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GH, gh is a digraph (a two-letter grapheme) used with various different values in a number of languages using the Latin alphabet, especially in English, Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, Italian, Romanian, Friulian and Corsican. It also appears in standard transcriptions of writing systems such as Arabic and members of the Indic family.

Use in English

Use in English
Alphabetical word list
Retroalphabetical list  
Common misspellings  

gh in English is a notorious digraph that mostly represents the relic of a sound (IPA [χ]) still pronounced in exclamations of disgust, úgh! yeùgh!, and in a couple of Irish words: lóugh (pronounced like its Scottish equivalent, lóch) and Drógheda, but more often mutated into an f sound. It can also be silent, but modifying preceding vowels.

  • 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.

nîght and cóugh, for example, are pronounced *nîte and *cóff (the accents show pronunciation: see English spellings). It is pronounced f after óu and in: cóugh, tróugh, Góugh, enoúgh, toúgh, roúgh, sloúgh skin. More often, as in nîght, gh is silent, and quite a variety of vowel sounds and spellings can precede it: ŏught, sŏught, bŏught, cåught, nåughty, Våughan = Våughn, Wåugh, dôugh, èight, nèigh, wèigh, slèigh ride (= slây kill), wèight heavy (= wâit time), frèight, heîght, bòugh, throûgh, thôugh, Búrrôughs, sîght, nîght, nîgh, slòugh swamp and the English town Slòugh, both *slòu.

sough sound has various pronunciations, including *sóff, *soûkh and = sòw pig. [1]

ough is even a schwa (IPA [ə]) in British English bòrough, Scàrborough and thòrough, though in American these are bòrôugh, Scàrborôugh, and thòrôugh, rhyming with fúrrôw. BrE pronounces fürlôugh this way too.

In the Scottish word búrgh, gh may be considered a schwa, the word being pronounced much the same as the equivalent bòrough in England, *búrə.

In initial position the digraph merely represents a hard g, as in ghôst, ghoûl demon (= Goôle England), ghāstly, and also spaghéttì, Baghdád; and an h serves to distinguish dínghy boat (which can have hard g or silent g, but always the ng sound) from díngy dirty (soft g: *dínjy).

gh uniquely sounds like p in híccoúgh (a variant spelling of híccup). And sometimes Shêila turns out to be Shêilagh, with final silent gh.

In the town of Kêighley in Yorkshire, gh is pronounced as unvoiced th, like Kêith.

gh occurs accidentally in proper nouns where ng meets the suffix -ham: Bïrmingham, Búckingham, Wålsingham, Bíngham (-ngəm). In such names the h is usually silent in British English, but pronounced separately in American, which also keeps the strong á: BrE *Bïrmingəm, AmE Bïrminghám.

Example sentence

All examples of gh are silent in this sentence:

British English: Thôugh Î thínk ít's bêíng thŏught throûgh thòroughly.

American English: Thôugh Î thínk ít's bêíng thŏught/thóught throûgh thörôughly.

Pronounced: *Dhô Î thínk ít's bêíng thŏt/thót thrû thòrəly/thörôly/thörəly.