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Is R silent in February?

This is an interesting question that many English speakers have wondered about. The answer has to do with the origins and pronunciations of these two words over time.

The Origins of February and Silent Letters

The word “February” has an interesting history. It is derived from the Latin word “Februarius”, which was named after the Roman festival of purification called “Februa”. This festival was celebrated in the month we now know as February.

In Latin, the letter “R” was pronounced in “Februarius”. However, when the word entered the Old English language, it was adopted as “Februarius” or “Februeer”. The Old English speakers began to drop the “R” sound, finding it difficult to pronounce between the two vowels.

This process where a letter becomes silent over time is called elision. It often happens when a word passes through different languages and dialects. Other examples in English are words like “often” (losing the t), “castle” (losing the t), and “limb” (losing the b).

So in the transition from Latin to Old English, the “R” in “February” was elided, making it silent as it is today. But why is it still spelled with the “R” if it’s not pronounced? This is because the original Latin spelling persisted even after the pronunciation changed.

How to Pronounce February

The standard pronunciation of “February” in modern English does not include the “R” sound. It is pronounced “FEB-roo-air-ee”. The emphasis is on the first syllable “FEB”.

However, some dialects do still pronounce the “R”. In certain parts of Scotland and Ireland, “February” is pronounced “FEB-rue-air-ee”. The emphasis shifts to the second syllable in this version.

But in most mainstream English accents, including British, American, Canadian, and Australian, the “R” is silent. This silent “R” is continued in the spelling out of tradition.

Examples of February Pronunciation

Here are some audio clips demonstrating the standard silent “R” pronunciation of February in different English accents:

British English Pronunciation

American English Pronunciation

Canadian English Pronunciation

Australian English Pronunciation

As you can hear, the “R” sound is dropped in standard modern pronunciation of February in all major English dialects.

When to Pronounce the R in February

There are very few cases where the “R” is pronounced audibly in February. Here are two scenarios:

  1. In poetry or song lyrics – Sometimes the “R” is pronounced to fit a rhyme scheme or rhythm. For example: “It’s the second month of the year, Feb-rue-ary’s here!”
  2. When spelling out loud – Such as spelling February letter by letter: “F-E-B-R-U-A-R-Y”. The pronunciation changes when each letter is sounded out individually.

Outside of these specific cases, the “R” is silent in everyday February pronunciation by modern English speakers.

Why R is Silent in February – A Recap

To summarize why the “R” is silent in February:

  • February derived from the Latin “Februarius”, where the “R” was pronounced.
  • When it entered Old English, speakers elided the “R” sound between vowels.
  • The silent “R” pronunciation persisted into modern English.
  • But the original spelling with “R” remained.
  • So in the standard English of today, the “R” is silent.

This quirk of pronunciation is the result of how the word evolved through various languages over centuries, leaving behind letters that are no longer spoken. The silent “R” in February is a relic of this linguistic history.

Other Examples of Silent Letters

Like February, there are many other words in English that contain silent letters. These are some common examples:

Word Silent Letter(s)
Knife K
Psychology P
Island S
Castle T
Salmon L
Comb B
Gnome G
Bomb B
Limb B
Doubt B

Like with February, these words contain letters that were once pronounced hundreds of years ago but became silent over time. English has preserved the original spellings even after shifts in pronunciation.

Is it Important to Pronounce the R in February?

Overall, there is no major reason why the silent “R” in February needs to be pronounced in everyday English speech. Here are some key points on its relevance:

  • The silent R is standard – Dropping the “R” sound aligns with received pronunciation in mainstream English dialects.
  • No meaning is lost – Whether pronounced or not, the meaning of the word February stays the same.
  • It does not impact comprehension – English speakers will understand February regardless of the “R” pronunciation.
  • The origins remain – Etymologically, the “R” will still indicate the word’s Latin roots.
  • It is not grammatically incorrect – There is no strict rule that the “R” must be vocalized.

Based on these factors, the pronunciation of February without the “R” sound is well established in English. Pronouncing the “R” is not mandatory and does not make a speaker’s English more correct or proper. As long as the meaning is conveyed, either version works.


In summary, the “R” in February is silent in the standard modern English pronunciation but was originally vocalized when the word entered the language from Latin. This elision of the “R” over time is due to natural language evolution and simplification of the word in English dialects. While some accents do still pronounce the “R”, it is predominantly dropped in mainstream, received English. Ultimately, February can be correctly pronounced with or without vocalizing the “R” as long as the speaker is understood and uses the version standard to their dialect.