- historical context
- Some Peculiarities of Old English
- The Beginnings of Old English
- the end of old english
- old english dialects
- old english verbs
- Derivation relationships and phonetic changes.
Old English is the term for the earliest recorded phase of the English language, dating back to about 1150 AD C (when the Middle English period is generally accepted to have begun). Refers to the language used during the long period from the arrival of Germanic invaders and settlers in Britain in the aftermath of the collapse of Roman Britain in the early fifth century to the Norman conquest of 1066 and beyond in the first century. Norman rule in England. Therefore, it is primarily the language of the people commonly referred to by historians as Anglo-Saxons.
"Anglo-Saxon" was one of several alternative names previously used for this period in the language's history. For the history of the terms cfOld EnglishNorth. and adj.Anglo-SaxonNorth. and adj.Englishadj. (and adv.) and n., and alsoOld EnglishNorth. and adj.
Before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons, the majority of the British population spoke Celtic languages. In Roman Britain, Latin was widely used as a governmental and military language, and probably in other capacities as well, particularly in urban areas and among the upper classes. However, it is not clear how much Latin was still in use in the post-Roman period.
Over the next several centuries, more and more areas in what later became known as England came under Anglo-Saxon control. (For the history of the name cfEnglandNorte.)
The fate of the majority of the (Roman) British population in these areas is disputed. Certainly very few words were borrowed from Celtic into English (whether there might have been more influence in some areas of grammar and pronunciation is not known), and virtually all Latin loanwords found in Old English can be explained as borrowings from the Mainland (i.e. before ) or during or after conversion to Christianity (i.e. later).
The conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, begun in the late 6th century and practically completed by the late 7th century, was an event of enormous cultural importance. One of his many areas of activity was the introduction of long texts in the Roman alphabet on parchment (as opposed to very short inscriptions on wood, bone or stone in runic script). Almost all of our surviving documentary evidence of Old English is mediated by the Church, and nearly everything written in Old English is deeply influenced by Latin Christian literary culture.
Conflicts and interactions with invaders and settlers of Scandinavian origin have been a central theme in Anglo-Saxon history essentially since the time of the first recorded raids in the late 8th century. However, the linguistic effects of this contact are usually only evident in the Middle English period. Likewise, the disastrous political events of the Norman conquest took some time to show their full effect on the English language.
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Some Peculiarities of Old English
In grammar, Old English differs primarily from later stages of English history by a greater use of a wider range of inflections in verbs, nouns, adjectives and pronouns, and also (related) by a less fixed word order. It also preserves grammatical gender in nouns and adjectives.
An example: The following lines from Ælfricthe seasons:
'Únor cymð very hot and very humid. Seo lyft tyð þone wætan sets neoðan & ða hætan ufan.'
can be translated word for word as:
Thunder comes from heat and humidity. The air draws moisture from below and heat from above.
To select some grammatical features:
SubstantiveKopf, "Heat andwet, 'moisture', both have the inflection -ain the first sentence, since both are in the dative, determined by the prepositionvon'since'.
In the second movement both have the inflection again:a, but this time they are in the accusative, as direct objects ofThose'draw'.
The definite article forms agree with these nouns, but you will find that they are different in each case,þone wætan“Moisture” (direct object), butthis danger"the heat" (also direct object). The difference arises becausewet'Moisture' is masculine, butKopf'calor' is feminine, and the article agrees (like other adjectives) in gender and case.
For another example of gender agreement, see the pronounset(i.e. the forerunner of modern Englishwhether it) in relation toSEO-Lyft(feminine) 'the air'.
In vocabulary, Old English is much more homogeneous than later stages of English history. Some Latin loanwords predate the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain (i.e. they were borrowed on the continent), while many others predate the period of conversion to Christianity and beyond. Borrowings from Latin or other languages, however, make up only a small percentage of Old English's vocabulary, with the largest influx of words from French and Latin belonging to the Middle English period and later. (There are also numerous loan translations and semantic borrowings from Latin to Old English, reflecting the influence of Latin on the language of religion and learning.)
Some early Norse loanwords are attested in late Old English, but again the greatest influence of contact with Norse settlers is evident only in Middle English.
There is also a great deal of continuity between Old English and later stages of the language's history. Much of the basic vocabulary of Modern English can be traced back to Old English, including most of the words most commonly used today.
For some examples see I pron. e n.², um adj., n., e pron., e conj.¹, adv., e n., man n.¹ (and int.), woman n.
