The English language has 26 letters, but we don’t use them equally. Before reading on, brainstorm the top ten letters you think are the most common in our alphabet.
The letter “E” is the most popular letter in the English language. According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, “E” appears in words 11.16% of the time.
2: “A”in’t Number One
With a word appearance frequency of 8.5%, “A” is the second-most common letter and vowel in English.
3: “R”oger That
“R” comes in third place as the most-used English letter and is the most commonly used consonant. Its frequency in words is 7.58%.
4: “I” Am Amazed
The letter “I” is used only 0.04% less frequently than “R,” clocking it in as the fourth-most used letter.
5: “O”h Wow
You read that right: Four out of the top five most common letters in the English language are vowels. “O” occurs in 7.16% of words.
6: “T”ake That
The letter “T” is the sixth-most common letter in English. It might be worth taking a bet on “T” if you’re ever a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, given that it appears in 6.95% of words.
7: “N”ow You See Me
While the letter “N” might make up 90% of a two-year-old’s vocabulary when they have “no” fits, it’s “only” found in 6.65% of English words.
8: “S”ounds About Right
The letter “S” drops to a 5.74% word appearance frequency, placing it as the eighth-most common word in the English language.
9: “L”ove Me Already
The world could use more love, but even so, the letter “L” is significantly more common in English words than most other letters. It appears 5.49% of the time.
10: “C”an Do
“C” rounds out the top ten most common letters in the English language, showing up in 4.54% of words.
What About “U”?
The fifth and final vowel in the English language has a word frequency appearance of 3.63%. That makes “U” the eleventh-most common letter.
Least Common Letter
The letters “Q” and “J” tie as the least common letters in the English language when rounded to the nearest tenth place (0.2%).
“Z” and “X” are other letters you won’t find often in text, appearing in words only 0.27% and 0.29% of the time, respectively.
Up until 1835, the English alphabet had 27 letters. It was then decided that the letter “&” would be removed after the letter “Z,” creating the 26-letter alphabet we know today.
Did You Know?
The “&” sign, which most modern-day Americans don’t recognize as a letter, is called the ampersand. It was designed by the word “et,” which is Latin for “and”.
One of the reasons English is so difficult for English as a second language students is because there are 40 different sounds, even though our alphabet only has 26 letters.
Have you heard of a lipogram? It has nothing to do with removing stomach fat and everything to do with intentionally excluding a letter from text.
Show and Tell
A famous lipogram literary work is Ernest Vincent Wright’s 50,000-word novel, Gadsby: Champion of Youth. Wright wrote his entire novel without including the letter “E,” the most common letter in the English language.
It’s estimated that about 100 languages are based on the Roman alphabet, amounting to approximately two billion Roman alphabet users.
23 Is Key
Ancient Rome only had 23 letters in their alphabet. Since the Roman times, the English language has developed the letters “J,” “V,” and “W”.
Making It One’s Own
Just because around 100 languages are based on the Roman alphabet doesn’t mean everyone uses it the same. Whereas English has 26 letters, the Finnish alphabet has 21 letters, and the Croatian alphabet has 30.
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