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What’s So Special About the Word “Dreamt”?

Updated May 17, 2024
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With so many unpredictable words in the English language, what makes “dreamt” unique? It turns out that “dreamt,” the irregular past tense of the verb “to dream,” is the only English word that ends in "-mt." Though in many cases, regular verb forms gradually replace irregular ones in common usage, the irregular form “dreamt” is still in use today.

Both “dreamt” and the regular form "dreamed" have been in use since the 14th century. Famous writers like William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Jane Austen, and William Makepeace Thackeray made use of "dreamt" in their works. During the 19th century, usage of the word became something of a mixed bag among authors, editors, and publishers.

Rather than deciding whether to use “dreamt” or “dreamed,” literary greats such as Charlotte Brontë, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, James Joyce, and HG Wells used both forms in their works. And although "dreamed" became the dominant form by the mid-1800s, "dreamt" remains acceptable.

For the record, most English verbs follow a regular pattern. The majority end in "-ed" for their past and past-participle tenses. The verbs that don’t follow this pattern are known as irregular (or "strong") verbs. While the number of irregular verbs in the English language is small, their use is disproportionally significant. In fact, while Merriam-Webster’s Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary states that there are only 300 irregular English verbs in existence, the ten most commonly used verbs in the English language are all irregular: be, have, do, say, make, go, take, come, see, and get.

Weak and strong, regular and irregular:

  • William Shakespeare’s use of “dreamt” can be heard in his everlasting tale of love and woe, Romeo and Juliet. In the play, Romeo tells his friend Mercutio, “I dreamt a dream tonight.”

  • Technically, barely-used derivatives of “dreamt,” including “daydreamt,” “undreamt,” and “redreamt” are the only other words in the English language that end with “mt.”

  • Interestingly, the verb “sneak” has seen its regular and irregular tense usage unexpectedly change over the years. Although the regular past tense form "sneaked" has been in use since the 1500s, the irregular form “snuck” began appearing the United States in the late 1800s. In the U.S., "snuck" is now arguably more common than the regular form of the verb.

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