Learn more about what Old English words are inDEO, and how Old English material is dated in the dictionary, seeOld English at the OEDvon Anthony Esposito.
Some letters of the Old English alphabet that modern English has lost:
- þ, ð both represent the same sounds as modern th, e.g. insideuntilÖafter this;
- æ and a represent different Old English sounds made with the tongue in front of and behind the mouth, respectively.
The pronunciation of p.catchÖCaraIn many modern varieties of English, it resembles Old English æ, while Old English a was more akin to modern German in sound.men'man' or SpanishMil'hand' (like the modern English soundpaid, but shorter).
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It is very difficult to say when Old English began, because that puts us beyond the date of our earliest record of Old English or any of its closest relatives (except for very occasional inscriptions and evidence of words and names appearing in Latin or otherwise Languages). All agree in calling the language of our earliest voluminous sources found in contemporary copies "Old English": these are Latin-English glossaries from around 700. (Certainly some other material was composed before 700, but is only preserved in later copies). By this time Old English was already very different from its Germanic sister languages (see below) due to many phonetic changes (i.e. changes in the pronunciation of certain sounds, especially when they occurred alongside other sounds) and others. linguistic developments. In fact, most of the important changes that we can trace from our surviving Old English documents took place before this time. Some of these were probably underway or even completed before the time of settlement in England.
Some Latin-English glosses from one of our oldest sources (the Épinal glossary):
- considercut(d. h. „Gans“)
- CoelhoWille(d. h. „Hase“)
- a cloudSturm(i.e. 'electric storm')
- Odoron fire(i.e. 'swan')
Some scholars distinguish the undocumented period before our earliest texts as "pre-Old English", while others are content to simply use the name "Old English" for both this period and the documented period. In practice, the dividing line is fluid. Most of our documentary evidence for Old English comes much later (late 9th century AD), and even from the later period there is much we do not know. In the early part of the documented period, gaps and uncertainties mean that we often know as little about a particular topic as we did in the earlier, undocumented period.
If we trace its history further, Old English belongs to the West Germanic branch of the Germanic languages, along with Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Old High German and the various dialects that later gave rise to Old Dutch. The most important early representatives of the North Germanic branch are Old Icelandic, Old Norse, Old Swedish and Old Danish (although the first extensive remains of all these are much later than the earliest Old English documents), while they are the only representative of the East Germanic branch from which extensive remains are preserved is Gothic. Ultimately, all of these branches emanated from a single hypothetical ancestor, (Proto-)Germanic, which is a branch of the Indo-European language family. Other branches of Indo-European are Celtic, Italic (including Latin and thus the Romance languages), Greek, Indo-Iranian (including Sanskrit and Persian), Baltic and Slavic (the latter two being considered by many to be a single branch, Balto-Slavic) .
In fact, many details of the prehistoric relationships between Old English and the other Germanic languages are hotly debated and highly controversial, making any attempt to say when "Old English" began much more difficult.
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the end of old english
The conventional split date of about 1150 between Old English and Middle English reflects (very roughly) the period when these changes in grammar and vocabulary become noticeable in most surviving texts (which are not very numerous) of this transitional period. In what is often referred to as "transitional English," the number of distinct inflections is reduced and word order takes on an increasing functional load. At the same time borrowings from French and (particularly in northern and eastern texts) from early Scandinavia accumulate. All of these processes were extremely gradual and did not occur at the same rate everywhere. Therefore, a split date is highly arbitrary and can only very roughly reflect these developments.
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old english dialects
Surviving Old English documents are traditionally assigned to four distinct major dialects: Kentish (in the south-east), West Saxon (in the south-west), Mercian (in the central areas of Mercia), and Northumbrian (in the north). 🇧🇷 Because of the many similarities they share, Mercia and Northumbria are often lumped together as Anglo-Saxons. This division is largely based on the linguistic differences shown by several important early sources, although many of the details are very controversial and some scholars are very critical of the traditional association of these linguistic differences (however close they may be) with borders between different countries. defined areas (which are little known), and today many details of where each variety was geographically centered are a matter of debate. For political and cultural reasons, manuscripts in the West Saxon dialect predominate in our later records (although much of the verse is a special case), reflecting the widespread adoption as a written language in the late 19th century of a form of West Saxon .old English. Period.
