Why Letter “H” is Mute in Spanish?




In Spanish, the letter “H” is mute. Whenever you see an “H” in a word, you basically know you don’t pronounce it (unless it is next to a “c” like in “CH”). So, if we don’t even mention it, why do we still use it and…

…how did it become mute?


In the past, like, hundreds of years ago, the letter H used to be an F. Words like “hermoso” (beautiful), used to be “fermoso”. With time, people got lazy and stopped putting strength on the pronunciation of the “F” until eventually its sound just disappeared.




Nevertheless, the letter “h” came to replace it because of two reasons:


First, it differentiates the meaning of words that sound the same but are completely different: For instance, “hola” with an H means hello; “Ola” without an “h” means wave. 


Second, the change from “f” to “h” — called a debuccalization — happened in the 16th century, so by that time, spelling had crystallized partly because of Cervantes, who made it very clear that words with “F” were old fashioned, just as Shakespeare helped crystallize English spelling, so people continued writing the letter “h”.


Do you want to find out more interesting facts about the Spanish language? Check out our blog section!


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