Single Letter Words

It seems to me that most languages have some level of efficiency built into them wherein common words are fairly short and easy to write (e.g. “a”, “the”, and “I”). Contrarily, words which are used only intermittently are longer (like “contrarily” and “intermittently”). In addition to “I”, “a”, “e” (Italian) and “y” (French), are there any languages where “o”, “u” or any of the consonants are used as complete words? Contractions like “L’etat” don’t count. Just curious.


O is an interjection in English. It’s also a definite article in Portuguese.

O and u are both words in Spanish, both meaning “or.” U is used in front of words beginning with an o sound to clarify pronunciation, similar to the English use of “an” instead of “a” for words beginning with a vowel. Y and e are both Spanish words as well, both meaning and, with e serving a similar role as u for “i” words. Of course, the spanish word for “we” is “nosotros” so I’m not sure how much merit there is to your theory.

In Myanmar (formerly Burma) U is a respectful title, like mister. Remember U Thant?

And the rest is silliness.

The L you say!

L M N O puppies. O S M R puppies; C M P N?

Toys R Us®

Are you sticking to Latin character languages? Because even if you exclude the logographs* in Japanese, numerous hiragana characters can be words on their own: o, ni, no, wa, ga (for example, all of which are written with a single character).

  • Including kanji, or Chinese characters, seems pretty contrary to the spirit of the OP, since most of them are words on their own.

Right, I was thinking of character languages. I suppose the equivalent for kanji would be if the most common words were the simplest to create or were composed of the fewest strokes.

“U” is often used informally as “you” in English. And as much as we may hate it, I’d bet good money that it’ll be standard and accepted in 100 years (if only I could figure out how to collect).

“o” is also a word meaning “or” in Italian.

And in Italian, “è” is the third person singular of “to be”, i.e. “è” = “is”.

(last post, I promise) and finally, in Italian, “e” means “and”.

Ô means umbrella and Ý means Italy in Vietnamese.

What was the question again?

“a” in French is a form of the verb “to have” equivalent to the English “has” (Il a une plume.) “There is” in French is “Il y a”

If you count accents, “à” is the French all-purpose preposition, meaning “to,” “at,” and other things according to content. The accent is only there to differentiate it from the verb form; it doesn’t affect pronunciation.

Quite true RealityChuck. Example:
Il y a un if à Ys.
There is a yew (tree) in (the [mythical] city of) Ys.
OK, who can come up with the longest sentence with at most two-letter words?

“Oh no, me no do it. If so, it do me in.”–Cecil

One of my Latin teachers told us that the real reason the Roman empire fell was their word for “help”. If you’re falling off a cliff or something, you don’t want to have to yell “Auxillium!”

Interesting - in Afrikaans, U is the respectful version of jou meaning “you”, to be used when addressing someone in authority (teachers, police officers, boss, etc) over you or someone older than you, although this is falling out of common usage.


O, 4 u I 8 a b, 2. U c?

(O, for you I ate a bee, too. You see?)

In Swedish, å is a stream or river, ö is an island, *i *is in.
ön i ån. (The Island in the stream)

t 4 2 & 2 4 t, t 4 me & t 4 u.

(Tea for two and two for tea, tea for me and tea for you)

And the poet Gustav Fröding produced the following all-vowel sentence in Värmländska, a dialect of Swedish:

I åa ä e ö. (There’s an island in the creek.)

(It would be “I ån är en ö.” in standard Swedish, but it’s totally understandable for any Swede in the dialectal form too.)

(Do the special characters show up for you Angloamericans?)