Thursday, 15 August 2013


There are a few English words starting with the letter sequence <kn>:
  • knack
  • knag
  • knap
  • knar
  • knead
  • knee
  • kneel
  • knife
  • knight
  • knicker
  • knickerbocker
  • knob
  • knot
  •  ...
The <k> is a silent letter in all these words. <kn> had been pronounced /kn/ in Old, Middle and Early Modern English times before it was reduced to /n/ (via /x/ and /h/) in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The only word I'm familiar with which has initial /kn/ is the word 'knesset'. The earliest quotation attested in the OED dates back to 1949. So the word seems to have entered the English language long after the change from /kn/ to /n/ had taken place.
Correction: In the meantime another word with initial /kn/ popped up in my mind: 'Knossos'.
Being a modern loanword, however, does not prevent it from being adapted to the usual sound restrictions:



  1. knew knock know knowledge knuckle

  2. /knɒk knɒk huːz ðɛː/
    John who?
    John Maidment telling you not to pronounce the initial /k/.