Words without consonants

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Most languages of the world allow syllables without consonants, and monosyllabic words may therefore consist of a single vowel. Examples in English are a, O, I, eye (all of which are diphthongs at least when stressed: /, , /). A smaller number of languages allow sequences of such syllables, and thus may have polysyllabic words without consonants. This list excludes monosyllables (see instead List of words that comprise a single sound) and words such as English whoa and yeah which contain the semivowels y and w.

English[edit]

English has very few words of more than one syllable without a consonant, apart from proper names such as Aeaea, Aiea, Aia, Io, Eiao, Oea, and sometimes Iowa (below), and perhaps a few taxonomic terms such as Iouea below.

  • The maned sloth, or ai, is pronounced with two syllables: /ˈɑːi/.
  • Aa, a type of lava, is spelled without consonants, but is pronounced with a glottal stop, which is marginal in English: /ˈɑːʔɑː/.
  • The aye-aye, a type of lemur: /ˈ/
  • Euouae, a musical cadence taken from the vowels in the hymn Gloria Patri doxology: "seculorum Amen", is the longest English word spelled without any consonant letters; it is also the English word with the most consecutive vowels. However, it is also pronounced with an initial consonant: /jˈi/. Euoi, an interjection expressing Bacchic frenzy, is similar.
  • Iouea, /jˈə/, or without consonant pronunciation, /ˈə/.

Esperanto[edit]

Esperanto has a limited number of words with vowel sequences, such as boao 'boa'. Almost all have consonants, apart from the indefinite correlatives ('some-' words) and mimesis.

  • ia some (kind of)
  • iai to hee-haw
  • iao a hee-haw
  • ie somewhere, anywhere
  • iea of somewhere or other
  • io something
  • ioa of something or other
  • iu someone
  • iua of someone or other

Estonian[edit]

Several words contain no consonants in certain grammatical cases like the Genitive case, for example:

Finnish[edit]

  • night (y is always a vowel in Finnish)
  • aie intention
  • yöaie nocturnal intention (c.f. hääyöaie)
  • aio plan to do!
  • auo open!
  • oio take a shortcut!
  • ui swim!
  • ei no

Hawaiian[edit]

Polynesian languages have numerous words with glottal stop (often indicated by ʻokina), such as Hawaiian ʻāʻaua "coarse", ʻaeʻoia "to be well supplied", uauoʻoa "distant voices", which may be spelled with all vowels in English transcription; however, ʻokina is a full consonant, and such words will not be considered here.[1]

  • aea to rise up
  • aeae andante
  • aeāea sp. small green fish
  • ai to copulate
  • aia there is; depending on (you)
  • āio, ioio grooves
  • ao light, day; cloud; world; be careful; sp. mat; sp. fish
  • aoaoa sp. seaside shrub
  • au era; current; gall; weather; poor-quality sweet potatoes; pumice; grain of wood; to weed; to set; sp. shrub
  • āu your
  • aua to observe (rare)
  • auau to hurry
  • aue = ue 3
  • auēuē calling, crying, humming
  • ea command; air, breath, life; to rise; to smell
  • eaea air, breath; high waves; a smell (as of seaweed)
  • eia here
  • eo to lose
  • here!, to call, to answer
  • yard (from English)
  • iāia (to, for) him, her
  • io (part of a paddle)
  • iōē to answer a chant
  • i ou to you
  • you (from English)
  • oaoa = ohaoha
  • oe a drawn-out sound
  • Oea (name of a star)
  • oeoe whistle, siren, etc.
  • oi to move
  • = ōwī
  • oia to continue
  • oio (part of a canoe rim)
  • oioi to squirm
  • ou your; to float, lean on (rare)
  • o ua o = ua ona o aforementioned
  • ua rain; demon
  • uai to move s.t.
  • uaoa mist (rare)
  • uaua tough
  • uauai to repeatedly move s.t.
  • ue (uwe) to twist, pry; pandanus mat
  • uē (uwē) to weep
  • uea (uwea) wire (from English)
  • ueue (uweuwe) to wriggle
  • uēuē (uwēuwē) a dirge
  • ui to ask
  • uia sp. taro
  • uiui to ask & ask
  • uō (uwō) to bellow
  • uoi to move along together
  • uōuō (uwō.uwō) shouting
  • uouoa, uoa false mullet (sp. fish)

Japanese[edit]

Japanese has numerous words, such as ai "love", which are borrowed from Chinese or are composed of Chinese loans and have no consonants. A smaller number of native words fit this description as well.

