Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

atkins-bookshelf-wordsEnglish is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn due to its very idiosyncratic spelling of words, overwhelming grammatical rules, and use of idiomatic expression. The word vowel is derived from the Latin term vocalis, meaning “vocal.” Vowels are critical, therefore, in the pronunciation of words. Over the centuries, as the English language evolved, how vowels were pronounced changed playing havoc with the English language — this affected not only how a word was pronounced, but how it was spelled. The greatest period of change, the transition from Middle English to Modern English, occurred in England between 1350 and 1700; this period is known as the Great Vowel Shift, a term coined by linguist Otto Jespersen.   

In English, at least one of the vowels (a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y) appears in just about every word in the English lexicon of approximately one million words. Below are some word oddities from the English language that focus on hard-working vowels:

Longest word without regular vowels: symphysy (followed by rhythms, nymphal, gypsyry, gypsyfy)

Longest word with all six vowels in order: pancreaticoduodenostomy

Shortest word with all vowels in alphabetical order: aerious

Longest word with all vowels in alphabetical order: pancreaticoduodenostomy (followed by adventitious, abstemious, facetious)

Words with vowels in reverse alphabetical order: subcontinental, uncomplimentary, duoliteral

Word with five vowels in a row: queueing, cooeeing

Word with six vowels in a row: euouae

Word with all five vowels: sequoia

Words with vowels appearing twice: ultrarevolutionaries

Words without any vowels: crwth, cwm, DJ

Words made up of only vowels: aa, iao, oii, euouae, Iouea, oo, I, O, A, Io

Words that begin and end with a vowel: isthmi, asthma

Longest words with one vowel only: strengths

Words pronounced the same but do not have common vowels: you/ewe; oh/eau; eye/I

Read related post: Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
What is the Longest Word in English Language?

For further reading: A Curious Dictionary of Language Oddities by Chris Cole, Sterling (1999).

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