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Island is pronounced as 'aɪlənd and I can't help thinking about why the "s" is not pronounced. Is there a special list of words in English where "s" sound is omitted, or is this a special case just for "island"?

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closed as general reference by onomatomaniak, Hugo, Mitch, kiamlaluno, Daniel Dec 14 '11 at 21:19

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Given that a sufficient answer was produced by quoting Wikipedia, I'm voting to close as general reference. –  onomatomaniak Dec 14 '11 at 10:04

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Island was long written with different spellings which didn’t include ‘s’, so it has presumably always been pronounced without /s/. (The derivation is not from Latin insula but from various Germanic forms, which also had no ‘s’.)

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According to Wikipedia, island comes from Middle English iland. However, the spelling was modified in the 15th century due to an incorrect association with the French loanword isle.

For the second part of your question, there are other English words where the "s" is also silent:

  • isle: /ʌɪl/
  • aisle: /ʌɪl/
  • viscount: /ˈvʌɪkaʊnt/
  • demesne: /dɪˈmeɪn, dɪˈmiːn/
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Is the pronunciation of island pretty close to ireland, then? –  Kris Dec 14 '11 at 10:00
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@Kris If Apple had invented the word, they would probably have spelled it like iLand :-). SCNR –  Raku Dec 14 '11 at 10:38
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@Raku: So it would be a trademark and no man could be an iLand anymore? –  Kris Dec 14 '11 at 10:40
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@Kris: In (most of) the US, Ireland still has the R sound in it. –  GEdgar Dec 14 '11 at 14:04
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No /r/ is normally sounded in ‘Ireland’ in British English where it’s pronounced /aɪələnd/. The pronunciation of ‘island’, however, is close: /aɪlənd/. –  Barrie England Dec 14 '11 at 14:11

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