So-called “short o”

From Teflpedia


lot /lɒt/

The so-called “short o” sound is an informal term that means the short sound of the letter o which is IPA phoneme /ɒ/. In General American /ɒ/ doesn't exist, and “short o” is the phoneme /ɑː/ (see Phoneme /ɑː/ in General American).


  • In all the English speaking world: got - job - lot - collar - topic
  • In most accents, excepting General American, the following examples can be added: cloth - lost - offer - song
In General American we can say that these words (which sound /ɔː/) have “short o” spelling.

The term “short o” should only be used when the spelling is actually “o”. It's confusing to say "watch is pronounced with short o". If this sentence had to be spoken it would be better to say "watch is pronounced with the LOT vowel". Alternatively it could be said "watch is pronounced like the short sound of the letter o".

Another reason why the terms “long o” and “short o” are not recommended is because the opposition between /ɒ/ (or /ɑː/) and /əʊ/ (“long o”) is not only a difference in length, but mainly a difference in quality.

“Short o” in combinations[edit | edit source]

When a combination of o and another letter has the sound /ɒ/ it is confusing to say that it has the “short o” sound. It is better to say it has the vowel of LOT.

  • "ow": knowledge
  • "ou": cough*
  • silent e: gone*

*: These words are pronounced with /ɔː/ in General American.

See also[edit | edit source]

“Short” “Long” Long rhotic monophthong
“Short” vowel spelling
Rhotic diphthong
“Long” vowel spelling
Short monophtong
A /æ/ trap /eɪ/ face /ɑː/ start /eə/ square /æ/ carry
E /e/ dress /iː/ we /ɜː/ term /ɪə/ here /e/ cherry
I /ɪ/ kit /aɪ/ price /ɜː/ girl /aɪə/ fire /ɪ/ mirror
O /ɒ/ lot /əʊ/ hope /ɔː/ north /ɔː/ store /ɒ,BrE ɔːAmE/ torrid
U /ʌ/ strut /juː/ cute /ɜː/ nurse /jʊə/ cure /ʌ,BrE ɜːAmE/ hurry