NOTICE: Citizendium is still being set up on its newer server, treat as a beta for now; please see here for more.
Citizendium - a community developing a quality comprehensive compendium of knowledge, online and free. Click here to join and contribute—free
CZ thanks our previous donors. Donate here. Treasurer's Financial Report -- Thanks to our content contributors. --

E (letter)

From Citizendium, the Citizens' Compendium
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is a stub and thus not approved.
Main Article
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
This editable Main Article is under development and not meant to be cited; by editing it you can help to improve it towards a future approved, citable version. These unapproved articles are subject to a disclaimer.

E, e is a letter of the Latin alphabet. It is the fifth letter of most variants, being placed after D and before F, as is the case for instance in the English alphabet. Its English name is pronounced [ˈiː], ee.

Use in English

Use in English
Alphabetical word list
Retroalphabetical list  
Common misspellings  

e shows various vowel sounds - or is silent.

  • The accents show stress and pronunciation (see English spellings): A: sát, mâde, pàrk, cāst (cást/càst), åll, ãir; E: ére, êar, vèin, fërn; I: sít, mîne, skì, bïrd; O: sóng, môde, lòve, wörd, ŏr; OO: moôn, foòt; U: sún, mûse, fùll, pürr; W: neŵ, ẁant; Y: gým, mŷ, keỳ, mÿrrh.

The short sound: véry, héad, bést, dén, wéll, péck, néck, Bén, déath, mérry, chérish, cléft, beréft, behést, bétter, wéather sunny = BrE whéther if, ahéad, bléd (cf. blêed), néxt, guést, thére (*dhãre), ére before (= ãir breathe).

This is also the sound of said (*séd).

The long sound: bêat win = bêet sugar, bêach sand = bêech tree, hêat, nêat, têeth, glêe, spêak, Pêter, explêtive, delêted, relìêf, grìêve, dêar, wêary, crêam, bê is = bêe insect, bêacon, trêe, thrêe, êat, and unstressed in cóffêe, tóffêe, Wísbêch, and the Latin (sometimes as æ): nébulaê, fŏrmulaê, nôvaê, Aêschylus, and unstressed in aesthétic. (Poughkeepsie, though, has ee as í: *Pəkíppsêe.)

ea is used for both sounds: bréath noun, brêathe verb, lêap present, léapt past, rêam, réalm, déad, déath, héad, bréad, bréadth, wéapon, tréachery, bêat, wrêath, spêak.

The verbs rêad and lêad rhyme, and so do their past tenses, réad and léd, though the vowels are differently spelt. The colour réd rhymes with these, as does the metal léad, while lêad is also a noun meaning "opening paragraph", and this usage has the alternative spelling lêde.

Unstressed (initial and medial but not final) e sounds like í: rewård, delîght, mállet, tícket, becòme, except in Australia and New Zealand, where the sound is schwa.

And also in contracted forms (especially BrE): he's (= hís), she’s (*shízz - though in careful speech the sound in these remains ê). e with this sound is stressed in pretty (*prítty).

A third sound, è pronounced ây, is usually found before i followed by certain consonants: vèil, vèin, Sínn Fèin (Sh-), slèigh snow (= slây kill), wèigh kilo (= wây manner), wèight kilo (= wâit delay, cf. heîght) dèign, rèign monarch = rèin horse (= râin wet), bèige (-zh-), nèigh, fèint pretend (= fâint swoon).

è is also found before y: thèy (cf. théir), prèy victim (= prây God), whèy eat BrE = wèigh heavy (= wây manner), BrE grèy = AmE grây.

It is also in dô-rè-mì, Nèsmith (= Nâysmith, perhaps less common), and, from French, crèpe, fète, and unstressed in fŏyèr (silent r).

è and â can coincide to show the same sound: greât big (= grâte), breâk cut (= brâke) (cf. stéady, bêad).

The sound is in most BrE in eîther and neîther although some speakers, especially AmE, say êither and nêither. is rare but also occurs in heîght, seîsmic, feîsty, Bruneî, O’Reîlly and unstressed in eidétic. The spelling is typically used in German: Fáhrenheît *Fárrenhîte, Weîmar *Vŷmar.

After c and w, the sound of ei is normally ê: cêiling, recêive, concêit, decêit, recêipt (*recêit), wêir, wêird (and also sêize, Shêila, Nêil, Kêith). But we have already seen wèigh and wèight, and a spelling exception is wìêld (like fìêld).

er is usually unstressed schwa, with r sounded in AmE and Scottish English: fóster, āfter, wörker, fàrmer, quícker.

