English words without vowels
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English words without vowels are words in English either written without letters that conventionally are consideredvowel letters, or spoken without vowel sounds. In most languages of the world, all or nearly all lexical words have vowel sounds, and English is no exception; however, rhotic dialects of English (such as most varieties of American English) have words like nurse and word with a syllabic r sound, but these words are typically written with a vowel letter immediately prior to an r. On the other hand, there are words that are not written with an exclusively vowel letter (that is, ⟨a⟩ ⟨e⟩⟨i⟩ ⟨o⟩ ⟨u⟩), though they are pronounced with a vowel sound. There also are some interjections and besidesonomatopoeia, to ideophones in general, that contain neither vowel sounds nor syllabic r and which are thus spelled with no vowel letter.
This article does not cover abbreviations, such as km or ms, nor acronyms.
In English, the letter ⟨y⟩ can represent either a vowel or consonant sound, and a large number of Modern English words spell the // and // sounds with ⟨y⟩, such as by, my, dry, fly, fry, gym, shy, sky, sly, spy, try, why, hymn, lynx,myrrh, myth, wyrm, crypt, flyby, gypsy, lynch, nymph, pygmy, rhythm, tryst and syzygy which are vowels in this case.The longest dictionary words (base forms excluding plurals) are rhythm, spryly, sylphy and syzygy. The longest such word in common use is rhythms, and the longest such word in Modern English is the obsolete 17th-century wordsymphysy. If archaic words and spellings are considered, there are many more, the longest perhaps being twyndyllyngs,the plural of twyndyllyng meaning "twin".
Middle English used ⟨w⟩ to represent either a vowel or a consonant sound in the same way that Modern English uses⟨y⟩, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries. Vocalic ⟨w⟩ generally represented /uː/, as in wss "use". This practice exists in modern Welsh orthography, and there are a couple words borrowed from Welsh that use ⟨w⟩ this way:
- The crwth (pronounced /ˈkrʊθ/ or /ˈkruːθ/ and also spelled cruth) is a Welsh musical instrument similar to theviolin:
- He intricately rhymes, to the music of crwth and pibgorn.
- cwtch (a hiding place or cubby hole) is also from Welsh, and crwth and cwtch are according to Collins the longest English dictionary words without A, E, I, O, U, or Y.
- A cwm (pronounced /ˈkuːm/) is a deep hollow within a mountain, usually with steep edges, such as the Western Cwm of Mount Everest. However, it is, in literary English, nearly always spelled combe (as in Ilfracombe and Castle Combe), coomb (as in J. R. R. Tolkien) or comb (as in Alfred, Lord Tennyson).
The internet term pwn arose as a misspelling of the word "own", due to the ⟨o⟩ and ⟨p⟩ keys being next to each other on QWERTY keyboards, and is now a commonly used word on the internet.
Without ⟨y⟩ or ⟨w⟩
There are fewer lexical words with neither vowel letters nor ⟨y⟩ or ⟨w⟩. The longest such lexical word (not counting interjections) is tsktsks, pronounced /ˌtɪskˈtɪsks/. The mathematical expression nth /ˈɛnθ/, as in delighted to the nth degree, is in fairly common usage.
Vowelless proper names from other languages, such as the surname Ng, may retain their original spelling. (See below.)
There are also numerous vowelless interjections and onomatopoeia, including brr(brrr is occasionally accepted), bzzt, grrr, hm, hmm, mm, mmm, m-hm, pfft, phpht, psst, sh, shh, zzz. Those with repeating letters can be lengthened indefinitely (see Syllabic consonant#Obstruents).
Words without vowel sounds
Although English is considered to be one of the many languages that require vowels in each syllable, the syllabic r of rhotic dialects in words like bird, learn, girl, church, heard, word, worst, can be analyzed as being a syllabic consonant, [ɹ̩]. There is not a uniform agreement among linguists as to whether these aren't instead rhotic vowels, [ɝ]. This may even differ from dialect to dialect.
The issue is similar in regards to nasal consonants and /l/, which can appear as the syllable nucleus in unstressed syllables. There are a few such words that are disyllabic, like cursor, curtain, and turtle: [ˈkɹ̩sɹ̩], [ˈkɹ̩tn̩] and [ˈtɹ̩tl̩] (or[ˈkɝːsɚ], [ˈkɝːtən], and [ˈtɝːtəl]), and even a few that are, or may be, trisyllabic, such as purpler [ˈpɹ̩.pl̩.ɹ̩], hurdler [ˈhɹ̩.dl̩.ɹ̩],burglar [ˈbɹ̩.ɡl̩.ɹ̩], gurgler [ˈɡɹ̩.ɡl̩.ɹ̩], certainer [ˈsɹ̩.tn̩.ɹ̩], and Ur-turtle [ˈɹ̩.tɹ̩.tl̩]. The words wyrm and myrrh contain neither a vowel letter nor a vowel sound in these dialects: [ˈwɹ̩m], [ˈmɹ̩] (or [ˈwɝːm], [ˈmɝː]).
In addition, some unstressed function words may lose their vowel in more rapid speech. The word and frequently contracts to a simple nasal stop ’n, as in lock 'n key [ˌlɒk ŋ ˈkiː]. Words such as will, have, and is regularly contract to ’ll [l],’ve [v], and ’s [z] (or [s] depending on context). Of these ’ll and ’s are, like ’n, sometimes pronounced without any adjoining vowel, as in It's not.