The spellings of the /ɪ/ vowel in this list include <i> in most cases including all the monosyllables, plus <y> in Scylla, and <e> in unstressed prefixes such as decayed. The /e/ vowel is spelled <e> or <ea> in Reading (the place).
This dictionary includes sins/sends as minimal, since it rightly treats the /nz/ and /ndz/ clusters as indistinguishable. A number of the pairs in this list are distinguished by stress, either primary stress in the case of pairs such as below/bellow, impress/empress or escort (verb) versus escort (noun), or secondary stress as with decayed/decade. They are not strictly minimal but have been included as they constitute a problem for some learners. I hesitated about including the loan words signora and senora, since these are questionably different in meaning. In all other cases the /ɪ/ versus /e/ contrast occurs only in monosyllables or on the stressed syllable, except in the one case of axis/access.
The distinction is a recognised problem for many learners, especially Dutch, Scandinavians, and Arabic speakers. It seems to be less of a problem than might be expected with speakers of five-vowel languages such as Italian or Swahili; such speakers tend to assign /ɪ/ to their close front vowel and /e/ to their mid front vowel.
Rather unexpectedly, there are no pairs involving taboo words, except perhaps pissed/pest.
Interesting pairs include:
The mean density value is 1.8%. The list makes 253 semantic distinctions, a loading of 56.25%.
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djinns gens escort escort escorts escorts excise excise exploit exploit exploits exploits export export exports exports expose expos extract extract extracts extracts fib Feb fill fell filled felled filling felling fills fells fin fen fins fens Finn fen Finns fens fitted fetid fitter fetter fitters fetters fizz fez fizzes fezes flick fleck flicked flecked flicking flecking flicks flecks flicks flex gild geld gilded gelded gilding gelding gilds gelds gill gel gills gels gill jell gills jells gin gen ginned genned ginning genning gins gens gist jest gists jests guild geld guilds gelds gym gem gyms gems hick heck hicks hecks hid head hill hell hills hells him hem hip hep hither heather hymn hem hymned hemmed hymning hemming hymns hems id ed if eff if F ifs F's ilk elk ill L ills L's immigrant emigrant immigrants emigrants immigrate emigrate immigrated emigrated immigrates emigrates immigrating emigrating immigration emigration immigrations emigrations imminent eminent imminence eminence imminently eminently impress empress impresses empresses in N ins N's infield Enfield inflict inflect inflicted inflected inflicting inflecting inflicts inflects infliction inflection inflictions inflections inn n inns n's innovate enervate innovated enervated innovating evervating innovates enervates into enter it ate itch etch itched etched itches etches itching etching Jill gel Jill jell Jim gem jimmy jemmy jimmies jemmies jinn gen jinns gens kilt Celt kilts Celts kin ken kindle Kendal kipped kept kitsch ketch knit net knitted netted knitting netting knits nets knit nett knits netts lid lead lids leads lid led lift left limning lemming Linda lender lint leant lint Lent lint lent lintel lentil lintels lentils Linz Lents lipped leapt list lest listen lessen listened lessened listening lessening listens lessens listen lesson listens lessons lit let litter letter littered lettered littering lettering litters letters livid levied Liz Les Lois loess Lynn Len mid Med middle medal middles medals middle meddle middled meddled middles meddles middling meddling milt melt mint meant miss mess missed messed missing messing missy messy mist messed mitt met mitts Metz myths meths nick neck nicked necked nicking necking nicks necks nil knell nil Nell nit net nits nets nit nett nits netts nix necks Phil fell pick peck picked pecked picking pecking picks pecks picker pecker pickers peckers piddle pedal piddled pedalled piddles pedals piddling pedalling piddle peddle piddled peddled piddles peddles piddling peddling pig peg pigged pegged pigging pegging pigs pegs piggy Peggy pin pen pinned penned pinning penning pins pens pinny Penny pinnies pennies pip pep pipped pepped pipping pepping pips peps pissed pest pit pet pits pets pitting petting pity petty pitied petted position possession positions possessions primmest premised pyx pecks quill quell quills quells record record records records rich retch riches retches rich wretch riches wretches rick wreck ricked wrecked ricking wrecking ricks wrecks ricks Rex Ricky recce rid read rid red rids reds ridden redden ridding Reading ridge Reg riff ref rift reft rip rep rips reps rip repp Scylla cellar Scyllas cellars Scylla seller Scyllas sellers shilling shelling sic sec sick sec sicks secs sicked sect sickened second sicks sex Sid said signora senora signoras senoras sill cell sills cells sill sell sills sells since sense sinned send sinner senna sins sends sipped Sept sit set sits sets sitting setting sittings settings sit sett sits setts sitter setter sitters setters six secs six sex sixes sexes skip skep skips skeps slid sled slipped slept spick spec spick speck spill spell spilled spelled spilling spelling spills spells spilt spelt stiller Stella stiller stellar swill swell swilled swelled swilling swelling swills swells sylph self symmetry cemetery tic tec tic tech tick tec ticks tecs tick tech ticks techs tics techs till tel till tell tilling telling tills tells tiller teller tillers tellers tin ten tins tens tinder tender tinned tend tint tent tints tents trick trek tricked trekked tricking trekking tricks treks trimmer tremor trimmers tremors victor vector victors vectors vintner Ventnor whin wen whin when whipped wept whist west whit wet whits wets whit whet whits whets whither weather whither wether whither whether will well willed welled willing welling wills wells willed weld wilt welt wilts welts win wen wins wens win when wins when's wince whence winch wench winched wenched winching wenching winches wenches wind wend winded wended winding wending winds wends windy Wendy wit wet wits wets wit whet wits whets wither weather withered weathered withering weathering withers weathers wither wether withers wethers wither whether wrick wreck wricked wrecked wricking wrecking wricks wrecks wricks Rex wrist rest wrists rests wrist wrest wrists wrests writ ret writs rets
Credit: John Higgins