Talk:Ough (orthography)

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Examples needed[edit]

If there really are "over ten" pronunciations, can we please have examples of them all? — sjorford++ 16:49, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

I got:

enough (rough, tough) cough (trough) bough through thorough (borough) dough (though) nought (bought, wrought, sought, ought) lough hiccough

But various pages on internet report it as being pronounceable in between 12 and 14 ways. The following is from

The combination ough can be pronounced in fourteen different ways:
1. awe: thought, bought, fought, brought, ought, sought, nought, wrought
2. uff: enough, rough, tough, slough, Clough, chough
3. ooh: through, slough
4. oh: though, although, dough, doughnut, broughm, Ough, furlough, Greenough, thorough
5. off: cough, trough
6. ow: bough, plough, sough
7. ou: drought, doughty, Stoughton
8. uh: Scarborough, borough, thorough (alt), thoroughbred, Macdonough, Poughkeepsie
9. up: hiccoughed
10. oth: trough (alt)
11. ock: lough, hough
12. oc[h] (aspirated): lough
13. ahf: Gough
14. og: Coughlin (also #5)
The following sentence contains them all:
Rough-coated(2), dough-faced(4), thoughtful(1) ploughman(6) John Gough(13) strode through(3) the streets of Loughborough(2+8); after falling into a slough(2) on Coughlin(14) road near the lough(12) (dry due to drought)(7), he coughed(5) and hiccoughed(9), then checked his horse's houghs(11)and washed up in a trough(10).


Why are there examples from Scots, which is a different language from English? One could just as well start including examples of the [uɣ] or [ouɡ] sort - I'm sure you could find languages that do just that. But the real point here is the unpredictability of this tetragraph's pronunciation in present-day English. (That renders "hough" a bit pointless too.) --Tropylium 14:54, 21 April 2007 (UTC)
Also, your (6) and (7) are the same, /aʊ/. You might also want to note that (5) and (13) are both /ɒf/ in British English. 10:59, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

Original of this tetragraph[edit]

Can we say something about the origin of such tetragraph? I heard that "ou" was originally the closed /o/ and /gh/ was the glottal stop. Is it true? --Tomchiukc 05:37, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

See Gh (digraph) and Ou (digraph) .--Adolar von Csobánka (Talk) 14:56, 25 March 2007 (UTC)
In English, "gh" historically represented /x/ (the voiceless velar fricative). In modern English, "gh" is either silent or pronounced /f/ (see ough).
English ou originally represented [uː], as in French, but its pronunciation has changed as part of the Great Vowel Shift.
--Adolar von Csobánka (Talk) 14:56, 25 March 2007 (UTC)

What's so special about "-omb"?[edit]

Is it really relevant to the article?

The letter combination "ea" seems to have even more possible sounds: ei (great, steak); ee (steal, deal); e (stealth, dealt); i-e (real); i-ae (reality, reaction); i-ei (create); ei-a (seance, real); and even more as part of combination "ear": eer (hear, teardrop); air (bear, wear); er (search, heard) --My another account 07:47, 1 September 2007 (UTC)

Woughton, Loughton and Broughton[edit]

The article says that "ough" is pronounced differently in each of these place names, but does not give the pronunciations. I think it's a little unfair to tantalise the reader in this way. Note that the pronunciations are not currently given in the articles for the towns themselves. — Paul G 06:35, 17 October 2007 (UTC)

Pronunciations have now been added to the articles for Woughton and Loughton: apparently, they're 'wufton' and 'lowton' (same pronounciation as in Slough). We're still in the dark about Broughton, but I'd guess that it's probably pronounced like the English word 'brought'. Terraxos (talk) 22:14, 22 January 2008 (UTC)


This one seems to be missing, isn't it? Here the "gh" makes an /h/ sound. /loʊhid/. At least that's how it's pronounced in the Vancouver area of BC, Canada, where a highway and some nearby neighbourhoods use the name. (talk) 08:08, 4 April 2010 (UTC)


In the note below the list about the different pronunciations of "slough", this example: "sloo" (as in, "a whole slough of problems") is not correct -- "slough" is a variant of "slew" and is pronounced the same way, but it is a different meaning of "slew". It means a muddy bog, not a large number -- see (definition 1) and (definition 4). It doesn't really lend itself to a handy phrase like "a whole slew of problems" though ("slogging through a slough"?), but maybe a smarter person than I could come up with something! (talk) 20:56, 24 June 2008 (UTC)


