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The Subtle Silent B—What You Need To Know

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Wondering why some words have a silent “b”? Continue reading to find out.

White text over red background reads "Silent B"
Encountering a silent “b” in a word can perplex both native speakers and English language learners.
Words with a silent b include comb, bomb, and subtle.

Silent B—Why Does it Exist?

Silent letters are one of the most baffling components of the English language. Knowing when to pronounce them or not is all a matter of familiarization and practice. The silent “b” is no different.

The silent “b” is often the result of how a word evolved from either Latin, Old English, or French. Consider the word bomb. It is derived from the Italian word “bomba” (which came from the Greek word “bonbos”). The second “b” in bomba is pronounced, but as the English word evolved, the second “b” sound was dropped, yet the spelling remained the same.

In other cases, the silent “b” was added to help draw a clearer connection to its origin. Doubt, for example, comes from the Latin word “dubitare.”

Silent B Words
The “b” in “bomb” is silent.

Words With a Silent B

The only way to truly comprehend silent letters and know whether to pronounce them is by practicing. Below you’ll find a list of words with a silent “b.”

Bomb
Catacomb
Comb
Climb
Crumb
Debt
Doubt
Dumb
Honeycomb
Lamb
Limb
Numb
Plumber
Subtle
Succumb
Thumb
Tomb

In a Battle With Silent Letters, LanguageTool Always Wins

If you want to be certain you’re always spelling words that have a silent “b” correctly, you should use LanguageTool as your text editor. This multilingual text editor will ensure flawless spelling (even if the word has a silent letter), and it’ll also correct grammar mistakes and suggest stylistic improvements. Try it out below.


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