Words with silent letters in English

Hello lovely students! Today we’re going to be learning all about silent letters, and just to warn you, there are so many English words with silent letters. I’m talking about numerous amounts. 

But hey, I’m here to teach you the key ones with all the letters from A to Z.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the numerous words with silent letters in English in the comprehensive list below and why they are essential to learn.

Let’s get started.

Why are silent letters important to know?

English is a complex language for pronunciation. There are no two ways about it. Therefore knowing silent letters will help you out so much. How? Well, firstly, they’ll help you distinguish between homophones.

Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but have a different meaning and often a different spelling. Take ‘be’ and ‘bee‘ or ‘see’ and ‘sea‘. They are entirely different.

Silent letters also help us to take a look at word origin. There are plenty of loanwords in English. Look at the Russian word tsar (with a silent ‘t’) or the phrases faux pas and laissez-faire (both of French origin). Many of these words that originally came from French / Latin have silent letters, e.g. debt, foreign. The loanwords do not follow regular English pronunciation rules, but they are used daily in our language.

Not only does knowing them help us to pronounce words, but it also allows us to read them or to differentiate what is being said when we write them down. Just say them like the silent letter is not there.

There are loads of reasons to know them. Let’s take a look at other silent letters with examples below.

Words with silent letters

Silent a

You should never pronounce the letter ‘a’ before ‘lly’ at the end of a word. All of the words below have three, not four, syllables.

ArtisticallyHis painting was artistically successful.
RomanticallyThey romantically held hands along the beach.
Logically I’m not thinking very logically.
MusicallyJimi Hendrix was very musically gifted.

Silent b

The letter ‘b’ is usually a silent letter when it is before a ‘t’ and also after ‘m’ at the end of a word. The word ‘obtain‘ is an exception to these rules.

Climb He climbed the mountain.
LambIt’s common to eat lamb at Easter.
DoubtI doubt he will arrive on time
CombComb your hair after getting out of the shower!
Debt Getting into lots of debt is never a good thing.
Thumb Stop sucking your thumb!
SubtleHer green eyeshadow is not very subtle.
NumbMy legs go numb if I sit for too long.

Silent c

The letter ‘c’ is usually silent after an ‘s’.

ScienceScience was my favourite subject at school.
Fascinating The Science Museum in London is fascinating for children.
Muscle Bodybuilders have huge muscles.
Scissors I always play rock, paper, scissors if I have to decide something.
SceneMy favourite scene in the film Grease is the end scene.
CrescentThe crescent moon is beautiful.
ConscienceListening to your conscience in times of doubt is a powerful thing to do.
ScenarioIt is a strange scenario when your friends do not like each other.

Silent d

D’ is usually silent when it comes before an ‘n’ or ‘g’. ‘Sandwich’ and ‘handsome’ also have a silent ‘d’, even if the ‘d’ is after the ‘n’.

BridgeGolden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is a landmark.
BadgeI like decorating my outfits with badges.
HedgeHedges in gardens are great for privacy.
EdgeMove over! I feel like I am on the edge of the bed.
HandsomeHe is so handsome!
Sandwich I like eating sandwiches for lunch.
WednesdayWednesday is the worst day of the week.
FudgeFudge is a sweet that’s popular in the UK.

Silent e

If an ‘e’ is at the end of a word, the vowel before it becomes a longer vowel sound. This was called a ‘magic e’ when I was in primary school.

KiteThe song ‘let’s go fly a kite’  is my favourite song in Mary Poppins
LoveI love tacos!
DebateHe loves to debate over small topics
DesireI have no desire to move house
NameMy name is Clementine
MakeWe make dinner once a week!
BreatheBreathe, and you will be fine
PleasePlease, can you come here?

Silent f

No words with a silent f  exist in Modern RP pronunciation. However, please be aware that in some accents the word ‘fifth’ has a silent second ‘f’.

Silent g

G’ usually is not pronounced if it comes before an ‘n’, such as a ‘sign’. However, two exceptions are ‘magnet’ and ‘signature’, where the ‘g’ is pronounced.

It’s also not pronounced if it comes after a vowel and before an ‘h’, such as ‘high’.

GnomeGnomes are not real.
HighBirds fly high.
LightTurn on the light, please.
SignThe sign says to turn left.
Resign I want to resign!
Champagne Champagne is a delicious drink.
BenignHe is a very benign person. I like him.
Cologne Craig is lovely, but he wears a lot of cologne.

Silent h

‘H’ usually is silent when it is after a ‘w’, such as ‘when’ or ‘where’. It is not silent, however, when an ‘o’ follows it like ‘who’.

Remember, when the ‘h’ is silent, use the article an instead of a.

