English Language Blog

English letters that are also words Posted by on Sep 28, 2014 in English Language

Photo by Gabriele.

Photo by Gabriele.

I saw this sign (pictured above) while hiking recently and it got me thinking…do you have any idea what this sign might means?
I will tell you at the end of this post, but first I have to introduce you to some unique words in English related to this sign.
As I am sure you know there are 26 letters in the English alphabet, but do you know how many of these letters also sound exactly like English words? A large number of the letters in the English alphabet make sounds that are exactly the same as one-syllable English words. For example, the letter ‘p’ sounds exactly the same as the word “pea”.
Before you read any further why don’t you recite the English alphabet out loud and as you do listen for any words that might sound familiar to you. When you are done take a look at the list of letter/word pairs that I came up with. If you come up with any other letter/word pairs that I missed be sure to post a comment so I can add them to the list!
A: ‘a’ the indefinite article
B: ‘be’ the verb and ‘bee’ the insect
C: ‘see’ the verb and ‘sea’ a large body of water
D: ‘Dee’ a female name/nickname
G: ‘gee’ an exclamation of amazement, for example: “Gee, I never would have thought I’d see you here!”
I: ‘I’ the first person singular pronoun
J: ‘Jay’ a type of bird in the crow family
K: ‘Kay’ a female name
M: ‘Em’ the nickname for someone named Emily
O: ‘owe’ a verb that means to have an obligation to pay back something that is borrowed and ‘oh’ an exclamation of interest or surprise
P: ‘pee’ which means to urinate and ‘pea’ a small green vegetable
Q: ‘queue’ a long line and ‘cue’ a stick used in the game of pool
R: ‘are’ the second person singular present verb and the first, second, and third person plural present forms of the verb to be.
T: ‘tea’ a hot drink and ‘tee’ a small piece of wood used to place a golf ball on in the game of golf
U: ‘you’ the second person singular pronoun
X: ‘ex’ a term used to refer to a former lover, for example: “I saw my ex yesterday at the store, but didn’t even say hi.”
Y: ‘why’ a wh- question word
As you can see there are more than just a few letters in English that sound exactly like words in English, but what about the picture above that inspired this whole post, what dose it mean?
Well I gave you a small hint when I told you I saw it when I was out hiking. This is a trail marker in which someone tried to be funny by writing our the acronym for the name of the trail, not with letters, but with words that sound like letters. The acronym for this trail is the PCT, which stands for Pacific Crest Trail.
Photo by Gabriele.

Photo by Gabriele.

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.


  1. Debby Wapner:

    Is there a name for these letters that are also words? I’m using them in my lower special ed class to develop thinking skills.

    • Gabriele:

      @Debby Wapner Hi Debby,
      I’m glad this post was useful to you. Unfortunately, I don’t know of a name for these types of words, i.e. letters that in and of them self are also words. I’ve tried to find out if there is such a “title” for these words, but I haven’t been able to find anything, if you do, please share it with us!

  2. Desgw:

    Many years ago (1970’s) a friend had a book or booklet or maybe just one sheet. It had sentences using one to maybe 3 letters together that sounded like words. I can only remember one example, I M CN A GPC. Translation; I am seeing a gypsy. Has anyone ever seen someting like this? If so, where can it be found?