Consonants /s/ versus /l/, 544 pairs plus 39 in which the /l/ is syllabic     [sandland.html]

The /s/ sound is spelled with <s>, <ss>, <ce> or <sw> in sword. The /l/ sound is spelled with <l> or <ll>.

The computer brought up 33 pairs in which /s/ contrasts with a syllabic /l/ such as acquits/acquittal. These do not feel like minimal pairs since the syllable count is different, so I have listed them separately at the end of the main list. Another case where the status of the pair is doubtful because of the syllable count is rashness/rational, but I left that in the main list.

This is a contrast between a voiceless sibilant fricative and a voiced lateral continuant. It causes no problems.

The only taboo word pair is piss/pill.

Several pairs arise from deriving two adjectives with slightly different meanings from one noun, such as ceremomious/ceremonial or industrious/industrial. Other interesting pairs include:

bassoon balloon
nexus necklace

The mean density value is 2%. The list makes 317 semantic distinctions, a loading of 59%.

ace ail
animus animal 
apiece appeal
aside allied 
asp alp 
  asps alps 
ass Al 
assay allay 
  assayed allayed 
  assaying allaying 
  assays allays 
assert alert 
  asserted alerted 
  asserting alerting 
  asserts alerts 
asses alleys 
assign align 
  assigned aligned 
  assigning aligning 
  assigns aligns 
assignment alignment 
  assignments alignments 
assize allies 
base bail
  basing bailing 
  based bailed
base bale 
  basing baling
  based bailed
basement bailment 
  basements bailments 
bases baileys 
bass bail
bass bale
bassoon balloon 
  bassoons balloons 
beside belied 
Bess Belle 
Bess bell
Bessie belly
best belt 
  bested belted 
  besting belting 
  bests belts 
boast bolt
  boasted bolted
  boasting bolting
  boasts bolts
brace braille
C Leigh
C lea
C lee
case kail
cease lease
  ceased leased
  ceasing leasing
  ceases leases
ceasing ceiling
cedar leader
  cedars leaders
cede lead
  cedes leads 
  ceding leading
cedes Leeds
cent leant
cent lent 
ceremonious ceremonial 
chorus choral 
cinch lynch
cipher lifer
  ciphers lifers
cirrus Cyril 
cissy silly
cite light
  cited lighted
  cites lights
  citing lighting
coarse call 
coarser caller 
coast colt
  coasts colts
coaster coulter
  coasters coulters
comics comical 
commits commital 
continuous continual 
cos col 
course call
  coursing calling 
  coursed called
courser caller
  coursers callers 
coursings callings 
crease creel
critics critical 
curse curl 
  cursing curling 
  cursed curled
curtsey curtly 
cuss cull 
dace dale
deceit delete
  deceits deletes
digits digital 
dose dole 
  dosing doling 
  doesd doled
dosed dolt 
doss doll 
  dossing dolling 
  dossed dolled
dosser dollar 
  dossers dollars 
dosses dollies 
Erse earl
Essen Ellen 
excess excel 
exhaust exalt 
  exhausted exalted 
  exhausting exalting 
  exhausts exalts 
face fail
  faced failed
  facing failing
  facings failings
force fall 
  forcing falling 
forced fault 
fosses follies 
gas gal 
gases galleys 
gassy galley 
genius genial 
gist jilt
  gists jilts
goose Goole 
gorse gall
gorse Gaul 
grace grail
graphics graphical 
grouse growl
  grousing growling
  groused growled
gusset gullet 
  gussets gullets 
hearse hurl
hiss hill 
hissed hilt 
hoarse hall
hoarse haul 
horse hall
horse haul
horsy Horley 
house howl
husk hulk 
  husking hulking 
  husks hulks 
hysterics hysterical 
imperious imperial 
industrious industrial 
inset inlet 
  insets inlets 
insist enlist 
  insisted enlisted 
  insisting enlisting 
  insists enlists 
Jess gel
Jessie jelly
josses jollies 
juice joule 
juicy Julie 
kiss kill 
  kissed killed
  kissing killing 
kissed kilt 
kisser killer 
  kissers killers 
lice lisle
list lilt 
  listed lilted 
  listing lilting 
  lists lilts 
literacy literally
loss loll 
losses lollies 
mace mail
messed melt 
mice mile
miss mill
  missing milling 
  missed milled
missed milt 
Morse mall
Morse maul
moss moll 
mossy Molly 
most moult
muss mull 
  mussing mulling 
  mussed mulled
ness knell
ness Nell 
nest knelt 
nexus necklace 
  nexuses necklaces 
Nice kneel
Nice Neil 
niece Neil
niece kneel
numerous numeral 
outset outlet 
  outsets outlets 
overload oversewed
oversize overlies 
pace pail
pace pale
  pacing paling
  paced paled
parasitic paralytic
passes parleys
peace peal
peace peel
Percy pearly
pest pelt
  pests pelts
piece peal
  piecing pealing
piece peel
  piecing peeling
piss pill
posse poly
  posses polys
pseud lewd 
puce pule
purse pearl
  pursing pearling
puss pull
pussy pulley
  pussies pulleys
race rail
  racing railing
  raced railed
radius radial
rashness rational
receive relieve
  received relieved
  receives relieves
  receiving relieving
recourse recall
rice rile
S L 
sable label 
  sables labels 
sabre labour 
  sabred laboured 
  sabres labours 
  sabring labouring 
sack lack 
