People who think words are fun will sometimes play an odd game with themselves, trying to find an example of a word with a silent letter for every letter of the English alphabet. Arguably, this can be done, although it is not easy.

My rules are that the word has to be a commonly recognized word, that you have to use a commonly used spelling, and that the word would be pronounced the same once the target letter is removed. By these rules it is not actually possible to complete an entire silent alphabet. However by making the sole change to allow any word appearing in an English collegiate dictionary eligible for the game, it is indeed possible.

I strongly recommend that if this sounds amusing to you, you spend some time completing your own silent alphabet; it's not nearly so much fun once you are given the answers.

Tem's (modified) Rules: To be counted as silent, letters must meet the following criteria:
  • For a given letter, you must not pronounce that letter in the target position of the target word.
  • If there are various dialectical pronunciations, you must choose one dialect/accent to use throughout the silent alphabet. Ideally, you would construct your first alphabet using your own dialect/accent.
  • Recommended: All standard orthographic rules apply. Therefore, the 'e' in 'Duke' is not silent, because without the silent e, you would pronounce 'duk' as 'duck'. Likewise, the two vowels go walking rules means that the 'a' in 'boat' is not silent -- 'bot' is not pronounced the same as 'boat'.
  • Words should be both 'real' and used in English; this means you should be able to find them in your dictionary of choice.
  • Ideally, you should avoid double letters, primarily because it is too tempting to count double letters when the orthographic rules are unclear.

So here, you go: Tem's silent alphabet. Words that I do not personally endorse are in parenthesis.


A: health, dead, heaven, marriage, pharaoh

B: Dumb, bomb, thumb, doubt, subtle

C: Science, scene, Connecticut, czar

D: Handkerchief, Wednesday

E: Are, Height, heart, house, purse, queue

F: Fifth, halfpenny

G: Gnome, reign

H: Herb, heir, which, ghost, rhyme, Christmas, asthma, chord

I: Business, Sioux

J: (rijsttafel)

K: Know, knife, knight

L: Half, salmon, Lincoln, would

M: Mnemonic

N: Column, damn

O: Country, door, laboratory, tortoise, you

P: Pneumonia, psychology, receipt

Q: (racquet)

R: Mirror, February

S: Sword, aisle, debris, island, rendezvous

T: Listen, rapport, gourmet, parfait, Christmas, asthma, witch

U: Guilt, build, fourth, circuit, guest, gauge, guide, court, queue

V: (flivver, savvy)

W: Two, answer, wrist, write, wrong, yellow

X: Sioux, faux

Y: Crayon

Z: Rendezvous


BONUS:
CH: Yatch
TH: Asthma


If this was too easy a challenge, you might also be interested in seeing how far you can in constructing a ghost alphabet, one in which you list those words with sounds pronounced but not represented by a standard orthographic construction.

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