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Frequency of initial letters

Q From Robin Maly: I am a librarian, and one of my patrons asked which letter of the alphabet has the most words that start with it. I have searched everywhere. Thank you if you can help me out on this one!

A An intriguing question. Was your enquirer a contestant on Wheel of Fortune? I know of several frequency tables, but not one that gives the relative occurrences of initial letters of words. Off the top of my head I would have said S, but checked by running a little program in a database I have here of the headwords from the New Oxford Dictionary of English. The answer was indeed S, which was followed at some distance in decreasing order by P, C, D, M, and A. It’s notable that the frequency of initial letters bears no relation to how often letters occur in English in general, in which E is most common, followed by T and then A.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 3 Feb. 2001

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Last modified: 3 February 2001.