Posted by: Jack Henry | March 7, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Words Without Consonants

In my last post, I discussed vowelless words ("disemvoweled words"?). This week, let’s look at the other end of the spectrum: words without consonants.

Because (almost) all English words have at least one vowel, you might assume that there are many words with nothing but vowels. But the list is surprisingly short.

The one-letter words a and I are popular (the sixth and tenth most common English words, respectively), and there are a handful of all-vowel words that include the letter Y (like aye and eye).

What about words longer than one letter with just the vowels A, E, I, O, and U? Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary includes just nine:

  • aa: rough scoriaceous lava
  • ae: (chiefly Scottish) one
  • ai: a three-toed sloth of the genus Bradypus of South America
  • ea: (dialectical, England) river, stream
  • eau: a watery solution (as of perfume)
  • ee: (Scottish) eye
  • io: a shout of joy or triumph; a large hawk (Buteo solitaries) that is the only indigenous raptorial bird of Hawaii
  • oe: a violent whirlwind off the Faroe islands
  • oo: a Hawaiian honeyeater of the genus Moho

Some sources, including the Guinness Book of World Records, include the word euouae, which describes a cadence in medieval music. Euouae comes from the Latin phrase seculorum Amen. Does a Latin mnemonic count as an English word? It’s playable in Scrabble®, and that’s good enough for me.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
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  1. Euouae

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