The most commonly used letter, the longest word and other fun facts about the Spanish alphabet

by Lorraine Williamson
Spanish alphabet

Almost half of the texts (45%) in Spanish are formed by vowels, ‘cosa‘ is the most commonly used word, and the letter ‘w’ was added last to the abecedario, the Spanish alphabet.  

These and other facts – such as ‘e’ and not ‘a’ is the most commonly used letter in Spanish. ‘Oía'(heard) is the only word that forms three syllables with three letters. And ‘murciélago’ (bat), is one of the few words to contain all five vowels, which used to be ‘murciégalo’. These are some of the ‘secrets’ of the Spanish language collected in the book ‘Nunca lo hubiera dicho’ (I never guessed that).  

This is a new line of books on language created with the support of the Real Academia Española and the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española, and under the direction of academic Soledad Puértolas. 

What is the most commonly used letter n Spanish?  

The Spanish alphabet (abecedario) has 27 letters and 30 different sounds. This is due to the ch (che), the LL (elle), the soft R and the hard R. The Spanish alphabet also has a unique letter, which has almost become a brand: the Ñ. 

The most commonly used letter in Spanish is the “e”. This is followed by the “a” and, in third place, also a vowel, the “o”. The consonants ‘s’ and ‘r’ complete the top five. At the other end of the scale are ‘x’, ‘k’ and ‘w’, which are the least used.  

According to some studies, 45% of the letters in a Spanish text are vowels. There are words that contain all the vowels; apart from the often mentioned example of ‘murciélago’ (bat), they include ‘auténtico’ (real, authentic), ‘estimulador’ (stimulator, stimulating) or ‘euforia’, (euphoria, bliss) whose last word requires the fewest consonants, only two.  

nederlandse orthopeed

Longest word and other fun facts 

The longest word in the dictionary of the Spanish language: is ‘electroencelalografista’ (electron cellographer) with 23 letters. The second longest word, ferrocarrilero’ (railway worker) contains the letter ‘R’ five times. Besides ‘cosa’ (thing), ‘realizar’, (make, realise) is also often used. Furthermore, these are the terms that can be described as the most ‘pluriempleados’ (with several meanings) in the Spanish language.  

The typical Spanish ñ, ! and ¿ 

The book devotes one of its chapters to the letter ‘ñ’. This is the fifteenth letter of the alphabet. But, its existence was threatened and faced a political and legal battle for its survival. Consequently, in 1991, the European Community challenged the Spanish laws guaranteeing the presence of the letter on keyboards marketed in Spain.  

The letter originated when in the Middle Ages. Copyists used abbreviations to save time and space in words with a double ‘n’, simplifying the consonant by placing a dash over it. This tendency was reinforced by the orthography of Alfonso X the Wise and Nebrija, who had already included the letter as an independent letter.  

Two years later, the Spanish government ensured its presence in a Royal Decree. Like the inverted question mark at the beginning of a question and the use of an exclamation mark in an exclamation, it falls into the category of cultural exceptions. 

Uve doble 

The last letter to be added to the Spanish alphabet was the double V. The uve doble was only incorporated into the Spanish alphabet in 1969. It was a foreign letter since it came into the Spanish language through loanwords. The ‘w’ sometimes functions as a vowel in many words from English or the oriental languages, but it can also be used as a consonant, as in the German-derived word ‘wolframio (tungsten). 

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