The world of words, reading and writing

Y: The Secret Vowel

Everyone knows what a vowel is: A, E, I, O and U. But those are vowels, so what is a vowel actually? According to Professor Google, a vowel is a speech sound produced by a relatively open or free vocal passage. Everyone’s taught that all words need a vowel. But not every word does contain a vowel. Could there be a secret vowel? I present to you the letter Y: the craftiest of all the letters. Covert consonant and undercover vowel. In most circumstances it is a consonant but Y is actually considered a vowel in certain contexts where the Y sound is created with an open vocal passage. There are a surprisingly large number of words that allegedly contain no vowel, but thankfully do because of Y’s resourcefulness. How many can you think of?

My, Try, Sky, Fry, Why

Gym, Hymn








And drumroll for the longest word ‘without’ any vowels (but we know better!):



Poor Mr. Y. He works so hard and never gets his dues. Y, I support you.


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2 thoughts on “Y: The Secret Vowel

  1. It’s rarely mentioned, but ‘U’ is just like ‘Y’. It’s a vowel in “underwater” but a consonant in “university”. You can tell from the a/an rule:

    A university / *An university
    An underwater plant / *A underwater plant

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