other symbols.

The significant number of silent letters is one of the notable characteristics of English spelling. Edward Carney differentiates between distinct types of “silent” letters, each of which presents readers with varying degrees of difficulty. The presence of many different silent letters is one of the most difficult features of English spelling and pronunciation.

Since English has developed from a variety of sources (Latin, Greek, French, German, Old English, and so on), it has had to absorb all of its predecessors’ spelling and pronunciation oddities. As a result, there have been numerous cases where specific letters have become silent. While it may appear that silent letters have no function in a word, this is not entirely true: silent letters can assist to separate two otherwise homophonous words, convey the meaning or origin of a word, or even aid in determining the overall sound of a word.


They are Classical period relics, as per author Ned Halley. In his words, as the Classical world’s impact grew stronger in the 15th century, English scholars wanted to remind their readers that the majority of the language’s vocabulary came from Latin and Greek.

They added the b to show off their expertise that doubt, which was then written ‘dout’ because it came into medieval English via French doute and was derived initially from Latin dubitare. It was a patriotic act in a sense, reestablishing English’s Classical beginnings over the Dutch, French, German, and Norse influences of the century since Roman dominance declined in Britain in the fifth century and Anglo-Saxon languages began to invade.

Another key point to remember is that quite a number of today’s silent letters were not always so quiet- Ursula Dubosarsky says of the evolution of silent letters. The word knight, for example, was once pronounced with the k and the gh sounded out (ke-nee-g-hht), as were many silent e’s and l’s in English. And the silent w in terms like wreck or write was added to depict a comical Old English r sound that was different from the regular r. However, the way people spoke English changed over time, even if the spelling remained the same.

What is English Orthography?

The system of writing rules used to represent spoken English in written form is known as English orthography, and it allows readers to link the symbols to sound and interpretation. It covers spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation in English.

English spelling, like that of most other world languages, has a high level of standardization. When movable type was introduced to England in the late 15th century, this standardization began to emerge. Unlike other languages, however, practically every phoneme (sound) can be spelled in various ways, and most letters have multiple pronunciations depending on their position in a word and context.

A few facts about silent letters.

1. The silent E lengthens the vowel before it. Consider the CVCe words cap vs. cape or mop vs. mope. There are a few three-letter silent e words that have different pronunciations, such as do vs. doe.

2. It softens C and G.

Dance, wage, or stage are some examples.

3. Silent E softens TH

Bathe, soothe, or lithe are some examples.

4. It adds a syllable to words when it appears with an L at the end.

Bundle, basic, or handle are among the examples.

5. Silent letters can tell the difference between homophones, such as in/inn, be/bee, and lent/leant. This is a helpful hint for readers who are already familiar with both terms.

6. Silent letters can reveal information about a definition of a word or origin, for example, vineyard suggests vines more than the phonetic ‘vinyard.’

7. Silent letters, such as guest/gest, help demonstrate ‘hard’ consonants.

8. They can assist in the connection of multiple forms of the same word, such as resign/resignation.

Types of silent letters.

A Survey of English Spelling author Edward Carney divides silent letters into two categories: auxiliary and dummy. He divides the two groupings into the following categories.

Auxiliary Letters are letters that are not used in the main body of the letter “Auxiliary letters are part of a set of letters that spell a sound that isn’t represented by a single letter. As an example,

/th/ thing /th/ there /sh/ share /zh/ treasure /ng/ song /th/ thing /th/ there /sh/ share /zh/ treasure /ng/ song”

Dummy Letters

“Inert letters and empty letters are two types of dummy letters.

Inert letters are letters that are sometimes heard and sometimes not heard in a word segment. As an example,

resignation (g is not heard)

withdrawal (g is heard)

malignant (g is not heard) malignant (g is heard) malignant (g is not heard) malignant (g is not heard) malignant (g is not”

Like auxiliary letters and inactive letters, empty letters have no purpose. The letter u in the word gauge, for example, is blank. Silent consonants can be found in the following words:

b: dumb, thumb

c: indict

ch: yacht

d: bridge, ledge, edge

g: foreign, sign, design, assign

h: rhinoceros, spaghetti

k: knee, knit, knob, know, knuckle

l: calf, talk, could, should, would

m: mnemonic

n: autumn, column

p: raspberry, receipt

t: castle, listen, whistle

w: answer, wrap, wring, wrong, write, wreath, wrath.

Silent letters are more difficult to predict than empty letters in new words. “There are no standards that we can apply to words with empty letters,” said Strausser and Paniza, authors of Painless English for Speakers of Other Languages. You just have to utilise them and recall their spelling.

Difference between British English and American English.


The h in herb is silent in the United States (an herb), whereas it is spoken in the United Kingdom (a herb). The ‘i’ in solder is the same way.

The ‘a’ in dictionary and secretary is silent in some parts of the UK, whereas it is pronounced in the US.


Silent letters are occasionally (but not usually) deleted in US spellings (e.g., recognition / UK acknowledgement, axe / UK axe, catalogue / UK catalogue, programme / UK programme outside computer settings) (e.g., dialogue is the standard spelling in the US and the UK; dialogue is regarded as a US variant; the spelling axe is also often used in the US). Silent letters are written in both ways in most cases (e.g., debt, guard, house).

Examples of silent letters.

Subtle, resuscitate, gnomic, hour, would, should, calf, kneel, knock, baguette, half, biscuit, autumn, column, hymn, conscious, handful, cologne, gnaw, pterodactyl, etc.