In English as Germanic language K is ignored at the beginning of word in speech. Night and knight have to be pronounced similar. Then how to differentiate?

  • 3
    Different words pronounced identically are well known in English, TIKSN - they even have a special name: homonyms. Sometimes, different words are even spelt the same way (like bear = grizzly etc and bear = carry). The context usually makes it quite clear which word is intended: The knight slew a huge bear - this happened only last night. He used his squire's horse to bear its carcase back to the castle, so the squire had to walk. Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 14:30
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    This is my kids' favourite book: Good Night, Good Knight (amazon.com/Night-Knight-Penguin-Young-Readers/dp/0142302015) There is no difference in pronunciation.
    – JAM
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 14:54
  • Context is everything.
    – Hugo
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 16:29
  • What @Hugo said. Context is everything. That's how we figure out which of multiple homonyms apply in any given case. That point is General Reference, or (since we have no context here) the question is Not Constructive. Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 17:59
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    @EdwinAshworth I think you mean homophones.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 22:43

3 Answers 3



"The Black Knight" isn't going to provide enough context to determine which (k)night is meant; "The black knight rode in on his charger" probably will.

The presence of an article might help; knight will usually need some determiner and night often does not. However you will still encounter a sentence like "the night was dark" where you have to rely on further information.

[Incidentally, Knecht in German does have its K pronounced, or certainly did when I was taught German.]

  • And in Pythonese. Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 14:31
  • Incidentally, genau.
    – livresque
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 15:36
  • And I confirm that the K in German Knecht is still pronounced. In fact, I don't think there are any German words beginning with "Kn" in which the K is silent. Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 0:19

The 'K' in knight used to be pronounced in Old English and Middle English, so they weren't homophones until Modern English.

You distinguish them in speech from the context, just the same way you distinguish 'there' and 'their'.

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    They still are not homonyms; they’re homophones.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 22:43
  • 1
    As @tchrist says, it's "homophone". "Homonym" means that the words are spelled alike but have different meanings. "Homophone" means that the words are sounded the same but are spelled differently. I've edited your answer accordingly. Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 0:17

If you hear "It was at night/during the night" you won't hardly think of "knight". The structures in which those two nouns are used are totally different. If in a language two words are pronounced alike you may assume that the structures they are used in are different. Otherwise the community of speakers would differentiate them.

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