Spelling 'one' and 'two' - lexical spelling

I write this on a once-in-a-century day! The date is 11/11/11 - the only day in a hundred years when all those numbers are the same - lots of lovely ONEs. To celebrate and honour the number one, let's look at its spelling.

Learners have asked me "Why do you spell one without a w although you pronounce a w in it? And then why does two have a w when you don't pronounce it?" Great questions!

So why? The simple answer is that these two words are not phonetically spelled. Their spelling shows lexical or semantic links with other words - we are spelling by meaning not sound. All of the words below contain the letters o-n. Can you see how each of them relates to the idea of one?

Wordle: Untitled
one, alone, only, lonely, once, none

And how about two? (I'll deal with that now as I may not still be blogging on 22/2/22!) Where did that w come from? Again - it's about meaning not sound. What's the link with the number 2 in these words containing tw?

Wordle: two 2
two, twenty, twice, twelve, twin, between

Pointing this pattern out to learners can help prevent them writing *tow*, instead of two, and mixing the homophones. It also helps them to see there is some logic and that you shouldn't rely too much on sound when spelling.

Some questions for you:
  • Can you think of any more words related to the number one that include the letters on (together)?
  • And any more tw words related to the number two?
  • Do you know other sets of words in which the spelling can be learned by linking meanings rather than sound? (There are more in my book.)
Answers in the Comments please.