Sorted by spelling

Spelling As in

(Words in brackets indicate the spelling is representing two sounds, not just one)

a cat last table want all
hangi sofa any naïve
aa baa
a…e came village Thames (sesame)
ae sundae algae maestro haemorrhage
aer aeroplane
ah galah cheetah Fahrenheit dahlia
ai rain bonsai plait again (mosaic)
aigh straight
aille Versailles
air hair
aire millionaire
al half walk salmon
ao Maori gaol
ar farm warm scarce dollar (carol)
are care are
arr charred
au caution fault kauri aunt mauve
aud Benaud
augh caught
augha Vaughan
aul baulk
ault Renault
aur dinosaur
aw saw (away)
awe awesome
awy lawyer
ay say quay kayak says
aye aye
ayer prayer
ayor mayor
b bib
bb rubber
bh Bhutan
bt debt
bu buy
c cat cell cello appreciate
ç façade
cc soccer focaccia
cch zucchini
ce piece crustacean
ch chip school chef
che panache
ci special ciao
ck duck
cq acquit
cqu racquet
ct indict
d did hoped educate
dd add
de aide
dg budgie
dge bridge
dh jodhpurs
di soldier
dj adjective
dt Leichhardt
e red me café entrée erupt
e…e these fete creme fraiche
ea sea head great Sean bream
eah yeah
ear hear learn bear heart
eau bureau bureaucracy beauty
ed bagged locked
ee see matinée breeches
eer beer
ei vein feisty seize leisure chow mein
eigh weight height Leigh
eir their
eo leopard people yeoman cheongsam McLeod
eou Seoul
er her butter zero clerk metier
ere here there were
err preferred Herr
erre guerre
eu feud sleuth milieu Freud
eur poseur
ew chew new sew (rewrite)
ey chimney they Reynold Cheyenne Anne Boleyn
eye eye
f fin of
fe carafe
ff off
ffe giraffe
ft soften
g got gel aubergine Bundestag
ge large beige renege
gg biggest suggest
gh ghost cough Callaghan
gi region
gl imbroglio
gm paradigm
gn sign lasagna
gu guess (penguin)
gue league
h hot hour
i in hi ski onion timbre
ia marriage Chiang Mai diamond
i…e time sardine (recipe)
ie chief pie friend sieve lingerie
ier tier
igh high
ir bird souvenir iron (pirate)
irr stirred
j jump deja vu fjord jojoba hallelujah
k look
ke Bourke
kh khaki Khomeini
kk trekking
kn knit
l leg
le battle
ll bell tortillas carillon
lle grille
m met
mb lamb
mbe bombe
me gendarme
mm summer
mme femme
mn column mnemonic
n not wink
ñ El Niño
ne caffeine
ng wing Pekingese
nn running
nne julienne
o got no front do offend
wolf women Dostoevsky
o…e home (abalone)
oa boat broad
oar roar
oe toe phoenix shoe does Goethe
oh doh John bohrium
oi coin coiffure (stoic)
oir boudoir  choir
oire armoire
ol yolk
oo boot book blood brooch (coopt)
ooh pooh
oor poor
oore Moore
or for word tractor (forest)
ore more
ou out soup jealous cousin soul
cough Houston ouija
ough bought dough drought through thorough
(rough) (cough)
oui bouillon
oul could
oup coup
our four (our) colour journal
ow how low knowledge
owe owe Howe
oy toy coyote
p pop
pb cupboard
pe troupe
ph phone Stephen
phth phthalates
pn pneumonia
pp hopping
ppe steppe
pph sapphire
ps psychologist
pt receipt
q quit Qantas Qigong
qu (quit) mosquito
que cheque
r run sour
re centre
rh rhino
rr hurry
rrh cirrhosis
s set is treasure sugar chablis
sc science fascism viscount
sce coalesce
sch schnitzel (school)
sci conscious
se horse please
sh shop
shi cushion
si mansion version business
ss fuss dessert tissue
sse mousse
ssi passion brassiere
st castle
sth asthma
sw sword
t top nature ballet negotiate
tch catch
te route righteous
th thigh thy Thomas
the (the) soothe
ti motion question equation
tsch kitsch
tt rattle
tte serviette
u cup put flu tuna quit
bury busy assurance
u…e tune rude (museum)
ue blue cue Brueghel
ui suit nuisance
uo fluoride
ur fur
ure (cure) picture sure
urr purred
v van Chekhov
ve groove
vv skivvy
w will Wagner
wh when who Whakapapa
wo two twopence
wr wrist
x (fix) xylophone excellent (example) indexes
(luxury) faux  Don Quixote
xe (axe)
xi (anxious)
y yes my baby gym Yogyakarta
ye bye
y…e type
yr myrtle
yrrh myrrh
z zip pretzel Nazi seizure
ze ooze
zz buzz pizza

If the spelling you’re interested in doesn’t appear here, you might be thinking of a spelling that actually represents two or more sounds, not just one. Or it might be very obscure, in which case please tell me about it, and I will add it to these lists.

© Alison Clarke 2012

10 thoughts on “Sorted by spelling

  1. Alex

    Thanks for these vey helpful lists!

    Are patterns like ‘iou’ as in ‘spacious’ and ‘religious’ not listed because the ‘i’ is considered to be part of the previous consonant rather than part of a vowel spelling pattern?

