Rhythm has a very unusual spelling, breaking a lot of the common rules of thumb for spelling words. The rh is unusual; the use of y as a vowel in the middle of the word is unusual; and the lack of a normal vowel between the th and the m is extremely unusual

What is its etymology, and why does it have such an unexpected spelling?

  • Common enough to be known, rare enough that we haven't regularized the spelling to "Rithim" or some such. – Oldcat Oct 31 '14 at 17:57

Direct from Greek ῥυθμός (rhythmos). "rh" is not an unusual word start in Greek, "y" is just a vowel, "-os" turned into "-us" in Latin then fell off when accepted into English, so the vowel that would have been in the syllable with "m" went away.


Orthography reflects etymology, it does not always reflect the current pronunciation. Amadan is correct, rhythm comes from Greek, that is why it retains the usual transliteration of the Greek alphabet.

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