There are few named figures in the history of Old English writing. insideOxford Dictionary of National BiographyYou can read about:elfricode Eynsham,Wulfstan[Lupus],Alfredo[Elfredo],Etelwoldo,Caedmon, miCynewulf.
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old english verbs
Old English verbs show a wide range of inflections, reflecting distinctions of person and number (e.g. first person singular, first person plural, etc.), tense (present or past tense), and mood (indicative, subjunctive, or imperative). ) ; many other distinctions are made with periphrastic constructionsto beV.,what is it worthV.,ÖV., thatshouldv. as an auxiliary verb in combination with non-finite forms of the verb.
With the exception of a few irregular or anomalous (mainly high-frequency) verbs, Old English verbs fall into one of two main groups: strong verbs and weak verbs.
Strong verbs perceive tense differences through variation in the root vowel. They are classified into seven major classes based on the vowel variation presented. Thus RIDE v., a strong Class I verb, has the following gradation of vowels in its "main parts", from which all its other inflections can be derived:
- past singular:shows
- past plural:a laugh
- Past participle:(take) the walk
Likewise, the strong class III verb BIND v. shows the following main parts:
- Infinitive:The association
- past singular:Banda (ÖShortcut)
- past plural:Package
- Past participle:(beat
The main parts of the various classes can be easily memorized as fairly arbitrary sets (with various subclasses and exceptions). To understand the causes of this variation, we must go back to a much older system of vowel classification called ablaut, which Germanic inherited from Indo-European and which Germanic made extensive use of in the strong verb system.
Since Ablaut also explains the relationships between many other Old English words, although it's not easy at all, it can be very helpful in understanding how it works. See the text box for a very brief summary.
A brief introduction to alautradical VowelsI, uh, I, Ishown byMorningultimately reflecting Indo-European *hello, *hello, *me, *me(given by the regular Germanic development*î, *ai, *i, *i, finally giving Old EnglishI, uh, I, I🇧🇷 Therefore, the main parts in Old English can be explained as Indo-European *UEin combination with *mi(during *no), *Ö(during *Hallo), or nothing (therefore *UE🇧🇷 For these reasons the infinitiveMorningIt is meant to show the Indo-Europeansmi-degree, past singularshowsIt is meant to show the Indo-EuropeansÖ-degree and the past tense in the plurala laughand past participle(take) the walkThey say they show the Indo-EuropeansNull-degree, although confusingly the Old English forms themselves are not displayedmi,Ö, ÖNull. similarThe associationeventually reflects a string *no, *yes, *n, *n, in which *is he, or nothing appears in combination with *Norte🇧🇷 Similar variations play an important role in many etymologies: for some examples see e.g. LOVENorte.¹, MUSTv., CRUadj.. miNorte.¹, LEGALadj..,Notice., miand t., ROJOadj..,Norte., (e adv.), RIFTNorte.,
Weak verbs form the past tense and participle quite differently, using a suffix with a vowel followed by-d- which is the ancestor of modern inflection in-ed(see '-ED' Addition¹🇧🇷 This wayLufianoLOVE v.¹ (a weak Class II verb) shows the past singular in the 1st and 3rd personElster.
Weak verbs often arose as derived formations and often retain some aspect of them in their meaning, such as B. Showing a causative or inchoative meaning: see below onwhy'to cool it down' andKolian'go on'.
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Derivation relationships and phonetic changes.
Many Old English words belong to large word groups, all descending from the same base and related to one another in ways that would be fairly transparent to speakers of the language. By the time of our literary records, however, the relationships between words were often much less clear than they were likely to be, because phonetic changes and other developments obscured the derivational relationships.
For example,Money'legal' (verCALLEDadj..,Notice., miand t.) has a small family of related Old English words, includingcolonFRIEZANorte. which clearly shows the same basis plus '-NESS' Suffix🇧🇷 The relationship with the weak verb of class II is just as clearKolian"become legal" (cfCALLED v.¹).
However, in the case of the weak verb derived from class I, the relationship is less clearwhy'to cool (cause) it' (see KEELv.¹). In this case the root-vowel difference was caused by an important process calledUE- Mutation that occurred before the date of our first records. The old form was probably *Knee🇧🇷 Called in processUE-a mutationUEÖjin this case caused a vowel change in the preceding syllable*o > *e🇧🇷 In this word (as in many others) thejthen it was lost, so we find at the time of our preserved textswhyin the same word family asMoney,colon, miKolian.