But it is like a stressed schwa in cërtain, bërth ship (= bïrth born), nërve, sërve, mërchant, nërd, and as -ëar- in hëard. The same sound can be found using different vowel letters in shïrt, bürn and wörth.

and are both pronounced û (= yoû) in most words, though not after the liquid sounds r and l: Ándreŵ Leŵis does not have the y semi-consonant in either name.

is Greek for ‘well’, and it begins lots of words: eûlogy, euthanâsia, eûcharist (-k), eûphemism.

This combination occurs in other words as well: Teûton, queûe line (= cûe theatre, snooker, *kyû).

A following r will usually modify the sound to : neùron, Eùrope, pleùrisy. (There is a similarly modified sound without the e, but still with the y semiconsonant sound, as in tûne.)

is used finally, and is therefore more common: vieŵ, feŵ, deŵ, Keŵ, Jeŵ, peŵ, neŵ, seŵer, neŵer, vieŵer, yeŵ tree (= yoû me) - cf. rewård (ríw-). sew needle, however, is pronounced like therefore.

Before v the sound is usually short, é, it being very rare to double the letter v: lévy, bévy, séven, eléven and: léaven, héaven. The long sound is found in êven, belìêve, lêave and clêave.

-èy, pronounced â, occurs at the end of some words of one or two syllables: thèy, whèy, obèy, purvèy, prèy victim; but this final sound is more usually spelt -ây: prây God, sây, dây, delây, wây, stây. In ósprey, both pronunciations -èy and -êy are heard.

And at the end of some words -ey is an unstressed ê: whískey (= Irish variant of Scots whísky) cürtsey, blàrney, chútney, nôsey, hóckey, and in many place-names: Shéppey, Bátley, Púdsey, Guërnsey, Ålderney - and in some people’s names: Jéffrey = Géoffrey, Bàrney, Áshley, Càrney, Wolsey (ù).

But this final sound is more usually spelt with just -y: fúnny, sílly, háppy, jétty, Sálly, ûsually, véry, Dàrcy.

Adjectives formed from words ending in e in some cases have the option of retaining the e: prîcey or prîcy; but dîcey, not *dîcy.

i before e except after c remains a good rule, and the same applies to w with the exception of wìêld. After c the sound is êi: decêit, cêiling, recêive - and similarly after w: wêird, wêir - though not with the different sound in wèigh, wèight heavy (= wâit time).

e plus r gives the ër sound: wëre, përson, vërdant, përm, vërve, sërvant, sometimes spelt with a redundant a: lëarn, hëard, yëarn, pëarl, ëarth, rehëarse, dëarth.

But in heàrt, heàrth, Keàrney (= Càrney), it is the e that is redundant.

Irregular e’s

Spelling Pronunciation
bléssed (attributive adjective) *bléssid
bûreau *byûrô
bureaucracy *byurócracy
canoe *canoô
Cheyenne shŷ Ánn
clërk office (regular in AmE) BrE Clàrk person
dërby (regular in AmE) BrE Dàrby person
en másse *ón máss
en roûte *ón roòt
encore *óncŏr
England *Íngland
English *Ínglish
ensemble *onsómble
entrepreneur BrE *óntrəprə-nër, AmE *óntrəprə-nûr
he’s *híz (= hís)
Khrùshchev *Krùshchóff (either stressed)
lëarned (attributive adjective) *lëarnid
pláteau *plátô
pretty *prítty
reveille *reválly
sacrilegious *sacrelígious, *sacrelíjəss (from sácrilege)
sergeant army Sàrgent person
sew needle therefore
she’s *shíz (mostly BrE)
shoe foot shoô away
tábleau *táblô

A regular pronunciation 'caméllia', short sound before double consonant, has given way to the rule-breaking camêllia (which sounds as if it is spelt *camêlia).

Imports, etc.

In some words imported from French, initial en- is pronounced with a French-style ón-: encore, entreprenëur, ensemble (*onsómble). In others, it depends on the speaker: énvelôpe or *ónvelôpe, énclâve or *ónclâve.

In some Russian names e alone represents the sound of the equivalent Russian letter, : Brézhnév *Brézhnyeff, Medvédev *Medvyédeff or even *Medvyédyeff, similarly in Litvinénko, and optionally in Donétsk.

There is another redundant e in yeôman, cf. the redundant os in léopard and pêople.