>Already standard

   * "hiccup" instead of folk etymology "hiccough"
   * "not" or "naught" instead of archaic "nought"
   * "hock" instead of "hough"

How is 'nought' archaic? I was under the impression that it was a common, everyday word referring to the mathematical concept 0. Or has the place-value numerical system been replaced with Roman numerals or the like since I last looked? (talk) 08:29, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

Just what I came in here to say. This must mean in the sense of "All for nought", and have completely disregarded the synonym of "zero". But I think it's wrong anyway: did this ever mean "not" and is "naught" any less archaic? Didn't they just mean "nothing", at least most recently? There hasn't really been a spelling change, therefore. Salopian (talk) 03:08, 8 August 2008 (UTC)
There. I've been bold. I checked and it seems that naught is an American spelling. Oh, and I've fixed you up there too. (talk) 12:32, 19 August 2008 (UTC)
Naught is definitely not archaic, though it isn't used as commonly anymore. I can't speak for England, but in America, Merriam Webster lists nought as a variant of naught, which it does not consider archaic, and which means "nothing" as a pronoun, or "nothingness, nonexistance" or "the mathematical symbol 0" as a noun. I assume this would replace uses of nought which mean that, and not replaces more archaic uses such as " . . . nought but one of them." (talk) 19:22, 30 October 2008 (UTC)

Nought and naught are not synonymous. Nought is the numeric value, zero, while naught is 'nothing' in the sense of 'I have nothing': [1]. It is quite archaic now, and may be specific to British English.

Dr. Seuss[edit]

Dr. Seuss once wrote an illustrated humorous piece about the dire effects of "ough" spellings entitled "Ough! Ough! Or Why I Believe in Simplified Spelling", reprinted on page 57 of "The Tough Coughs as he Ploughs the Dough" (ISBN 0-688-06548-1). -- AnonMoos (talk) 17:42, 19 August 2008 (UTC)


The article says the spelling plow is "uncommon but accepted in Canada," which is completely untrue, as it is the accepted spelling in America, and in fact, I never knew the spelling plough even existed. Look it up on, where Plough is described as a "chiefly British variant of PLOW." (talk) 19:16, 30 October 2008 (UTC)

The Remarkability of ough[edit]

The gh is pronounced predictably and only two ways (excluding archaic and foreign words and proper nouns) /f/ and silent. The /f/ follows checked vowels (vowels which cannot occur--except in interjections (yeah, uh) and foreign words--without a following consonant) and the null pronunciation "follows" open vowels (vowels which can occur with or without a following consonant). The irregularity isn't gh's but the digraph ou's which is irregular with or without gh (moustache, loud, soul).Jackessler (talk) 05:18, 5 October 2009 (UTC)

There are many possible analyses. For example I prefer one where there is no 'gh' digraph at all, but 'h' as silent or /f/, and vowel di/trigraphs ending in 'g' (given that some of these kind of digraphs also occur in other conditions, such as sign, feign, impugn etc.) Yet it seems the tri/tetragraph analysis is the prevailing one. It would be nice to find sorces for these kind of alt. analyses… but without that, they don't belong in.--Trɔpʏliʊmblah 09:20, 6 October 2009 (UTC)

I take it you already know[edit]

Link is dead, but there are other hits, such as -- (talk) 15:51, 7 July 2013 (UTC)

What variation is 'the norm'?[edit]

References to "American English" seem to indicate that British is so widely recognized as the norm that it doesn't have to be named. Thus we end up with sentences such as 'Tough, though, through, and thorough are formed by adding an additional letter each time, yet none of them rhymes with another', which is not true for millions of English speakers (since "though" and "thorough" rhyme for us). I suggest that either an indication be put in the lede that this article is based on British English (presumably a BBC standard) or that the article be rewritten in such a way as to indicate all variations by where it is spoken. --Richardson mcphillips (talk) 19:16, 17 May 2014 (UTC)


If transcriptions are included, both main reference accents (i.e. RP and GA) should be shown. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2A02:810B:8580:830:B96D:2A72:1A60:AF7B (talk) 17:50, 24 May 2015 (UTC)

  1. ^