The same process explains the variation we find in the root vowel in the plural of some words. The wordMausof course in modern English it shows the plural formRad🇧🇷 We also find in Old English singularusMas PluralPlus🇧🇷 Earlier forms would have been singular *us, Plural *us(formerly *mūsiz);UE- The mutation caused the change*>*in the plural and thenUEitself was lost so that we find in our extant textsusMas PluralPlus.
This and similar processes explain many of the rather complex relationships between related word forms in Old English.
Further Reading in Old English
- Richard Hogg,An introduction to Old English(2002)
- Bruce Mitchell und Fred C. Robinson,A Guide to Old English(7th ed., 2006)
- roger girl,Old English: A Historical Linguistic Companion(1994)
- Richard Hogg Hrsg.,The Cambridge History of the English Language Vol i: From the beginning to 1066(1992)
- Felipe Durkin,The Oxford Guide to Etymology(2009)
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where now with himALTER online?
- There's a growing list of comments tooEnglish on time, Mapping Historical Lexicography from Old English to the Present. In addition to this introduction to Old English, you can also read a similar overviewearly modern englishby Edmund Weiner, Associate Editor of theDEOas well as a guide toOld English at OED.
- aALTER onlineincludes more than7500 entrieswhose first proof of use is dated1150 or earlier.
How do I look for these? withSubscriber AccessaALTER onlineWith you can search for entries by date, usage, provenance, region and subjectAdvanced SearchPossibility. To group entries by time period, use Advanced Search/Enter Date or Entry Range. All results can be viewed as timelines (just click the link at the top of the results list) or you can browse themDEOabovetimelinesPossibility.
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Opinions and other information contained in OED blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Oxford University Press.
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You might think it's absurd (and maybe it is), but Oxford English Dictionary editors recently revealed that “run” has indeed become the single word with the most potential meanings in all of English, boasting no fewer than 645 different usage cases for the verb form alone.
7 English words that nobody uses anymore (but totally should)
- Facetious. ...
- Henceforth. ...
- Ostentatious. ...
- Morrow. ...
- Crapulous. ...
- Kerfuffle. ...
"GOAT" and "irregardless" among "banished words" for 2023 - CBS News.What is America's oldest dictionary? ›
Noah Webster's dictionary, 1828.What is the oldest American dictionary? ›
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Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is the longest word entered in the most trusted English dictionaries. The definition is "a lung disease caused by inhalation of very fine silicate or quartz dust."What was the last English word invented? ›
The title now belongs to Zyzzyva, the name of a genus of tropical weevils native to South America and typically found on or near palm trees. The name of the genus was coined by the entomologist Thomas Lincoln Casey in 1922.When did we stop speaking Old English? ›
Old English – the earliest form of the English language – was spoken and written in Anglo-Saxon Britain from c. 450 CE until c. 1150 (thus it continued to be used for some decades after the Norman Conquest of 1066).What was the first ever language? ›
Sumerian can be considered the first language in the world, according to Mondly. The oldest proof of written Sumerian was found on the Kish tablet in today's Iraq, dating back to approximately 3500 BC.How do you say love in Old English? ›
The word 'love' was once '*leubh', a word used by the Proto-Indo-Europeans approximately five thousand years ago to describe care and desire. When 'love' was incorporated into Old English as 'lufu', it had turned into both a noun to describe, 'deep affection' and its offspring verb, 'to be very fond of'.How did people say bye in Old English? ›
From earlier goodby, Godby, Godby'e, Godbwye, God b'w'y, God bwy yee, God buy you, God be wi' you, each a progressively shorter contraction of "God be with ye" or "God be with you".
Useful phrases in Old English.
|English||Ænglisc (Old English)|
|Thank you||Iċ þancie þē Iċ þancie inc (dl) Iċ þancie ēow (pl)|
|Reply to thank you||Wilcume|
Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America's most-trusted online dictionary.What are the top 5 longest words in the English dictionary? ›
- Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters) ...
- Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (36 letters) ...
- Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (34 letters) ...
- Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (30 letters) ...
- Floccinaucinihilipilification (29 letters)
Definitions of know-it-all. someone who thinks he knows everything and refuses to accept advice or information from others. synonyms: know-all. type of: egoist, egotist, swellhead. a conceited and self-centered person.
- Stake Your Claim and Own Your Own Power. Women are too often reluctant to claim their own power. ...
- Gloria Steinem—Michele's Professional Role Model. ...
- Hear More Stories and Read Michele's Blogs and Books. ...
