Vowels 1 and 13, /i/ and //    549 pairs    [beakbake.html]

The spellings of /i/ exhibit their usual range, with the common <ee> and <ea>, as well as the letter names B, D, E, G and P, <ei> in ceiling, <ie> in wield, <oe> in foetal, and <ey> and <ay> in key and quay. The spellings of // are similarly varied, most commonly <ay>, <ai> and <aCe>, but also the letter names A, H, and J, <ei> in deign and weigh, <eCe> in crepe, and <ey> in Seychelles.

Although this is a contrast between a vowel and a diphthong, there is potential for confusion, especially for those speakers whose language uses a tense /e/ vowel and no front closing diphthong.

I have left in the two pronunciations of re, although I doubt if they count as a minimal pair since they have the same meaning. The pair redid and raided differ in stress as well as vowel quality, but might still be a problem for learners.

The only mildly taboo word pairs are pee/pay and wee/way.

There are a good many interesting pairs which differ widely in part of speech and/or meaning. These include:

beacon bacon
ceiling sailing
fever favour
displease displays
mystique mistake
need neighed
needier nadir
ouija wager
peacemaker pacemaker
people papal
seashells Seychelles
specious spacious
steeple staple
unfeeling unfailing
wheels Wales

The mean density is 6.8%. The 549 pairs make 304 semantic contrasts, a semantic loading of 54%.

