Got time for a riddle? Here’s one:
“What English word has three consecutive double letters?”
So tricky that you would need the old English alphabet to find some of the answers.
There aren’t many natural English words with three consecutive double letters. Most words with this combination are just two words connected by a hyphen.
Most—if not all—are compound adjectives.
When the hyphens are removed from such words, they become nearly unrecognizable versions of themselves.
Apart from compound adjectives, the list also includes proper nouns, most of which were borrowed from foreign languages.
What English Words Have Three Consecutive Double Letters?
The only words that fit this question naturally are bookkeeper and bookkeeping. They are related words but a bit different since the other is a job title and the other is an activity (the job).
Although these are the only modern-English words with three consecutive repeated letters, using the old English dictionary can uncover a couple of other words with three consecutive double letters.
In Anglo-Saxon times, “W” was written as it sounds, “double u” (uu). Considering this historical element, we can also say that words like “woollier,” “woolliness,” “woolly,” “woollen,” and—perhaps—“weewee” also qualify as words that have three consecutive double letters.
These are as many dictionary words with three consecutive double letters as one can find.
However, there is a large volume of proper nouns and words found in Internet texts that have three consecutive double letters.
Some of them might be borrowed from foreign languages and others are just names of places in the United States or other English-speaking countries.
Here are some of these words/names:
- Tattooee: “A person receiving a tattoo.”
- Woolloongabba: “A suburb in the City of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.”
- Narcoossee: “An unincorporated community in eastern Osceola County, Florida, United States.”
- Wooggooddy Wurroong Well: “A well and is located in Western Australia.”
- WOORREE PARK: “A locality in Western Australia.”
Why Words with Three Consecutive Double Letters Aren’t Used More?
Firstly, there aren’t many of them. Apart from bookkeeper and bookkeeping, words with three consecutive double letters and either proper nouns or compound words.
In most cases, the proper nouns are not exactly English words.
Even when we look closely at the word “bookkeeper,” it has three consecutive double letters because it’s also some sort of compound word.
Might not be like sweet-tooth or feed-door, but still has two words combined, so it can still be identified as a secondary word.
Usually, these compound words with three consecutive double letters act as adjectives and that means they are mostly used when (1) a word is needed to modify a noun, and (2) when there isn’t a single word that can do that.
You can see—by looking at the roles and the nature of these compound words—that words with double letters are sparsely used.
What English Words Contain Three of the Same Letters in a Row?
Again, the answer is quite similar to the one I gave on the ‘words with three consecutive double letters’ question.
We can say that in a single non-compound, the rules of English forbid having 3 consecutive letters.
For example, although they sound similar, you cannot say ‘freeer’ instead of ‘freer’.
If, however, we consider using hyphens, then we have a lot of words that have three of the same letters in a row.
With a hyphen, words like bee-eater, free-entry, bell-like, cross-section, cross-subsidize, and joss-stick all qualify as English words with three consecutive double letters.
Is There a Word With Four Double Letters?
The simple answer is no.
But if you use Google for your dictionary issues, you bought a word that looks like “subbookkeeper.”
Our beloved Google won’t hesitate to show you a definition from “urban dictionary” or some similar place.
Something like “a subbookkeeper is an assistant bookkeeper with his own responsibilities.”
But, “subbookkeeper” isn’t a word you can find in an Oxford Dictionary.
Is “bookkeeping” the only word in the English language that contains three consecutive pairs of double letters?
Yes. Well… and bookkeeper.
There are countless other words with three consecutive double letters, but… your word processor is going to lay them on ugly squiggly lines, you’re going to use a hyphen in between two English words, or they are going to be a proper noun.
Probably a name that has modern roots in another language.
So, yes, bookkeeping and bookkeeper are the only two English words that have three consecutive pairs of double letters.