  sacked lacked 
  sacking lacking 
  sacks lacks 
sad lad 
sadder ladder 
sag lag 
  sagged lagged 
  sagging lagging 
  sags lags 
saga lager
  sagas lagers 
said lead 
said led
sake lake 
  sakes lakes 
sail kale
sale kale
Sam lam
same lame 
  sameness lameness 
sand land 
  sanded landed 
  sanding landing 
  sands lands 
sane lain 
sane lane
sank lank 
sap lap 
  sapped lapped 
  sapping lapping 
  saps laps 
sash lash 
  sashes lashes 
sat lat 
sate late 
sateen lateen 
satin Latin 
satyr latter 
sauced salt
saucy sorely
save lave 
  saved laved 
  saves laves 
  saving laving 
saw law 
  saws laws   
saw lor
saw lore  
sawed laud 
sawed lord
sawn lawn 
sawyer lawyer 
  sawyers lawyers 
say lay 
  saying laying 
says Les 
sceptics sceptical
scion lion 
  scions lions 
scythe lithe 
sea Leigh
sea lea
  seas leas
sea lee	   
  seas lees
sear leer 
search lurch 
  searched lurched 
  searches lurches 
  searching lurching 
searcher lurcher 
  searchers lurchers 
sear leer
  seared leered 
  searing leering 
  sears leers 
seaward leeward 
seaway leeway 
secure liqueur 
  secures liqueurs 
sedge ledge 
  sedges ledges 
see Leigh
see lea
  sees leas
see lee	   
  sees lees
seed lead
  seeds leads 
  seeding leading
seeds Leeds
seek leak
  seeks leaks
  seeking leaking
seek leek
  seeks leeks
seep leap
  seeping leaping 
  seeps leaps
seine lane
  seines lanes 
send lend 
  sent lent 
  sending lending 
  sends lends
sent leant
sender lender 
  senders lenders 
sends lens 
sensuous sensual
Sept leapt
serious cereal 
set let
  sets let's 
  setting letting 
  settings lettings 
setter letter 
  setters letters 
set-up let-up 
  set-ups let-ups 
seven leaven 
  sevens leavens 
sew lo 
sew low
  sewing lowing 
  sews lows 
  sewed lowed
sewed lode 
sewer lower 
  sewers lowers 
sewn loan 
Siberian Liberian 
sick lick
  sicked licked 
  sicks licks 
sicker liquor
Sidney Lydney 
siege liege
  sieges lieges 
sieve live 
  sieved lived 
  sieves lives 
  sieving living 
sift lift 
  sifted lifted 
  sifting lifting 
  sifts lifts 
sigh lie 
  sighing lying 
  sighs lies 
sight light
  sighted lighted
  sights lights
  sighting lighting
sign line 
  signed lined 
  signing lining 
  signs lines 
Sikh leak 
  Sikhs leaks
Sikh leek 
  Sikhs leeks
silly lily
  sillies lilies 
simply limply 
sink link 
  sinking linking 
  sinks links 
Sioux lieu
Sioux loo
sire liar 
  sires liars 
site light
  sited lighted
  sites lights
  siting lighting
sitter litter 
  sitters litters 
six licks
size lies
so lo
so low
soap lope 
  soaped loped 
  soaping loping 
  soaps lopes 
soar law
  soars laws
soar lor 
soar lore
soared laud
soared lord
sob lob 
  sobbed lobbed 
  sobbing lobbing 
  sobs lobs 
soccer locker 
sock lock
  socked locked 
  socking locking 
  socks locks 
socket locket 
  sockets lockets 
sofa loafer
sofas loafers 
soft loft 
softie lofty 
Sol loll
solely lowly 
song long 
  songs longs 
soon loon 
sooner lunar 
sop lop 
  sopped lopped 
  sopping lopping 
  sops lops 
sore law
  sores laws
sore lor
sore lore  
sorrel laurel 
  sorrels laurels 
sorry lorry 
sot lot 
  sots lots 
sou lieu 
sou loo
  sous loos
sough luff 
  soughed luffed 
  soughing luffing 
  soughs luffs 
soup loop 
  souped looped 
  soups loops 
sour lour 
  soured loured 
  souring louring 
  sours lours 
souse louse 
sow lo
sow low
  sowing lowing 
  sows lows 
  sowed lowed
suck luck 
sucks luxe 
suit loot
  suits loots
  suited looted
  suiting looting
suitor looter 
  suitors looters 
sump lump 
  sumps lumps 
sussed lust 
susses sullies
Swiss swill
sword laud
  swords lauds 
sword lord
  swords lords  
taxing tackling
Tess tell
trace trail
  tracing trailing
  traced trailed
tracer trailer
  tracers trailers
undersign underline
  undersigned underlined
  undersigning underlining
  undersigns underlines
unsighted unlighted
unsigned unlined
Venus venal
vest veld
vice vile
virtuous virtual
vitreous vitriol
voice voile
west welt
whist wilt
worse whirl
yes yell
Pairs which contrast /s/ versus /ļ/ (syllabic /l/)
acquits acquittal
aesthetics aesthetical 	   
cervix cervical
Classics classical
clerics clerical 
clinics clinical   
comics comical
critics critical
cynics cynical 	
dukes ducal
economics economical   
electrics electrical
ethics ethical 
fanatics fanatical 
logics logical 
lyrics lyrical 
mathematics mathematical 
mechanics mechanical 
medics medical 
metaphysics metaphysical 	
metrics metrical
monarchs monocle
mystics mystical  
numerics numerical
obstetrics obstetrical 
optics optical 
orbits orbital 
palates palatal
physics physical
psychics psychical
recites recital
requites requital
resets resettle
statistics statistical
stoics stoical
strategics strategical
tactics tactical
therapeutics therapeutical
topics topical
tropics tropical 

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, November 2010.