The /h/ sound is spelled with <h> or <wh> in who. The /w/ sound is spelled with <w> or <wh>.
This is a contrast between a voiceless glottal fricative and a voiced bilabial semivowel, only occurring in syllable-initial position. In spite of the different position and manner of articulation, this can be a problem for some learners, particularly the Mediterranean speakers whose own language lacks /h/, especially before back vowels.
Taboo word pairs include hank/wank and he/wee.
We come across this pair in the traditional exhortation:
Early to bed and early to rise
Makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise.
Other interesting pairs include:
The mean density value is fairly high at 6.3%. The lists make 137 semantic distinctions, a loading of 53%.
hack whack hacked whacked hacking whacking hacks whacks hacks wax hag wag hags wags haggle waggle haggled waggled haggles waggles haggling waggling hail wail hailed wailed hails wails hailing wailing hail whale hails Wales hair wear hairs wears hair ware hairs wares hairy wary hairier warier hairiest wariest hairiness wariness Haiti weighty hake wake hale wail hale whale hall wall halls walls halter Walter hang whang hanged whanged hanging whanging hangs whangs hank wank hanks wanks hare ware hares wares hare wear haring wearing hares wears haste waist haste waste hate wait hated waited hates waits hating waiting hate weight hated weighted hates weughts hating weighting haul wall hauled walled hauling walling hauls walls haulm warm Havering wavering haw war haws wars hawed ward hawk walk hawked walked hawking walking hawks walks hawker walker hawkers walkers hay way hay weigh Hayling wailing haze ways haze weighs he we he wee head wed headed wedded heads weds heading wedding headings weddings heal wheel heals wheels healed wheeled healing wheeling healed weald healed wield health wealth healthy wealthy healthier wealthier healthiest wealthiest healthily wealthily heap weep heaping weeping heaps weeps hear Wear hear weir hears weirs heard whirred heard word hearse worse heather weather heathers weathers heave weave heaves weaves heaving weaving hedge wedge hedged wedged hedges wedges hedging wedging heed weed heeded weeded heeding weeding heeds weeds heel wheel heels wheels heeled wheeled heeling wheeling heeled weald heeled wield height Wight height white heights whites heighten whiten heightened whitened heightening whitening heightens whitens held weld hell well hells wells help whelp helped whelped helping whelping helps whelps hen wen hens wens hence whence her were her whirr hers whirrs herd whirred herd word herded worded herding wording herds words Herr Ware Herr wear hi why hi Y hick wick hicks wicks hide wide hie why hie Y hies Y's high why high Y higher wire highly wily hilly Willie hilt wilt hilts wilts him whim hind whined hind wind hinds winds hippie whippy hire wire hired wired hires wires hiring wiring his whizz hissed whist hitch witch hitches witches hitching witching hither whither hive wive hived wived hives wives hiving wiving ho whoa ho woe hoar war hoard ward hoarded warded hoarding warding hoards wards hoard warred hoarder warder hoarders warders hobble wobble hobbled wobbled hobbles wobbles hobbling wobbling hod wad hods wads hoe whoa hoe woe hoes woes hoed woad hold wold holds wolds holler wallah hollers wallahs hollow wallow hollows wallows hollowed wallowed hollowing wallowing holly Wally Hon wan Hoo woo hood wood hooded wooded hoods woods hoof woof hoofs woofs hop whop hopped whopped hopping whopping hops whops hopper whopper hoppers whoppers Horley Warley horn warn horned warned horning warning horns warns Hosp wasp hot watt hot what hound wound house wows Hove wove how wow Huns ones hurl whirl hurled whirled hurling whirling hurls whirls hurry worry hurried worried hurries worries hurrying worrying hurt wert hymn whim hymns whims hysteria wisteria reheard reword unhurried unworried who woo whom womb whore war whores wars whore wore whoremonger warmonger whoremongers warmongers whose woos
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2010.