Why is the H silent in Spanish? This is one of the mysteries that most surprises our students on Spanishviaskype.com. It is perhaps second only to the origin of the letter eñe.


Curious facts about Spanish: the letter ñ


In fact, many people wonder why do I have to write “hache” if it doesn’t sound? This question is not only asked by students. Great linguists and writers such as Andrés Bello or Gabriel García Márquez already saw the uselessness of using this letter and the need to simplify spelling. But is it really useless? Has it always been silent? Today we will try to answer these questions.

Why is H silent today?

This spelling was not always silent. The letter hache has entered Spanish through three sources.

First, Latin words that were already written in this way. As in Latin (at least in its classical era), in Spanish we do not pronounce it:

Hominem > hombre

 Habēre> haber



On the other hand, many of the words that had an initial “f-” in Latin underwent a change in pronunciation. It seems that peoples in the northern Iberian Peninsula did not have the /f/ sound. Although they did what they could, they actually were only able to reproduce an aspirated sound, similar to the pronunciation of “h” in English. Because of this phonetic confusion, words beginning with “f-” in Latin came to be written with “h-“. Around the 16th century, it was no longer pronounced as it was considered vulgar. However, in some dialectal speeches of Andalusia, Extremadura, Canary Islands and America, the aspiration is still preserved.

Farīna> harina

Fābulāre> hablar

Finally, other words entered Spanish through different languages, such as English, German or Arabic. Some of these words retain the aspiration today:

Hockey, hachís or hámster.

Is letter H useful in Spanish?

Now that we have given an answer to the question “why is H silent“, another one arises: what is it useful for if we do not pronounce it. We are going to give three different answers.

To begin with, the letter hache helps us to differentiate words in Spanish:

Factum > hecho

Iactō> echo

Moreover, it makes it easier for us to know the origin of words; to be aware of their etymology and, consequently, to respect the history of those words.

Finally, if we add this phenomenon, to the presence of the letter eñe and the use of question marks at the beginning of a question, it makes us a unique language.

In summary, now that we have learned why letter H is silent in Spanish, we advise you to learn how to write it on Spanishviaskype.com.