EchoI used to love hearing my echo when I was a child.
AcheI have a headache.
MonarchKing Charles III is the Monarch of England.
GhostGhost is a great film.
SchoolI went to school there.
HourThat exam lasted for 6 hours.
HonestShe is a very honest person
CharacterMy favourite character in Harry Potter is Hermione.

Silent i

BusinessI went to business school after sixth form.

Silent j

MarijuanaMarijuana is a plant native to Asia.

Silent k

‘K’ is almost always silent when it comes before the letter ‘n’ such as ‘knife’.

KnifeYou need to use a knife to cut an apple.
KnitI knit every evening. It’s so relaxing.
KnotTie a knot!
KnowHe knows about his surprise party.
KnowledgeKnowledge is power.
KnightHe’s my knight in shining armour!
KnuckleMy knuckle is very pointy.
KneeI hurt my knee when I fell over.

Top tip: the ‘g’ in knight is also silent.

Silent l

‘L’ is not usually pronounced if it comes after ‘a’,o’ or ‘u’, such as in ‘talk’.

SalmonSmoked salmon is perfect for brunch
AlmondI drink almond milk instead of regular milk
TalkTalk to them!
ShouldYou should really let her know you aren’t coming
WouldWould you like to come round?
WalkHaving a walk when you are stressed is a good idea.
HalfI would like half of your pizza
CalmThe sea is calm today

Silent m

MnemomicI had to invent a mnemonic object to remember things.

Silent n

The letter ‘n’ is normally silent if it comes after ‘m’ at the end of a word.

AutumnAutumn is a beautiful season. The colours are vibrant.
ColumnTrajan’s column is famous in Rome.
CondemnI condemn your actions.
SolemnShe kept her word. She is very solemn.
HymnIt’s normal to sing hymns in church.
DamnDamn it! That’s so annoying.

Silent o

ColonelColonel Sanders founded the company Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Silent p

There are a lot of rules to ‘p’, so buckle up! ‘P’ is usually silent in these combinations: ‘ps’ and ‘pn’ when they are at the beginning of words, and ‘pt’ and ‘pb’.

PsychologyPsychology is an exciting topic.
RaspberryRaspberry and chocolate cookies are my favourite.
ReceiptKeep your receipt. You might need it!
CupboardThe glasses are in the cupboard.
PneumoniaYou’ll get pneumonia if you don’t go out with a coat on.
PseudonymJK Rowling sometimes goes by the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Silent q

LacquerLacquer is a clear, hard coating applied to metal and wood.

Silent r

IronIrons help make clothes look well-kept.

Silent s

The letter ‘s’ is not pronounced before the letter ‘i’

AisleI walked down the aisle on my wedding day.
IslandBeing on a tropical island must be heaven!
ViscountA viscount is a member of the nobility.
DebrisWhen the plane crashed, the land was filled with debris.
BourgeoisIf you are a bourgeois person, you are materialistic.

Silent t

In words that end in ‘sten’ and ‘stle‘, ‘t’ is usually silent.

CastleMake sure you visit some castles in the UK when you are there.
ListenListen to what you are saying. It is nonsense!
MortgageMost people need to apply for a mortgage when they buy a house.
WatchI need to buy a watch.
ChristmasChristmas is one of my favourite times of the year.
WhistleI cannot whistle.
FastenFasten your seatbelts before the car leaves the garage, please!

Silent u

U’ is usually silent after the letter ‘g’, such as ‘guide’.

BaguetteFrance is great for baguettes.
GuessGuess my name.
GuitarI want to play the guitar.
GuiltyI feel guilty for taking her shoes.
GuideWe may need a guide if we want to explore Rome properly.
TongueYour tongue is the most powerful muscle in your body.
ColleagueMy colleagues are great.

Silent v

There are no words with a silent v. This is the only letter, in all accents, that refuses to be silent. 

Silent w

The letter ‘w’ is not pronounced when it comes before an ‘r’, such as wrong. It is silent also when it is followed by a ‘ho‘ combination at the beginning of a word such as ‘whole‘.

WrongIt was wrong of you to do that.
SwordSwords are weapons used in the past.
WhileI ate a whole cake by myself!
WriteTim writes in his diary every day.
TwoTwo coffees, please.
WristI broke my wrist playing basketball.
WrapperPut your wrapper in the bin.

Silent x

Faux Faux fur coats are back in fashion.

Silent y

PrayerPeople who are religious often say a prayer

Silent z

Laissez-faireHis approach was laissez-faire.
RendezvousLet’s meet at the bridge for our rendezvous.

Is that everything?

Absolutely not! Look at the video below for more on silent letters in English.