Final silent e

pêople also provides an example of the very common silent e in final position, where it often (especially in monosyllables) indicates a long sound of the preceding vowel: tîme, rhŷme, lâthe, câve, hôpe, thêse, mîne, tâke, tûne, phâse, âche (*âyk), Pête. The new spelling lêde is used by some to distinguish lêad intro from léad pencil, metal.

Some examples of final silent e where it has no effect on the preceding vowel: gíve, fámíne, cāstle, machìne, nóctürne, mássàge (-àzh). In térrace, víllage, méssage, the unstressed a can be pronounced as a schwa or a very short í.

Mediaeval scribes often added silent final es to the ends of the lines of poems in order to equalise their visible length, and this is the source of many of those tacked on to the ends of common words in names: the colour bròwn reappears capitalised as the surnames Bròwn and Bròwne; similarly grêen, Grêen, Grêene; stêel, Stêel, Stêele, etc.

But in final position e can be, especially in words from Greek, an unstressed ê: Penélopê, apóstrophê, synécdochê, ácmê and, always before a vowel beginning the next word, thê article (= thêe you).

Past tenses, etc.

The rules for the pronunciation of regular past tenses are: after t or d: -íd: wanted, lôaded, but silent e in other cases: after other voiced consonants: -d: plâgued (-gd), nâmed (-md) and after other unvoiced consonants: -t: kícked (-kt), flápped (-pt).

However, these forms when used as attributive adjectives can ignore these rules: bléssed, lëarned (both -íd): a bléssed thíng (*bléssid), a lëarned mán (*lëarnid).

The sound of final French é is usually unstressed è (ây). It may, however, depending on the speaker, be stressed - and even written with an acute accent: café, risqué, roué for cáfè, rìsquè (-sk-; or -) and roûè.

sergeant is pronounced as in Sir Málcolm Sàrgent.

-er, -ər, is a common suffix, showing an agent (as with -or): têacher, wörker, desîgner, lécturer, plâyer, bòuncer, díshwasher, shócker, hêater.

-er also forms the comparative of adjectives: nîcer, lónger, bétter, stûpider.

ear has three sounds:

êar, hêar, gêar, fêar, dêar, Lêar, nêar, rêar, wêary
béãr carry, animal (= bãre naked), péãr fruit (= pãir two, pãre trim), wéãr dress (= wãre sell)
hëard, hëarse, lëarn - and yêar can be yëar

Compare: téar rip, têar cry (= tìêr row).

French -eau is pronounced -ô: pláteau, tábleau, beau (= Diddley).

A final silent -e is retained before -able if it aids pronunciation: pronòunceable (*pronòunsable, not 'pronòunkable'), sâleable (*sâlable, not 'sállable').


This has several pronunciations:

  • êô: Lêô
  • êó: thêólogy, gêógraphy (j-, careful pronunciation, see below)
  • êə: Thêodore, geográphic
  • ê: pêople, MacGêoghegan (*McGêegan, hard G)
  • é: Léonard; fêoff/féoff can be either
  • èə: Bèowulf
  • òw: Macleod (= McClòud)
  • ô: yeôman, Eôín (= Ôwen)
  • yoôə: McKeoŵn (= McEŵen)
  • e softening g: Geŏrge (*Jŏrj), geógraphy (jóg-, quick pronunciation, see above), geográphic (êə, as above)
  • èô: ÈÔKA
  • éô: in the optional, classical (non-Anglicized) pronunciation of the Latin phrases éô ípsô and éô nómíné

-ent and -ant

-ent is more common than -ant. In particular, there is -ment: fïrmament, curtâilment, prefërment, entîtlement, àrgument. -mant only occurs when -ant is added to -m: dormant, clâimant.

And -dent: indepéndent, àrdent, respléndent, correspóndent, trîdent, depéndent adjective (cf. depéndant person).

After "soft" g: ürgent, resürgent, sergeant (*sàrjent).

Also ínsolent, përmanent, rédolent, sërpent, éxcellent - but pétulant.

Finally, some contrasting pronunciations in similar-looking words: êke, ére before (= ãir breathe), êve, eŵe sheep (= yoû me = yeŵ tree) and eŷe sight (= Î me = î letter).

Invisible silent e

The e that softens g to produce the j sound is invisible in Wédgwood and Édgbaston (*Wédgewood, *Édgebaston, cf. wédge, édge), and may also be absent from júdg(e)ment.

Scientific uses