The /s/ sound is spelled with <s>, <ss>, <ce>, <ps> in pseud or <sw> in sword. The /n/ sound is spelled with <n>, <nnm> or <gn> in gnaw. Notice how the homographs bass makes pairs with bane and ban, sow with know and now, and the pair contest/content appears in the list twice since both words are homographs. Sometimes the contrast arises when an adjective is derived from a noun ending in -[i]on such religious/religion, or when two different adjective can be derived from one root, as in victorious/Victorian.
This is a contrast between a voiceless sibilant fricative and a voiced nasal continuant, fairly close together in the mouth. It causes no problems.
The only taboo word pair is piss/pin.
The computer has brought up several pairs in which /s/ contrasts with a syllabic /n/ such as browbeats/browbeaten and mistakes/mistaken. These do not feel like minimal pairs since the syllable count is different, but I have left them in the list. Other interesting pairs include:
The mean density value is 1.8%. The list makes 303 semantic distinctions, a loading of 61%.
alias alien amphibious amphibian ascent anent ass Ann assessed ascent baas barn base bane bass bane bass ban bast bant Bess Ben Bessie Benny best bent bests bents bluster blunter boss Bonn bossy bonny bossier bonnier bossiest bonniest bourse bourn brace brain bracing braining braced brained breast Brent Brest Brent browbeats browbeaten bursar burner bursars burners burst burnt bus bun buses bunnies busting bunting butts button C knee C's knees case cane casing caning cased caned cassock Cannock cast can't castle carnal cease Nice cease niece cease scene Cecil nestle cede knead ceded kneaded cedes kneads ceding kneading ceiling kneeling cell knell cells knells cell Nell chase chain chasing chaining chased chained cite knight cited knighted cites knights citing knighting cite night cites nights citrous citron close clone coarse corn coarser corner compasses companies complacent complainant concise consign contagious contagion contest content contests contents contest content contested contented contesting contenting contests contents corset cornet corsets cornets cos con cost cont course corn coursing corning coursed corned courser corner coursers corners coxes cockneys cymbal nimble dace Dane dace deign decide denied deuce dune device divine dice dine dicing dining diced dined dosed don't doss don dossing donning dossed donned douse down dousing downing doused downed Erse earn Erse urn Esther enter face fain face feign facing feigning faced feigned faced faint force faun force fawn forcing fawning forced fawned fuss fun fussy funny fussier funnier fussiest funniest fussily funnily fussiness funniness goose goon grace grain grassed grant grease green greaser greener gross groan grossing groaning grossed groaned guessed Ghent guest Ghent hearse Herne hissed hint hoarse horn Honduras Honduran horse horn horsy horny humus human hussy honey hussies honeys invest invent invested invented investing inventing invests invents investor inventor investors inventors Jess gen Jessie Jenny jest gent jests gents joist joint joists joints joss John Joyce join juice June juicier junior justice Justin kiss kin lace lain lattice Latin lease lean leasing leaning less Len lest lent lice line licit linnet list lint lists Linz loose loon looser lunar looses loonies Lucy loony mace Maine mace main mass man massing manning massed manned Mauritius Mauritian mess men messed meant messy many mice mine missed mint mistakes mistaken mist mint misted minted misting minting mists mints moose moon Morse morn Morse mourn moused mount musses monies nice nine noose noon nous noun oblivious oblivion obsessed absent opus open overeats overeaten oversight overnight pace pain pacing paining paced pained paced paint paste paint pasted painted pastes paints pasting painting pastings paintings pasties panties piss pin pissing pinning pissed pinned pisses pinnies place plain placed plaint place plane placing planing placed planed plaster planter plasters planters pseud nude pseuds nudes pus pun quiets quieten race rain racing raining raced rained race rein racing reining raced reined race reign racing reigning raced reigned racy rainy racier rainier raciest rainiest rebellious rebellion rejoice rejoin rejoicing rejoining rejoiced rejoined religious religion rest rent rested rented resting renting rests rents rice Rhine rust runt rusts runts rustle runnel rustles runnels S N sabre neighbour sabres neighbours sac knack sack knack sacks knacks sag nag sagged nagged sagging nagging sags nags said Ned sail nail sailed nailed sailing nailing sails nails sale nail sales nails same name sap knap sapped knapped sapping knapping saps knaps sap nap sapped napped sapping napping saps naps sappy nappy sash gnash sashes gnashes sat gnat sat Nat satyr natter satyrs natters sauce Norse save knave saves knaves savory knavery savouries knaveries savvy navvy saw gnaw sawed gnawed sawing gnawing saws gnaws saw nor sawn sauce say nay say née say neigh saying neighing sea knee seas knees seal kneel sealed kneeled seals kneels sealing kneeling sear near seared neared searing nearing sears nears searcher nurture searchers nurtures seasick scenic sec neck secs necks sect necked sector nectar see knee sees knees seed knead seeded kneaded seeds kneads seeding kneading seedy needy seedier needier seediest neediest seedless needless seedling needling seize knees sell knell sells knells sell Nell Seoul knoll serve nerve served nerved serves nerves serving nerving set net sets nets setting netting settle nettle settled nettled settles nettles settling nettling sever never sew know sews knows sewing knowing sewn known sew no sewed node sewer newer sex necks sexed next sibling nibbling sibyl nibble sibyls nibbles sick nick sicked nicked sicks nicks sickle nickel sickles nickels sigh nigh sight knight sighted knighted sights knights sighting knighting sight night sights nights sign nine signs nines Sioux gnu sire nigher sit knit sits knits sitting knitting site knight sited knighted sites knights siting knighting site night sites nights sitter knitter sitters knitters six nicks so know so no soap nope soar gnaw soared gnawed soars gnaws soar nor sob knob sobs knobs Soc knock soccer knocker sock knock sock knock socked knocked socking knocking socks knocks sod nod sodded nodded sodding nodding sods nods sole knoll soles knolls some numb son none son nun sons nuns sore gnaw sore nor sores gnaws sort nought sorts noughts sot knot sots knots sou gnu sous gnus sought nought soul knoll souls knolls souse nous sow know sows knows sowing knowing sown known sow no sow now space Spain spice spine spicy spiny spicier spinier spiciest spiniest sub nub subs nubs suckle knuckle suckled knuckled suckles knuckles suckling knuckling sue knew sue new sues news sum numb summed numbed summing numbing sums numbs sun none sun nun suns nuns sunburst sunburnt suss son suss sun sussing sunning sussed sunned susses sonnies sword gnawed taste taint tasted tainted tastes taints tasting tainting tasteless taintless terse tern terse turn terser turner Tess ten test tent tests tents Texas Texan trace train tracing training traced trained tracer trainer tracers trainers truce Troon tussle tunnel tussled tunnelled tussles tunnels tussling tunnelling twice twine US UN versus Vernon vest vent vested vented vesting venting vests vents vesture venture vestured ventured vestures ventures vesturing venturing vice vine victorious Victorian west went worst weren't yes yen
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, November 2010.