Silent k

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A silent ⟨k⟩ occurs when the letter ⟨k⟩ appears in a word but does not actually reflect the pronunciation of a voiceless velar plosive (/k/), or any sound for that matter. A silent ⟨k⟩ is quite common in the English language, most often preceding an ⟨n⟩ at the beginning of a word. There are rare exceptions to this rule; one example is Knoebels Grove (pronounced /ˈknbəlz/ KNOH-bəlz) located in Pennsylvania in the United States.

While not as common, the letter ⟨g⟩ will also become silent when placed in front of an ⟨n⟩ at the beginning of a word, rather than being realized as a voiced velar plosive (/g/). An exception is the acronym GNU. ⟨gn⟩ can also occur at the end of words, such as design and campaign.


In Old English, ⟨k⟩ and ⟨g⟩ were not silent in these words. Cognates in other Germanic languages show that the ⟨k⟩ was probably a voiceless velar plosive in Proto-Germanic (compare German Knecht to knight, Knoten to knot, etc. where the initial ⟨k⟩ is not silent); likewise, ⟨g⟩ was probably a voiced velar plosive (compare German Gnom to gnome, Gneis to gneiss, etc. where the initial ⟨g⟩ is not silent).


Following is a list of words that include a silent ⟨k). Plural nouns, as well as compound nouns derived from and containing simple nouns in the list are ignored. For verbs, only the infinitive form of the verb is given, not any conjugations or derived verbs:

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