  • aa ああ in that way
  • aaiu ああいう that kind, like that
  • ai 合, 会, 相, 間 together, between
  • Aioi 相生 the city of Aioi
  • aoi 青い blue/green
  • au 会う, 合う to meet, to fit
  • ee ええ yes
  • ie 家 house
  • ie 言え tell!
  • ii いい good
  • iie いいえ no
  • iu 言う to say, tell, call
  • oe 追え chase!
  • oi 甥 nephew
  • oioi 徐々 gradually
  • ooe 覆え cover!
  • ooi 多い many
  • ooi 覆い covering
  • oou 覆う to cover
  • ou 追う to chase, to follow
  • ue 上 above, top, on top of
  • ue 飢え hunger, starvation
  • uo 魚 fish

Latin[edit]

  • ea feminine nominative singular and neuter nominative and accusative plural of is demonstrative adjective and pronoun
  • masculine nominative plural and common dative singular of is
  • common ablative singular of is; also, present indicative active first-person singular of īre to go, hence "I go"
  • perfect active infinitive of the verb īre to go, hence "to have gone"

Portuguese[edit]

Rapa Nui[edit]

  • aai who? whose?
  • aau to throw or catch with both hands; contagion
  • ai to copulate; there is; this much
  • ao command; nightfall
  • âo to serve food
  • au I; smoke; current; dew; bile
  • aûa enclosure, ring (Tahitian loan)
  • auau to shout in pain
  • ea to rise, get up
  • êi a lampoon
  • eo a fragrance
  • éoéo ashes
  • îa he, she, it
  • ioio a bit
  • oi to move away
  • ôi to stir; ôiôi to stir and stir
  • oou yours
  • ua cause, reason; ceremonial staff
  • ûa the rain
  • uáuá to reside, resident
  • ûaûa muscles, tendons
  • uéué to flutter
  • ui to ask

Romanian[edit]

Romanian language language has a few words without consonant:

  • e = is
  • a = of, belonging to
  • o = one (female gender)
  • ai = you have
  • eu = me / I
  • ei = hers / them
  • ea = she
  • au = they have / ouch (also an outdated way of saying “or”)
  • ie = traditional Romanian blouse
  • îi = to him/her they [x]
  • ou = egg (ouă = eggs)
  • aia = that one
  • iei = you take
  • iau = I take / they take
  • oaie = sheep (oaia = the sheep)

They can be used to create full sentences without any consonants:

  • Oaia aia a ei o iau eu - I'll take that sheep of hers
  • Ei au o oaie, eu iau oaia aia - They have a sheep, I take that sheep
  • Ea e o oaie - She is a sheep
  • Ei îi iau ei o ie - They buy her a "ie"
  • Îi iau eu ouă! - I'll take eggs for him/her

Scottish Gaelic[edit]

Scottish Gaelic uses the digraphs bh, dh, gh, mh, th to separate vowels in hiatus. Examples include:

Spanish[edit]

The small list of vowel-only words in Spanish is expanded by the fact that the letter h is soundless in this language.

  • ahí there
  • hay there is/are
  • hoy today
  • huí I fled
  • huía I/he/she was fleeing
  • I heard
  • oía I/he/she was hearing

Swahili[edit]

Many Bantu languages allow vowel sequences. In Swahili, this is sometimes due to the disappearance of the consonant /l/.

  • au or
  • aua to survey
  • eua to purify
  • oa to take a wife
  • ua a flower
  • ua a boma (fenced enclosure)
  • ua to kill
  • uo a sheath

See also[edit]

References[edit]