Why is the k silent in: known /nəʊn/; knife /nʌɪf/, and knight /nʌɪt/?

What does this specify?And what is k doing there if there is no need to pronounce it?

  • 6
    See related threads here, here, and here.
    – Kyle
    Dec 31, 2015 at 9:00
  • It used to be pronounced, like the 'gh' in 'night', or the silent 'e' at the end of half the words in English. The British are lazier in pronouncing than they are in spelling.
    – Mitch
    Dec 31, 2015 at 15:39

2 Answers 2


That silent k, at one point in the history of English, didn't used to be silent. Anglo-Saxon (Old English) did in fact pronounce the k. A trait that still exists in most other modern Germanic languages, i.e. Dutch, Frisian, Danish, German etc. However, somewhere down the road in the evolution of English, the k sound had for some reason dropped but the spelling had petrified. Long story short, it's significance is historical rather than practical.

  • Some people still pronounce a "hint" of the letter.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 31, 2015 at 13:55
  • Why is it not dropped from the spelling, then?
    – Koyovis
    May 25, 2017 at 2:27

The parallel to knight is German Knecht. In German the k is still pronounced. So the k in knight has a historical basis. And "night" and "knight" are differentiated in spelling.

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