alee allay
apiece apace 
B bay
  B's bays
B bey
  B's beys
B's baize
be bay
  being baying 
be bey
beacon bacon 
bead bayed 
beak bake 
  beaker baker 
  beakers bakers 
  beaks bakes 
bean bane 
beast based 
beast baste
  beasts bastes 
beat bait 
  beating baiting 
  beats baits
beat bate
  beating bating
  beats bates
bee bay
bee bey
been bane
bees baize
bees bays
bees beys
beet bait
  beets baits
beet bate
  beets bates
bleed blade 
  bleeds blades 
breed braid
  breeding braiding
  breeds braids
breed brayed
breeze braes 
breeze braise
  breezed braised 
  breezes braises 
  breezing braising 
breeze brays
breeze braze
  breezed brazed
  breezes brazes
  breezing brazing
breezier brazier 
breve brave 
  breves braves 
C say
ceiling sailing
  ceilings sailings
chic shake
chic sheikh
chief chafe 
  chiefs chafes 
cleave clave 
creak crake 
  creaks crakes 
creek crake
  creeks crakes
creep crape
creep crepe
D day
  D's days
D's daze
deal dale
  deals dales 
dean Dane 
  deans Danes 
dean deign
  deans deigns
deem dame 
  deems dames 
demean domain
demeans domains
displease displays
E A 
  E's A's
E aye
E eh
each aitch
each H 
Ealing ailing
ease A's
eat eight
  eats eights
eel ail 
  eels ails 
eel ale
  eels ales
egret aigret 
  egrets aigrets 
eke ache 
  eked ached 
  ekes aches 
  eking aching 
feast faced 
feat fête
  feats fêtes
feat fate 
  feats fates 
fee fey
feeble fable 
feed fade 
  feeding fading 
  feeds fades 
feel fail 
  feeling failing 
  feelings failings 
  feels fails 
fees phase
feet fête
feet fate
fever favour 
  fevered favoured 
  fevers favours 
field failed 
fiend feigned 
flea flay 
  fleas flays 
flee flay
  fleeing flaying 
  flees flays
foetal fatal
free fray 
  freed frayed 
  freeing fraying 
  frees frays 
freeze frays
freeze phrase
  freezes phrases
  freezing phrasing
frieze frays
frieze phrase
  friezes phrases
  G's J's
G jay
  G's jays
gee J
gee jay
gene Jane
genie Janie
genus Janus 
ghee gay 
glees glaze 
grease grace 
  greased graced 
  greases graces 
  greasing gracing 
greaves graves 
greed grade 
greed grayed
greed greyed
green grain 
  greens grains 
greet grate 
  greeted grated 
  greets grates 
greet great
greeting grating 
  greetings gratings 
grieve grave 
  grieves graves
grippe grape 
  grippes grapes 
he hay 
he hey
heal hail
  healed hailed 
  healing hailing
  heals hails 
heal hale
heat hate 
  heated hated 
  heating hating 
  heats hates
heel hail
  heeled hailed
  heeling hailing
  heels hails
heel hale
helpmeet helpmate 
  helpmeets helpmates 
jean Jane
Jeanie Janie 
jeep jape 
  jeeps japes 
keel kail 
keel kale
keen cane
  keened caned 
  keening caning 
  keens canes 
keep cape 
  keeper caper 
  keepers capers 
  keeps capes 
key K 
  keys K's 
key Kay
knead neighed
knee n_ee
knee nay
knee neigh
  knees neighs
kneel nail
  kneeled nailed
  kneeling nailing
  kneels nails
knees neighs
lea lay
  leas lays 
lea ley
  leas leys
lead lade
  leading lading 
lead laid
leak lake
  leaks lakes 
lean lain 
lean lane
  leans lanes 
leas laze
lease lace 
  leased laced 
  leases laces 
  leasing lacing 
least laced
leave lave 
  leaves laves 
  leaving laving 
lee lay
  lees lays
lee ley
  lees leys
leek lake
  leeks lakes
lees laze
Leigh lay
Leigh ley
lemur lamer 
lied late 
Lima lamer
litre later 
me may 
mead made 
mead maid
  meads maids 
meal mail 
  meals mails 
meal male
  meals males
mean main
  meanly mainly 
  means mains 
mean mane
  means manes
meat mate 
  meats mates 
  meaty matey 
meed made
meed maid
  meeds maids
meek make 
  meeker maker 
meet mate
  meeting mating 
  meets mates
mete mate
  meted mated
  metes mates
  meting mating
mi may
mien main
  miens mains
mien mane
  miens manes
mislead mislaid 
mystique mistake 
  mystiques mistakes 
neap nape 
  neaps napes 
need neighed
needier nadir 
Neil nail
ouija wager
  ouijas wagers 
overeat overate 
overeat overrate
  overeating overrating
  overeats overrates
P pay
  P's pays
pea pay
peace pace 
  peacemaker pacemaker 
  peacemakers pacemakers 
peal pail 
  peals pails 
peal pale
  pealed paled 
  pealing paling 
  peals pales
peas pays
pease pays
peat pate
pee pay
  peed paid 
  peeing paying 
  pees pays
peel pail
  peels pails
peel pale
  peeled paled
  peeler paler
  peeling paling
  peelings palings
  peels pales
peeper paper 
  peepers papers 
peeve pave 
  peeved paved 
  peeves paves 
  peeving paving 
people papal 
Pete pate
piece pace
  pieced paced 
  pieces paces 
  piecing pacing 
pieced paste
plea play 
  pleas plays 
plead played 
please plays
pleat plate 
  pleated plated 
  pleating plating
  pleats plates
quay K
  quays K's
quay Kay
re ray 
re re
read raid 
  reader raider 
  readers raiders 
  reading raiding 
  reads raids 
read rayed
reap rape 
  reaped raped 
  reaping raping 
  reaps rapes 
redid raided
reed raid
  reeds raids
reed rayed
reek rake 
  reeked raked 
  reeking raking 
  reeks rakes 
reel rail 
  reeled railed 
  reeling railing 
  reels rails 
reeve rave 
  reeves raves 
scene sane 
scene seine
  scenes seines
sea say
seal sail
  sealed sailed 
  sealer sailor 
  sealers sailors 
  seals sails 
seal sale 
  seals sales
seam same 
seashells Seychelles 
seat sate 
  seated sated 
  seating sating 
  seats sates 
see say
  seeing saying
seek sake 
  seeks sakes
seem same
seen sane
seen seine
sheaves shaves 
sheep shape 
siege sage
  sieges sages 
Sikh sake
  Sikhs sakes
skeet skate 
  skeets skates 
sleek slake 
  sleeked slaked 
  sleeking slaking 
  sleeks slakes 
sleet slate 
  sleeted slated 
  sleetier slatier 
  sleetiest slatiest 
  sleeting slating 
  sleets slates 
  sleety slaty 
sleeve slave 
  sleeved slaved 
  sleeves slaves 
sneak snake 
  sneaked snaked 
  sneakier snakier 
  sneakiest snakiest 
  sneaking snaking 
  sneaks snakes 
  sneaky snaky 
speak spake 
specious spacious 
  speciously spaciously 
  speciousness spaciousness 
speed spade 
  speeded spaded 
  speeding spading 
  speeds spades 
speed spayed
spree spray 
  sprees sprays 
steal stale 
  stealing staling 
  steals stales 
steed staid 
steed stayed
steel stale
  steeled staled 
  steeling staling
  steels stales
steeple staple 
  steeples staples 
Steve stave
street straight
  streets straights 
street strait
  streets straits
swede suede
swede swayed
teak take 
teal tail 
teal tale
team tame 
  teamed tamed 
  teaming taming 
  teams tames 
teem tame
  teemed tamed
  teeming taming
  teems tames
thee they
treat trait 
  treats traits 
tree tray 
  trees trays 
treed trade 
'tween twain
unfeeling unfailing 
  unfeelingly unfailingly 
unseeing unsaying
veal vale 
veal veil
we way 
we weigh
we whey
weak wake 
  weaken waken 
  weakened wakened 
  weakening wakening 
  weakens wakens 
weal wail
  weals wails
weal whale
  weals whales
weald wailed 
weald whaled
weals Wales 
wean wain
  weans wains 
wean wane
  weaned waned 
  weaning waning 
  weans wanes
weave waive
  weaver waiver 
  weavers waivers 
  weaves waives 
  weaving waiving 
weave wave
  weaver waver
  weavers wavers
  weaves waves
  weaving waving
wee way
   wees ways
wee weigh
  weeing weighing
  wees weighs
wee whey
weed wade
  weeded waded 
  weeding wading 
  weeds wades
weed weighed
week wake
  weeks wakes 
wheat wait 
wheat weight
wheel wail
  wheeled wailed
  wheeling wailing 
  wheels wails
wheel whale
  wheeled whaled
  wheeling whaling
  wheels whales
wheels Wales
wheeze ways
wheeze weighs
wield wailed
wield whaled
wreak rake
  wreaked raked
  wreaking raking
  wreaks rakes
wreath wraith 
ye yea
Geographical: Outside English-speaking countries, most visitors are from Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Serbia, Vietnam, Poland, India, Jordan, Philippines, Germany, Yemen, Thailand, Costa Rica and France. Average 29 visitors per month.

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2011.