Vowels 2 and 3, /ɪ/ and /e/    449 pairs     [tinten.html]

The spellings of the /ɪ/ vowel in this list include <i> in most cases including all the monosyllables, plus <y> in Scylla, and <e> in unstressed prefixes such as decayed. The /e/ vowel is spelled <e> or <ea> in Reading (the place).

This dictionary includes sins/sends as minimal, since it rightly treats the /nz/ and /ndz/ clusters as indistinguishable. A number of the pairs in this list are distinguished by stress, either primary stress in the case of pairs such as below/bellow, impress/empress or escort (verb) versus escort (noun), or secondary stress as with decayed/decade. They are not strictly minimal but have been included as they constitute a problem for some learners. I hesitated about including the loan words signora and senora, since these are questionably different in meaning. In all other cases the /ɪ/ versus /e/ contrast occurs only in monosyllables or on the stressed syllable, except in the one case of axis/access.

The distinction is a recognised problem for many learners, especially Dutch, Scandinavians, and Arabic speakers. It seems to be less of a problem than might be expected with speakers of five-vowel languages such as Italian or Swahili; such speakers tend to assign /ɪ/ to their close front vowel and /e/ to their mid front vowel.

Rather unexpectedly, there are no pairs involving taboo words, except perhaps pissed/pest.

Interesting pairs include:

assist assessed
cinder sender
innovate enervate
listening lessening
livid levied
middle medal
sickened second
symmetry cemetery

The mean density value is 1.8%. The list makes 253 semantic distinctions, a loading of 56.25%.

