Consonants /n/ versus /w/, 199 pairs     [nilwill.html]

The /n/ sound is spelled with <n>, <kn> or <gn> in gnaw. The /w/ sound is spelled with <w> or <wh>, and occurs in the letter name Y.

This is a contrast between an alveolar nasal continuant and a bilabial semivowel, both voiced. It can only occur initially or medially. It is not a problem.

The rhyming pair "wavy navy" is a nickname for the British Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, since the rings on the officers' uniforms are wavy rather than straight to distinguish them from the career service. Other interesting pairs are :

needle wheedle
nobble wobble
snivel swivel

The mean density value is 1.3%. The lists make 105 semantic distinctions, a loading of 53%.

gnaw war
  gnaws wars
  gnawed warred
gnawed ward
gnu woo
  gnus woos
knack whack
  knacker whacker
  knackers whackers
  knacks whacks
knacks wax
knave waive
  knaves waives
knave wave
  knaves waves
knead weed
  kneaded weeded
  kneading weeding
  kneads weeds
knee we
knee wee
  knees wees
  kneeing weeing
kneel wheel
  kneeling wheeling
  kneels wheels
  kneeled wheeled
kneeled weald
kneeled wield
knell well
  knells wells
knelt welt
knife wife
  knives wives
knight Wight 
knight white
  knights whites
knighting whiting
knit whit 
knit wit 
  knits wits 
knobble wobble
  knobbles wobbles
knobbly wobbly
  knobblier wobblier
  knobbliest wobbliest
knot watt
  knots watts
knot what  
know whoa
know woe
  knows woes
nag wag
  nagged wagged
  nagging wagging
  nags wags
nail wail
  nailed wailed
  nailing wailing
  nails wails
nail whale
  nails whales  
nails Wales 
navy wavy
nay way
nay weigh
near Wear 
near weir
  nears weirs
neared weird
Ned wed
née way	
née weigh
need weed
  needed weeded
  needing weeding
  needs weeds
needle wheedle
  needled wheedled
  needles wheedles
  needling wheedling
needy weedy
  needier weedier
  neediest weediest
ne'er Ware 
ne'er wear
ne'er where
neigh way
  neigh ways
neigh weigh
  neighs weighs
  neighing weighing
  neighed weighed  
neighed wade
Nell well
nest west
Neston western
net wet
  nets wets
  netted wetted
  netting wetting
nether weather
niche witch
  niches witches
Nick Wick
niff whiff
  niffs whiffs
niggle wiggle
  niggled wiggled
  niggles wiggles
  niggling wiggling
nigh Y 
nigher wire
nightcap whitecap
  nightcaps whitecaps
nil will 
nine whine
  nines whines
nine wine
  nines wines  
ninny whinny
  ninnies whinnies
ninny Winnie 
nip whip
  nipped whipped
  nips whips
  nipping whipping
nippy whippy
  nippier whippier
  nippiest whippiest
nit whit
nit wit
  nits wits
nitre whiter  
no whoa
no woe
nobble wobble
  nobbled wobbled
  nobbling wobbling
  nobbles wobbles
nod wad
  nodded wadded
  nodding wadding
  nods wads
noddle waddle
  noddles waddles
node woad
none one
none won
nor war
norm warm
  norms warms 
nose woes  
nosh wash
  noshed washed
  noshes washes
  noshing washing
not watt
not what
notch watch
  notched watched
  notches watches
  notching watching
nought wart
  noughts warts
now wow
nun one
  nuns ones
nun won  
nurse worse
nursed worst
reddening redwing
snag swag
snare swear
  snares swears
  snaring swearing
sniffed swift
snifter swifter
snipe swipe
  sniped swiped
  snipes swipes
  sniping swiping
snitch switch
  snitched switched
  snitches switches
  snitching switching
snivel swivel
  snivelled swivelled
  snivelling swivelling
  snivels swivels
snob swab
  snobs swabs
snoop swoop
  snooped swooped
  snooping swooping
  snoops swoops
snore swore
snored sward
snot swat

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, December 2010.