- Order Dr.
- abate: reduce or lesson.
- abdicate: give up a position.
- aberration: something unusual, different from the norm.
- abhor: to really hate.
- abstain: to refrain from doing something.
- adversity: hardship, misfortune.
- aesthetic: pertaining to beauty.
- amicable: agreeable.
The word with the most meanings in English is the verb 'set', with 430 senses listed in the Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, published in 1989. The word commands the longest entry in the dictionary at 60,000 words, or 326,000 characters.What is the 2 most used word in the world? ›
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What is the most common letter? According to the data, the most common letter in the English language is the letter E. E typically takes first place regardless of which analysis method is used.What 3 letter word has 645 meanings? ›
One three-letter word does much of the heavy lifting in the English language. The little word "run" — in its verb form alone — has 645 distinct meanings.
- Fulvous (adj.) ...
- Roister (int. ...
- Persiflage (n.) ...
- Caracole (n.) ...
- Acidulous (adj.) ...
- Crapulent (adj.) ...
- Bibulous (adj.) Means 'addicted to drinking alcoholic liquor'. ...
- Laniferous (adj.) Means 'wool-bearing'.
- Side note: Affect can also be used as a noun in psychology. ...
- EXCEPT VS. ACCEPT. ...
- INSURE VS. ENSURE. ...
- ITS VS. IT'S. ...
- THEIR/THERE/THEY'RE. “Their” shows possession, while “there” is a place, and “they're” is a contraction of “they are.” ...
- THEN VS. THAN. ...
- WHICH VS. THAT. ...
- YOUR VS. YOU'RE.
- 1 Sequoia (n.) (A seven-letter word that has the letter Q and all five vowels)
- 2 Euphoria (n.) A feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness. ...
- 3 Pluviophile (n.) ...
- 4 Clinomania (n.) ...
- 5 Idyllic (adj.) ...
- 6 Aurora (n.) ...
- 7 Solitude (n.) ...
- 8 Supine (adj.) ...
snollygoster (plural snollygosters) (slang, obsolete) A shrewd person not guided by principles, especially a politician.What is the longest English word that doesn't contain? ›
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary does not contain antidisestablishmentarianism (28 letters), as the editors found no widespread, sustained usage of the word in its original meaning. The longest word in that dictionary is electroencephalographically (27 letters).
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Conversation. The Oxford dictionary removed the word "sin" because "it has fallen into disuse and is not recognized by the younger generation".Are there any words of Old English that are still in use today? ›
Some Old English words of Latin origin that have survived into modern English include belt, butter, chalk, chest, cup, fan, fork, mile, minster, mint, monk, pepper, school, sock, strop, wine.What is the best old dictionary? ›
over 1000 years of English. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words— past and present—from across the English-speaking world.
In that case, what's the longest word in the English language dictionary? It's pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.What language is closest to Old English? ›
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|Area in which Old Saxon was spoken in yellow|
Etymology. From Middle English bewteful, beautefull (“attractive to the eye, beautiful”), equivalent to beauty + -ful. Largely displaced Old English fæġer (whence fair).What is the most used dictionary in America? ›
Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America's most-trusted online dictionary.What is the most powerful word in the dictionary? ›
Why is yet the most powerful word in the English language? Because when you add yet to the end of a sentence, you completely change the connotation of that sentence. You can say, “I don't understand it,” or you can say, “I don't understand it YET”.What is the oldest word ever? ›
Mother, bark and spit are some of the oldest known words, say researchers. Continue reading → Mother, bark and spit are just three of 23 words that researchers believe date back 15,000 years, making them the oldest known words.What does black mean in Old English? ›
The word black comes from Old English blæc ("black, dark", also, "ink"), from Proto-Germanic *blakkaz ("burned"), from Proto-Indo-European *bhleg- ("to burn, gleam, shine, flash"), from base *bhel- ("to shine"), related to Old Saxon blak ("ink"), Old High German blach ("black"), Old Norse blakkr ("dark"), Dutch blaken ...What starts with P and ends with E? ›
Q: What starts with "P", ends with "E", and has millions of letters? A: The "Post Office"!What is the shortest word in the world? ›
The shortest word is a. Some might wonder about the word I since it consists of one letter, too. In sound, a is shorter because it is a monophthong (consists of one vowel), while I is a diphthong.
The words without vowels are why, hmm, hymn, xlnt, wynd, myths, thy, dry, cyst, etc.