The sounds of K
The letter K is an aspirant, the same as a hard C. Some words may be spelled with either a C or a K. Note that there is a difference in meaning between the words, karat, carat, and caret. The words disk and disc are also used for different things.
kalamata, calamata (olives)
kerb [British], curb [N. American]
ketchup, catsup [US]
King Knut, King Canute
CK letter combination
In some words, a K is combined with a C to indicate a hard C, where the adjacent vowels might make a soft C.
At the beginnings of words, K is silent before an N.
These Ks were pronounced in Old English, in the times of Chaucer and still sometimes in the times of Shakespeare. The change came sometime in the 16th and 17th centuries, because it was easier to say the words without the K.
In German, Swedish, and Dutch, similar words have kept the K sound. Some foreign names also keep the K sound.
Knesset [Israeli parliament]
Knossos [Minoan Crete city]
Double Ks are unusual in English.
Unusual K words
- In a book, newspaper, or webpage, pick out words beginning with K. How do pronounce them?
- Make up your own sentence with a lot of Ks. Is it a true alliteration?
- Look up the “Unusual K Words” to find their meanings.
Special reading assignments
The knave was keen to kiss the knuckles of the king and to kick the knees of the knights.