I’m not aware of any words in which the letter <r> is silent, the way <d> is silent in handkerchief
and the <i> is silent in business
, though the word caterpillar
does have an accepted variant pronunciation in which the first <r> is definitely silent, as if the word were spelled <catepillar>. For more on the letter <r> and the sound [r] in words like caterpillar
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Of course, there are dialects of English is which final <r>’s are not pronounced [r] but more like a vowel, as in car and beggar pronounced as if they were spelled <cah> and <beggah>. The Oxford Companion to the English Language describes the situation this way: “In another set of accents, r is pronounced in syllable-initial position (red) and intervocalically (barrel), but not post-vocalically (beer, beard, worker). In such positions it is vocalized (turned into a vowel) and not pronounced unless another vowel follows” (p. 867, at “Rhotic and Non-Rhotic”).