This doesn't make sense to me. Is it just laziness?

  • If that is the way Queen Elizabeth pronounces it, that is good enough for me.
    – user78279
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 14:03

1 Answer 1


From Dictionary.com:

Word Origin & History


c.1300, vitaylle (singular), from Anglo-Fr. and O.Fr. vitaille, from L.L. victualia "provisions," noun use of plural of victualis "of nourishment," from victus "livelihood, food, sustenance," from base of vivere "to live" (see vital). Spelling altered early 16c. to conform with Latin, but pronunciation remains "vittles."

Vitaille had no "c", and hence its English form was pronounced "vittle". Only later was the "c" added.

  • Mine was a crap answer, you're right. Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 18:55
  • 6
    It's called a false etymology -- essentially, some scholar along the way missed the intervening few hundred years of French (and, one would suppose, Proto-Romance) usage and assumed it came from the Latin more directly. A surprisingly large number of English spellings are back-formed this way; victuals is actually more correct than most since it can eventually be traced back to victus. A lot of false etymologies are nothing more than coincidence.
    – bye
    Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 20:54
  • 4
    Early linguists tended to be Latin scholars, and thought all languages should have rules similar to Latin's. This is the source of all kinds of sillyness, like the supposed rule that setences should not end with prepositions, or infinitives should not be "split".
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 19:17
  • 2
    silent c: indict, victuals, arctic; silent p: receipt; silent s: isle, island; silent b: debt, doubt, subtle. All these have to do with 16th century zeal for etymological explanations.
    – RainDoctor
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 4:58
  • 1
    @RainDoctor Arctic doesn't have a silent c for me (or anyone else I've heard say the word). Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 14:11

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.