I've attempted to search and google related topics and found these two: here and here, although, I'm afraid I don't get their points and I don't know if those would help. I just want to ask and convince myself whether there is or there is not a vowel epsilon /ε/ in English. Is this letter used by some people and there are some don't?'

I see here, that AmE has this letter, for example the noun bed is written as


according to Learner's Dictionary (app version, the same producer as M-W). However, OALD, CALD, Longman use the letter /e/ like this:


Please, look at this diagram I found (screenshoted by someone, I found it on Facebook):

enter image description here

As you can see there that those letter (/e/ and /ε/) are different. I've checked the third link (above). There's a play button to hear the vowel /ε/ and it has exactly the same sound with the vowel /e/ I've watched from BBC English learning (I hope I didn't misheard). Now, I'm confused.

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    OP, those are pronunciations. At the beginning of every dictionary are explanations as to what the various letters mean in pronunciations. Why do you think that this letter is used throughout English words when there's literally no evidence of that here? Dec 1, 2021 at 16:21
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    A lot of the symbols shown on the diagram are phonetic symbols, not letters of the (Roman) alphabet. Dec 1, 2021 at 16:34
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    /ɛ/ is a phoneme. Not a letter. It represents a sound. A sound as in the written word: bed, shed, lead (the metal or past participle of a verb).
    – Lambie
    Dec 1, 2021 at 16:35
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    Note that the position of the symbol ɛ in your screenshotted chart does not match the current IPA chart at all. And also that many pronunciation spelling systems are different from the IPA, even if they use some of the same symbols.
    – Dan Getz
    Dec 1, 2021 at 17:00
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    I’m voting to close this question because it is based on a misunderstanding of phonetic symbols and their use in dictionaries. Dec 1, 2021 at 17:04

2 Answers 2


/ε/ exists, and is dominant. If you scroll down in this chart of phoneme variations among English dialects to the row for ε, you will see that most dialects, including most British dialects, have /ε/. However, "conservative RP", Cockney, and Australian and New Zealand variants are listed as having /e/ or /e̞/.

The main Wikipedia page for the English language is simpler and simply says that the "bed" vowel is /ε/ in AmE and /e̞/ in RP.

OALD makes its own choices of pronunciation symbols, which are based on, but sometimes differ from, IPA. They actually document their system and their choices in detail, and even specifically mention the case of "bed":

Yet there are reasons to vary the phonemic symbolization of RP. Many of the commonly used vowel symbols are frustratingly far from their IPA values—the /e/ of being a good example. Given its close relationship with the spelling letter the choice of symbol—especially for ELT—makes sense, but the actual IPA value of [e] is quite different.

("ELT" means "English Language Teaching").

And, as mentioned in the comments, the vowel chart in your question is quite misleading. Compare this one instead:

IPA vowel chart, wikipedia

in which /ε/ and /e/ are neighbors (and /e̞/, which is not on the chart, would sit in between them.


If you mean, does the English alphabet include a letter that is written "ɛ", the answer is no.

When dictionaries give pronunciation guides, they often use a variety of symbols that are not part of the English alphabet. In English letters can have different sounds depending on complex rules and often just on convention. So some dictionaries will use the symbol "ɛ" in a pronunciation guide to indicate a certain sound. Different dictionaries use different sets of symbols so some will use this and some will use other symbols for the same sound.

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