The OED shows various forms for the word in related languages, including a few with the "w", but it is not clear to me how those are related, and how the "w" arose. I have seen examples of words that the OED has declared parasitic, such as "thunder", so it would seem that "flower" is not, but I do not know why.

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    Unlike the d in thunder, which is clearly apparent in pronunciation, the w in flower is less obvious. Hour and flour have the same phonemic structure /aʊər/ (or /aʊr̩/ if you prefer), but no w in writing. So you can call it parasitic if you want to – if it is, it’s a parasitic letter, not a parasitic sound, which could be why the OED doesn’t mention it. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 9 '20 at 19:12
  • wow, good question. There is in fact a root *bhlew- whence bloom, straight from Germanic, whereas flower is from *bhleh3-, through Latin flora, Norman French, Middle English. French fleur shows umlautung as well; similar, power is cognate to poeir, also from Latin. I want to say, compare fluff, puff, but it's the dreaded "origin unknown". – vectory May 11 '20 at 5:16
  • oops, tell a lie, bloom is also down for *bhleh3-. There is a *bhlew- for blue (a relatively recent development for a color word), next to Latin flavus with similar semantics from *bhel-; there are *bhlew-(H)- "to overflow", which is odd next to *pleh3-(w)- "to flow"; there's also *bhew- "to grow, swell" for beam, Ger. Baum "tree" (cp. Baumwolle "cotton, wool", viz. fluff), also *bhu- to be(come), and much more, so I hope you can see how I got confused about a tentative root extension *-w-. – vectory May 11 '20 at 5:42
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet - Some English dialects (the "posher" ones) maintain a difference in pronunciation between flower (/aʊə/) and flour (/aʊr̩/ or maybe /a:/). – Harry Audus May 13 '20 at 0:16
  • @HarryAudus All the ‘posher’ English dialects (assuming by ‘English’ you mean ‘from England’, not ‘pertaining to the English language’) are non-rhotic and by definition have no distinction between /ə/ and /r̩/. A pronunciation something like [aː(œ)] is quite common in posh dialects, but in my experience it’s in free variation with [aʊə] in all the examples I gave, including flower. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 13 '20 at 7:31

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