    1. alison Post author

      You’re welcome! Yes, to my way of thinking, ci is quite a common spelling of the phoneme /sh/ in words with Latin suffixes, see, and gi is a less common spelling of /j/, see These spellings often function to preserve the spelling of the base word as a recognisable morpheme e.g. music-musician, deficit-deficient, sacrilege-sacrilegious, litigate-litigious. Hope that makes sense and thanks for your feedback. Alison

      1. Alex

        Thanks for the explanation! I’ve often been unsure of how to cover those common consonant + vowel combinations, but that’s a good point. Would you also break up the -tion suffix similarly (teaching it as ‘ti’ + ‘o’ + ‘n’)?

        One similar case: I was looking at words in which ‘d’ is pronounced /dʒ/ and it seems like almost all of them have the sequence ‘di’ and ‘du.’ I wonder if all the ‘d’>/dʒ/ were previously /di/ or /dj/ and then changed to /dʒ/.

  2. Alex

    A couple other ideas for the list:
    – ‘mn’ as in ‘mnemonic’ for the /n/ sound
    – ‘th’ as in ‘posthumous’ for the /tʃ/ sound
    – ‘z’ as in ‘rendezvous’ or ‘chez’ for the silent z

    1. alison Post author

      I have ‘mn’ listed as a spelling of /n/ under my sorted-by-sound menu:, but as it’s the only word I know with this spelling, I didn’t set up a page for it, which is why it wasn’t on the sorted-by-sound menu, which I set up later to link to the sub-pages of the sorted-by-sound menu. I’ve added it now, thanks for pointing this out.

      Re: ‘posthumous’, the morphological structure is prefix ‘post’ plus ‘hum’ from Latin ‘humare’ meaning to bury, plus adjectival suffix ‘ous’, so it never occurred to me to think of the th as a digraph, very interesting. I think of the letter h as unpronounced, like in “hour”, “honour”, “exhume”, and heaps of other words, see I think of the next letter as u as in ‘unit’ reduced to a schwa (/jə/). I’m not sure there’s any spelling benefit to be had by slicing it as you suggest, but the /tʃ/ pronunciation is listed in my Oxford Aust English dictionary as an alternate, so I guess you could do that if you wanted to, and create a new phoneme-grapheme correspondence that is used in only one word. I’ve done my best to avoid this whenever I can, so if there are alternate pronunciations that fit my existing categories, I’ve gone with them. But I guess over time the /tjə/ pronunciation might fall out of use and I’ll have to rethink this.

      I have a menu under Sorted By Sound for mostly French-origin words with letters that aren’t pronounced like ballet, rendezvous, chablis, Grand Prix, etc, see

      So interesting to have feedback like this to give me a reason to check and fine-tune my lists, thanks so much for taking the time to send it. Alison

      1. Alex

        Thanks for the response! I’d somehow never thought about where the word ‘posthumous’ came from, but that strange /tʃ/ makes a lot more sense to me now, I guess like, dropped medial /h/ and then /j/ assimilating to /ʃ/ to form /tʃ/. That grapheme>phoneme match looked strange to me, so I’m glad to see where it could’ve come from finally!

        This also makes me think about my general approach… I think my instinct is to just look at how the graphemes and phonemes could possibly be interpreted as lining up by a learner, ignoring structure, root words, etymology, etc. So, even though that ‘t’ and ‘h’ come from different parts of the word, a learner might see it and interpret it as the familiar ‘th’ digraph, and so I want to point it out as an exception to the usual ‘th’ sounds. Or another example, my instinct is to teach that while it’s more common to spell /i/ as ‘ee,’ it’s also possible to spell it ‘ee…e’ as in ‘cheese,’ even though that last ‘e’ is probably more accurately interpreted as part of the common word-final ‘se’ than as part of the vowel.

        But learning more about how literacy is taught, including here on your website, I’m thinking I can balance my approach more, and include more information about word roots, affixes, etc.. Sorry, a bit rambling, just interesting to think this all over!

  3. Michelle

    Hi Alison,

    This is such a great list, thank you so much!! If there are 44 phonemes in English, how many graphemes would you say there are in English?
    Some references I have found say 250, but I feel like your list is even more comprehensive than that! 🙂

    Thank you!

    1. alison Post author

      I’ve never actually done a count, it depends what you count and teach as a grapheme, and don’t forget that most graphemes relate to more than one phoneme (e.g. the ou in out, soup, cough, rough, soul). Not all graphemes need to be taught, as once kids know the main patterns and are using good strategies (saying the sounds as they write their spellings, especially, and saying words with funny spellings the way they are spelt), the outliers stand out and are easy to remember. If you count things that only occur in one common word, like the ‘au’ in ‘gauge’, the ‘oo’ in ‘brooch’ and the ‘aigh’ in ‘straight, there are probably over 300. But only about 200 occur in words that are important to beginners, and if your phonics curriculum covers 160 or 170 of those it’s doing really well. Words like ‘any’ and ‘many’ probably should just be taught as outliers rather than telling kids the letter A represents the sound /e/, as they’re almost the only words that matter like this. It’s when we DON’T tell kids which are the weird spellings, and they try to generalise from them, that they can run into lots of trouble. Hope that makes sense. Alison


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