I am really struggling to find a complete list of all consonant clusters that are possible in the English language. Can anyone point me in the direction of one?

I have spent hours looking online with only partial success so far, finding a list of initial-position consonant clusters on wikipedia (1). I have not found a list of final position consonant clusters, of which there are more.

Just to clarify, I am interested in phonemic analysis (sounds in spoken English represented by IPA symbols), not digraphs (combinations of letters in written English).

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_phonology#Onset

  • 1
    English has 2 sets of consonant clusters — syllable-initial and syllable-final. Do you need both?
    – Yellow Sky
    Oct 28, 2021 at 9:45
  • 1
    All of them. It's English. (Sorry...)
    – LjL
    Oct 28, 2021 at 15:38
  • 1
    If you include clusters that can exist medially, like the one in gangster, the count goes way up. But no English word can start with ngst, and only one (borrowed) word can end with it. Initial clusters are bl, gl, pl, kl, br, dr, gr, pr, tr, kr, spl, spr, str, skr, sp, st, sk, sl, sm, sn, thr, fl, fr, sw, tw, skw, fy, shw, and shm. I think that's all, except for foreign words.
    – jlawler
    Oct 28, 2021 at 19:32
  • 2
    @jlawler – Amongst doesn't seem to be borrowed.
    – Yellow Sky
    Oct 29, 2021 at 7:25
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    @jlawler — It's not superlative. Just like amidst and whilest, it's formed with adverbial genitive -s-, and unetymological (excressent) -t.
    – Yellow Sky
    Oct 30, 2021 at 0:24

1 Answer 1


The same page has a list of final consonant clusters further down: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_phonology#Coda

However, medial clusters are a third situation, in the sense that the medial clusters that appear in non-compound words are much more restricted than every possible combination of word final + word initial clusters.

If you're trying to list every possible cluster, you'll run into the issue of edge cases, often relating to borrowed, non-core vocabulary: is /kʃ/ "possible" word-initially because of the word Kshatriya? If you're using a word-list like a dictionary as your data source, then your list of possible clusters will depend on how many and which type of low-frequency words the dictionary-makers choose to include. A more objective way of deciding whether to include edge cases might be to take a large corpus and decide to only include consonant clusters that have above a certain number of occurrences in the corpus. Either approach would presumably "miss" at least some cases like this.

On the other hand, if we're truly concerned with what is possible rather than just what happens to exist, we might also need to consider the possibility of "accidental gaps": clusters that are not attested, but that fit the pattern of existing clusters and that appear to be easily pronounceable by English speakers. I'm not sure what a good example of a candidate accidental gap is, but there likely are some. (Perhaps word-final /lkst/?)

  • 3
    Excellent answer, getting to the core of the problem that phonotactics are inherently blurry, and things like sonority principles are more rough guidelines than hard rules. Aside from /kʃ/, I would also consider /fʃ/ a valid onset cluster, but not, say, /mg/ – even though I know of no words, even borrowed ones, that begin with either. /lkst/ seems perfectly cromulent in coda as well (you might imagine Shakespeare saying something like thou milk’st the cow). Oct 29, 2021 at 7:38
  • 5
    There's a classic article by John Algeo on What Consonant Clusters Are Possible?.
    – jlawler
    Oct 29, 2021 at 20:03

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