agin again 
assist assessed 
axis access 
below bellow
bid bed
  bidding bedding
  bids beds
big beg
bigger beggar
bill bell
  billed belled
  billing belling
  bills bells
bill belle
  bills belles
billow bellow
  billowed bellowed
  bellowing billowing
  billows bellows
billy belly
  billies bellies
bin ben
  bins bens
bit bet
  bits bets
bitter better
  bitters betters
bitter bettor
  bitters bettors
bliss bless
blithering blethering
build belled
built belt
chick check
  chicks checks
chick cheque
  chicks cheques
chick Czech
  chicks Czechs
Chris cress
cinder sender
  cinders senders
cliff clef
  cliffs clefs
clinch clench
  clinched clenched
  clinches clenches
  clinching clenching
conviction convection
crypt crept
decayed decade
depose depots
descant descant
  descants descants
Dick deck
dicker decker
  dickers deckers
did dead
differ deafer
differential deferential
  differentially deferentially
dill dell
din den
  dins dens
dint dent
  dints dents
dip dep
disc desk
  discs desks
disparate desperate
disposition dispossession
djinn gen
  djinns gens
escort escort
  escorts escorts
excise excise
exploit exploit
  exploits exploits
export export
  exports exports
expose expos
extract extract
  extracts extracts
fib Feb
fill fell
  filled felled
  filling felling
  fills fells
fin fen
  fins fens
Finn fen
  Finns fens
fitted fetid
fitter fetter
  fitters fetters
fizz fez
  fizzes fezes
flick fleck
  flicked flecked
  flicking flecking
  flicks flecks
flicks flex
gild geld
  gilded gelded
  gilding gelding
  gilds gelds
gill gel
  gills gels
gill jell
  gills jells
gin gen
  ginned genned
  ginning genning
  gins gens
gist jest
  gists jests
guild geld
  guilds gelds
gym gem
  gyms gems
hick heck
  hicks hecks
hid head
hill hell
  hills hells
him hem
hip hep
hither heather
hymn hem
  hymned hemmed
  hymning hemming
  hymns hems
id ed
if eff
if F
  ifs F's
ilk elk
ill L
ills L's
immigrant emigrant
  immigrants emigrants
immigrate emigrate
  immigrated emigrated
  immigrates emigrates
  immigrating emigrating
immigration emigration
  immigrations emigrations
imminent eminent
  imminence eminence
  imminently eminently
impress empress
  impresses empresses
in N
  ins N's
infield Enfield
inflict inflect
  inflicted inflected
  inflicting inflecting
  inflicts inflects
infliction inflection
  inflictions inflections
inn n
  inns n's
innovate enervate
  innovated enervated
  innovating evervating
  innovates enervates
into enter
it ate
itch etch
  itched etched
  itches etches
  itching etching
Jill gel
Jill jell
Jim gem
jimmy jemmy
  jimmies jemmies
jinn gen
jinns gens
kilt Celt
  kilts Celts
kin ken
kindle Kendal
kipped kept
kitsch ketch
knit net
  knitted netted
  knitting netting
  knits nets
knit nett
  knits netts
lid lead
  lids leads
lid led
lift left
limning lemming
Linda lender
lint leant
lint Lent
lint lent
lintel lentil
  lintels lentils
Linz Lents
lipped leapt
list lest
listen lessen
  listened lessened
  listening lessening
  listens lessens
listen lesson
  listens lessons
lit let
litter letter
  littered lettered
  littering lettering
  litters letters
livid levied 
Liz Les
Lois loess
Lynn Len
mid Med
middle medal
  middles medals
middle meddle
  middled meddled
  middles meddles
  middling meddling 
milt melt
mint meant
miss mess
  missed messed
  missing messing 
  missy messy 
mist messed
mitt met
mitts Metz
myths meths
nick neck
  nicked necked
  nicking necking
  nicks necks
nil knell
nil Nell
nit net
  nits nets
nit nett
  nits netts
nix necks
Phil fell
pick peck
  picked pecked
  picking pecking
  picks pecks
picker pecker
  pickers peckers
piddle pedal
  piddled pedalled
  piddles pedals
  piddling pedalling
piddle peddle
  piddled peddled
  piddles peddles
  piddling peddling
pig peg
  pigged pegged
  pigging pegging
  pigs pegs
piggy Peggy 
pin pen
  pinned penned
  pinning penning
  pins pens
pinny Penny 
   pinnies pennies 
pip pep
  pipped pepped
  pipping pepping
  pips peps
pissed pest
pit pet
  pits pets
  pitting petting 
pity petty
pitied petted
position possession
  positions possessions
primmest premised 
pyx pecks
quill quell
  quills quells
record record
  records records
rich retch
  riches retches
rich wretch
  riches wretches 
rick wreck
  ricked wrecked
  ricking wrecking
  ricks wrecks
ricks Rex
Ricky recce
rid read
rid red
  rids reds
ridden redden
ridding Reading 
ridge Reg
riff ref
rift reft
rip rep
  rips reps
rip repp
Scylla cellar
  Scyllas cellars
Scylla seller
  Scyllas sellers
shilling shelling
sic sec
sick sec
  sicks secs
sicked sect
sickened second
sicks sex
Sid said
signora senora
  signoras senoras
sill cell
  sills cells
sill sell
  sills sells
since sense
sinned send
sinner senna
sins sends
sipped Sept
sit set
  sits sets
  sitting setting
  sittings settings
sit sett
  sits setts
sitter setter
  sitters setters
six secs
six sex
  sixes sexes
skip skep
  skips skeps
slid sled
slipped slept
spick spec
spick speck
spill spell
  spilled spelled
  spilling spelling
  spills spells
spilt spelt
stiller Stella
stiller stellar
swill swell
  swilled swelled
  swilling swelling
  swills swells
sylph self
symmetry cemetery 
tic tec
tic tech
tick tec
  ticks tecs
tick tech
  ticks techs
tics techs
till tel
till tell
  tilling telling
  tills tells
tiller teller
  tillers tellers
tin ten
  tins tens
tinder tender
tinned tend
tint tent
  tints tents
trick trek
  tricked trekked
  tricking trekking
  tricks treks
trimmer tremor
  trimmers tremors
victor vector
  victors vectors
vintner Ventnor
whin wen
whin when
whipped wept
whist west
whit wet
  whits wets
whit whet
  whits whets
whither weather
whither wether
whither whether
will well
  willed welled
  willing welling
  wills wells
willed weld
wilt welt
  wilts welts
win wen
  wins wens
win when
  wins when's
wince whence
winch wench
  winched wenched
  winching wenching
  winches wenches
wind wend
  winded wended
  winding wending
  winds wends
windy Wendy 
wit wet
  wits wets
wit whet
  wits whets
wither weather
  withered weathered
  withering weathering
  withers weathers
wither wether
  withers wethers
wither whether
wrick wreck
  wricked wrecked
  wricking wrecking 
  wricks wrecks
wricks Rex
wrist rest
  wrists rests
wrist wrest
  wrists wrests
writ ret
  writs rets
Geographical: Outside English-speaking countries, most visitors are from Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Vietnam, Poland, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Spain, Japan, Jordan, Italy, France, Malaysia, India, Romania and Turkey. Average 52 visitors per month.

John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2011.