Silent K in English
I like to say that spelling and pronunciation in English are a bit of an adventure. The silent K is an interesting example. No one is sure exactly why the K became silent in English words like knight and knife. However, some time around six hundred years ago, people began to drop the K sound when it was associated with N.
Why do we still use the K if no one actually says it?
That’s a great question. Personally, I like it. English has a rich history. It’s the history of the people who spoke it in England centuries ago, and the people around the world who use it today. So, when I spell words with the silent K, I feel a connection to speakers from long ago, and that’s fun.
Is the K always silent before N?
No. Actually, it is pronounced in some family names. When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, we often went to an amusement park called Knoeble’s Grove. Everyone pronounced it “kuh-no-bels”. My family refused because, after all, the K is silent right? Wrong! Turns out, Knoeble is a family name, and the K is not silent. (I pronounced it wrong for years!)
In all of the words below, the K is silent. Simply pronounce the N. For example, knead sounds the same as need, and knot sounds the same as not.
Which “Kn” word is your favorite? Mine is “knurling”. That’s the rough pattern we see on barbells and dumbbells in the gym.
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