Most Common Letter In English (Hint: It’s in this title too)

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most common letter in english

English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, and we read and speak it so much that some nuances often just whiz over our heads. 

For example, if someone asked you which letter you frequently see, you would only guess because we encounter millions of words, most of which we don’t remember a minute later. But we can determine the frequency of English letters and find the most common letter.

As a matter of fact, it has already been done; using statistics, the most common letter in English, the most frequent word endings, word frequencies, and other aspects have been determined.

And that brings us to the purpose of this article: revealing the most common letter in English.

Let’s get started.

The Most Common Letter In English

The letter “E” is the most common vowel and letter in English. This is neither guesswork nor a biased conclusion; it has been verified using different methods.

Samuel Morse, an American inventor and artist best known for developing the Morse code, wanted to know how frequently letters were used. He found out that E was the most commonly used letter and Q was the rarest.

So, Morse gave the letter E the shortest time value (1 dit), since it was the most commonly used letter. 

Samuel Morse found out the frequency of letters using printed English text, which means that he only worked with a limited set of common words. The English vocabulary is so vast that using it to find the frequency of letters could yield different results.

So, the words listed in the main entries of the Concise Oxford Dictionary (9th edition, 1995) were examined to determine the letters that appeared in each word. The results (below) were pretty similar: E was the most frequent letter in the dictionary, appearing in 11% of the words.

E11.16%M3.01%
A8.50%H3.00%
R7.58%G2.47%
I7.54%B2.07%
O7.16%F1.81%
T6.95%Y1.78%
N6.65%W1.29%
S5.74%K1.10%
L5.49%V1.01%
C4.54%X0.29%
U3.63%Z0.27%
D3.38%J0.20%
P3.17%Q0.20%

The letter E is also the second most commonly struck key on a computer keyboard; only the space bar is struck more. 

Top 10 Most Common Letters in English

From the previous graphs, we can conclude that the top 10 most commonly used letters in English are:

  1. E
  2. A
  3. R
  4. I
  5. O
  6. T
  7. N
  8. S
  9. L
  10. C

This list may vary depending on the source of the text and the specific use case. You can form loads of words with just these letters, and it’s hard to write very long reads with these letters. However, Ernest Vincent Wright and Georges Perec managed to write whole books with the letter E, so it can be done (with some hard work, of course).

top 10 most common letters in english
Top 10 Most Common Letters in English

Vowels vs Consonants: What are common?

Vowels and consonants are the building blocks of language, and they play a critical role in the formation and meaning of words. Vowels and consonants are distinct elements of words, but they work together to create meaning. In English, vowels and consonants have different levels of frequency and usage. 

Vowels are more commonly used than consonants in English. The most common word, and hence the most common vowel, is E, followed by A and O. 

Vowels are important for forming the syllable structure of words, and they are often used as the core of a syllable. Syllables can also control the way vowels are pronounced, but vowels typically determine the sounds that are pronounced most prominently in a word, and they are often used to create the rhythm and melody of speech.

On the other hand, consonants are used to give structure and meaning to words. Consonants are typically used to create the texture and structure of speech. The most common consonant in English is R, followed by N and T.

Other Letter and Word Frequency Parameters

Letter Frequency

  1. T, A, O, D, and W are the letters that are most frequently found at the start of words. 
  2. E, S, D, and T are the letters that are most frequently found at the ends of words.

Word Ending Frequency 

Most words have -tion, -ight, -ment, -able, -ed, -ing, -ion, -ance, -ous, -ent, and -ist at the end.

Word Frequency

  • A and I are the most commonly used one-letter words.
  • Common two-letter words include: of, to, in, it, is, be, as, at, so, we, he, by, on, do, if, my, up, and an.
  • Common 3-letter words: the, and, for, are, but, not, you, all, any, can, had, her, was, one, our, out, has, him, his, man, she.
  • Common 4-letter words: that, some, very, with, have, this, will, your, time, from, know, want, been, good, much, and they.

Doubled Letter Frequency 

The following are the most frequent double-letter words: ss, ee, oo, tt, ff, ll, mm, and p. Out of this list, ee, ll, ss, and ff are commonly found at the ends of words.

Punctuation Frequency 

Commas are frequently used after but, and, or who. What, why, was, did, who, which, where, and how are words that often start a question. Quotes are often preceded by the words “says” or “said.”

letter "E" is the most common vowel and letter in English
Most common vowel and letter in English

Conclusion

Determining the most common letter in English has been done using different methods. Some have simply counted the occurrences of each letter in a large sample of text, while others have used statistics from a corpus (a collection of written or spoken texts that can be used to study language usage). 

Most of these statistics have found that the most common letter in English is E. This also means that E is the most common vowel in the English language, and it is used frequently in many common words. 

Knowing these things can be very helpful in many ways; for example, in cryptography, where letter frequency is used to break codes. It can also be used in natural language processing, which is used in many applications such as speech recognition and machine translation. Or it can improve your scrabble, thereby helping you enjoy your leisure time.

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AUTHOR

Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories.She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.