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In elementary school, I was taught the rhyme:

"i" before "e" except after "c", and in words like "neighbor" and "weigh"

Obviously this means that "ei" is used in "deceive" (it comes after "c") and "sleigh" ("gh" follows it).

The word "weird" does not follow this rule, and I have always thought that to be weird (please pardon the pun). It has neither a "c" nor "gh", so why does it have this "ei" vowel combination instead of "ie"?


While writing this post, I noticed that "neither" also disobeys the rule, just like "weird". At first, I thought that maybe the "English gods" thought it would be a funny meta-joke to let "weird" have a weird spelling (like how "awkward" awkwardly has a "k" surrounded by two "w"s), but apparently there are other words as well!

marked as duplicate by David M, RyeɃreḁd, Mari-Lou A, anongoodnurse, choster Mar 10 '14 at 15:39

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  • Welcome to EL&U! This question has already been asked (well, approximately) here. – John Y Mar 9 '14 at 4:01
  • This is quintessentially the 'rule of thumb' which, perhaps better than any other, defines what a 'rule of thumb' is. It has scores of exceptions. For a comprehensive treatment see the below Wiki article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_before_E_except_after_C#Exceptions – WS2 Mar 9 '14 at 8:25
  • The chopped-off rule is as useless as saying that c is always pronounced /k/. The complete rule is “i before e except after c when representing /i:/ in the stressed syllable of a word that has no alternative pronunciation and is not a proper noun”. This version is useful, but still has exceptions (weird, seize, Eid), but they are quite few. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 9 '14 at 10:00