Vowels

Are there any English words with no vowels?

Most words are, of course, made up of vowels and consonants. The distinction between these stems from the way the letters are spoken. A vowel (a, e, i, o, and u in English) is a spoken sound made with the mouth open and without the tongue touching the roof of the mouth, teeth, etc. A consonant is a spoken sound made by completely or partially blocking the flow of air breathed out through the mouth. All the other letters are consonants, though y can be regarded as either a vowel or a consonant, depending upon how it is pronounced in different words.

But are there any words in English that don’t have any vowels at all? The answer is slightly different depending on what you consider a word. There are over 100 entries in OxfordDictionaries.com that don’t have any vowels, but most of these are initialisms (abbreviations consisting of initial letters pronounced separately) like HTML, DVD, and LBD. Then there are words like fly, myth, and psych that don’t have a, e, i, o, or u, but do have a y functioning as a vowel.

If you exclude initialisms and words with y, there are still a handful of words that are written without a, e, i, o, u, or y:

brrr
An exclamation used to express someone’s reaction to feeling cold.
cwm
A cirque, especially one in the mountains of Wales.
cwtch
(Welsh) A cupboard or cubbyhole. A cuddle or hug.
grrl / grrrl
A young woman regarded as independent and strong or aggressive.
hmm
An exclamation used to express reflection, uncertainty, or hesitation:
mm / mmm
An exclamation used to express contentment or pleasure.
nth
Denoting an unspecified item or instance in a series, typically the last or latest in a long series.
pfft
Used to represent a dull abrupt sound as of a slight impact or explosion.
psst
An exclamation used to attract someone’s attention surreptitiously.
sh / shh
An exclamation used to call for silence.
tch
An exclamation used to express irritation, annoyance, or impatience.
tsk tsk
An exclamation used to express irritation, annoyance, or impatience.
xlnt
An informal abbreviation of excellent.

 

Conversely, alongside these entries, there is a selection of words in OxfordDictionaries.com that don’t have any consonants. You will be familiar with the one-letter words a and I, but here are seven you’ll see less often:

 

aa
Basaltic lava forming very rough, jagged masses with a light frothy texture.
ai
The three-toed sloth.
ee
Northern English form of the exclamation ‘oh’.
oi
An exclamation used to attract someone’s attention.
o-o
A honeyeater (bird) found in Hawaii, now probably extinct, which had a thin curved bill and climbed about on tree trunks.
ou
A fruit-eating Hawaiian honeycreeper (bird) with a stout bill and green and yellow plumage.
ou
(South African informal) a man.

See more from The English language