Breaking the Rules: Wild Old Words

I’ve written in the past about closed syllables and how if a syllable is “closed in” by consonants, then it will be a “closed syllable” and the vowel will be short. However, there are groups of words called Wild-Old Words that are “fossil” words left from Anglo Saxon times that do not follow the rules. These words are common but irregular.

A student can learn that some common words ending in ld, st, nd, and lt have a single vowel with a long vowel sound.


  • comb
  • roll, troll, stroll
  • mold, told, sold, scold, old, bold, cold, fold, gold
  • bolt, colt, dolt, jolt, Holt, molt, volt
  • bind, find, mind, wind, blind, grind, hind, kind, rind
  • both, don’t, won’t, host, most, post, ghost
  • pint, mild, wild, child, blinds
  • minded, kindly, kindness, unkind, behind, blindfold, remind

Sentences for dictation and reading:

  • This wild child is a troll.
  • Jane will rope the colt to a post.
  • It is cold in summer also?
  • I combed the old, kind dog with a small comb.
  • I wish I had a pint of gold.
  • Hold the wild colt.

Want more? Check out the Workbook Store. This information plus worksheets are in the workbook store.

Source: Unlocking the Power of Print, Dorthothy Blosser Whitehead

(9) Comments

  1. When I look for things to use to teach this I noticed that/oll/ it’s not included in most lists or worksheets etc…

    Can you explain why?

    1. Hi Cathy, I have seen these /oll/ words show up in lessons on FLOSS — words like knoll and stroll — however, you have to make sure they are taught as sight words because of the long o sound. In the class I took, these words are on a list called Wild Old Words — a specific list of words that are common but irregular and are taught as patterns (-mb, -oll, -old, -olt, -ind, -nt, -oth, -n’t, -ost, -ild). I like the idea of teaching them as patterns.

      I can’t explain why they are on some lists and not others, but that’s why I am partial to OG and the way I was taught OG!

  2. Can anyone help me understand, and explain, why the word “only” is spelled as such? I have a teacher who correctly identified it as a 2-syllable word, but questioned whether the first syllable was really closed or not, as the vowel sound is long. I’ve got my Logic of English book out, and have googled like crazy, but found no answers for this word. Is it that it’s just an Old English word?

    1. Hi Lisa, yes, it is just that the word “only” is a Middle English word. Those tend to be strange, like comb, bolt, pint, etc. Dividing it, “only” would be a VCCV word, divide between the consonants and get on/ly (closed/open syllables). Ultimately, I would include “only” in sight words.

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