One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Words with misleading beginnings
Some English words can be difficult to find in a dictionary because of the way in which their first letter is pronounced. You might think, for example, that the word phantom begins with an f and therefore search for it among other words beginning with the letters ‘fa-’.
So, if you have trouble finding a word, have a look in this quick-reference list to see if you might have been misled about the first letter or couple of letters:
Words beginning with di-?
Some words which sound as though they might begin with the lettersdi- are in fact spelled de-. Examples include:
Words beginning with e-?
Some words are pronounced with an ‘e’ or an ‘ee’ sound at the beginning, but their initial letters are actually ae- or oe- instead. Examples of this type of word include:
Words beginning with f-?
Some words which sound as if they begin with f- are actually spelled with ph- instead. Examples include:
Words beginning with g-?
There are quite a few words that are pronounced with a ‘hard’ g sound that don't begin with a g- on its own. Some begin with gh-, such as:
Others begin with gu-, for example:
Words beginning with h-?
Some words are pronounced with an ‘h’ sound at the beginning, but actually begin with the letters wh-, for example whole or whom.
Words beginning with j-?
Many words that sound as if they begin with the letter j-, are spelled with g- at the beginning. Examples include:
Words beginning with k-?
Some words sound as if they have an initial letter k-, but actually begin with the letters ch-, for example:
Words beginning with n-?
Various words that sound as though they should begin with n- are spelled with different letters. Some begin with gn-, for example:
Others begin with kn-, e.g.:
A small group begin with pn-. These words came into English from Greek and the main examples are:
Words beginning with r-?
Certain words that sound as though they begin with the letter r- start with wr- instead. Examples include:
Words beginning with s-?
Quite a few words that are pronounced with an ‘s’ or a ‘sh’ sound at the beginning are spelled with c- or ch- instead. For example:
Some words which sound as if they begin with an s- in fact begin withps-. Like the pn- words, they entered English from Greek. Examples include:
Words beginning with z-?
Several words sound as if they begin with z- but actually start with x-. The main examples are:
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