The spelling of /t/ is usually <t> or <tt>, but we also often see <ght>, <th> in thyme, and several silent-letter combinations such as <bt> in debt and <pt> in receipt. The /d/ sound is usually <d> or <dd>. The homograph tear makes pairs with dare and dear, while the alternative pronunciations of ate make pairs with Ed and aid. I am not sure if the pair overwrought/overawed is completely minimal, since there is some difference in what happens to the /r/.
The contrast is between two plosives, one voiced and one voiceless, with the same place of articulation. It is a problem for many learners, notably German and Dutch speakers, especially when final in the syllable. Native speakers tend to signal whether the final sound is /t/ or /d/ by shortening or lengthening the preceding vowel. Speakers whose languages do not do this may have trouble hearing the consonant difference.
Pairs involving taboo words are peat/peed and shat/shad.
Interesting pairs include:
I am not sure of the status of the pairs burnt/burned, learnt/learned, spelt/spelled, etc,. since there is no change of meaning.
The mean density value is 3.6%. The list makes 510 semantic distinctions, a loading of 59%. This is slightly higher than expected with a long list, since many of the pairs contrast a past-tense inflection with a final /t/ sound and these cannot be further inflected.
abate obeyed abet abed abort aboard alight allied altar alder altars alders ant and ante Andy ascent ascend ascents ascends assent ascend assented ascended assenting ascending ascents ascends at ad at add ate Ed ate aid atom Adam attar adder aught awed avert averred bait bayed ballot ballad ballots ballads bandit banded bant banned bant band banting banding Bart bard bat bad bate bayed Batley badly beat bead beating beading beats beads beet bead beets beads beetle beadle beetles beadles begat begad belt belled bent bend Bert bird bet bed betted bedded betting bedding bets beds bight bide bights bides bit bid bits bids bite bide biting biding bites bides bitten bidden bitter bidder bitters bidders bleat bleed bleating bleeding bleats bleeds blent blend blunter blunder blurt blurred boat bode boats bodes boated boded boating boding bolt bold boot booed bought bawd bought board bought bored bout bowed brat brad brats brads bright bride brought broad Broughton broaden bruit brewed bruited brooded bruiting brooding bruits broods brute brood brutes broods built billed bullet bullied burnt burned burton burden burtons burdens but bud butt bud butts buds butted budded butting budding cant canned canted candid canter candour cart card carted carded carts cards carting carding carter cadre carters cadres cat cad cats cads cattish caddish catty caddie caught cawed caught cord caught cored cent send cents sends centre sender centres senders château shadow châteaux shadows chart Chard chat Chad chit chid chute shooed cite side cites sides cited sided citing siding cite sighed clot clod clout cloud clouted clouded clouting clouding clouts clouds coat code coated coded colt coaled complaint complained conceit concede conceited conceded conceits concedes conjoint conjoined constraint constrained cont conned contemn condemn contemned condemned contemning condemning contemns condemns content contend contented contended contenting contending contents contends coot cooed cot cod coulter colder court cawed court cord courted corded courting cording courts cords court cored covert covered cult culled curt curd cut cud cute queued daunt dawned debt dead descent descend descents descends dint dinned dissent descend dissented descended dissenting descending dissents descends distraint distrained dolt doled doughty dowdy eaten Eden edit eddied eight aid errant errand extent extend eyelet eyelid eyelets eyelids fate fade fates fades fated faded faint feigned fat fad fats fads fatty faddy fattier faddier fattiest faddiest feat feed feats feeds feet feed felt felled ferret ferried fête fade fêted faded fêtes fades fêting fading float flowed font fond fort ford forts fords fought ford fount found founts founds fraught fraud freight frayed fret Fred fright fried GATT gad gent genned ghat gaud gilt gild gilts gilds gilt guild gilt guilds girt gird gloat glowed goat goad got God grate grade grated graded grating grading grates grades great grade greater grader greet greed grit grid guilt gild guilt guild halt hauled hart hard Hartley hardly hat had haunt horned heart hard hearten harden heartened hardened heartening hardening heartens hardens hearty hardy heartier hardier heartiest hardiest heat he'd heat heed heated heeded heating heeding heats heeds height hide heights hides height Hyde hit hid hoot who'd hot hod hurt heard hurt herd hurting herding hurts herds hurtle hurdle hurtled hurdled hurtles hurdles hurtling hurdling incite inside intent indent intents indents intent intend intents intends it id joint joined Kent kenned kilt killed kit kid kitted kidded kitting kidding kits kids kitty kiddy kitties kiddies knot nod knotted nodded knotting nodding knots nods lat lad late lade latter ladder learnt learned legate legged lent lend let lead letting leading light lied lighten Leiden limpet limpid litre leader litres leaders lout loud lucent loosened malt mauled mart marred mate made mate maid mates maids maternity modernity mat mad matt mad matter madder meant mend meat mead met Med metal medal metalled meddled metals medals metalling meddling mettlesome meddlesome milt milled misspelt misspelled misspent misspend mitt mid mitten midden mittens middens moat mode moats modes moot mood mottle model mottled modelled mottles models mottling modelling moult mould moulted moulded moulting moulding moults moulds mount mound mounts mounds mute mewed mutt mud naught gnawed net Ned newt nude newts nudes not nod note node notes nodes nought gnawed oat ode oats odes omit amid Otley oddly otter odder ought awed oversight overside overspent overspend overstate overstayed overwrought overawed paint pained palette pallid pant panned pat pad pats pads patted padded patting padding pate paid patty paddy patties paddies peat peed pert purred petal pedal petaled pedalled petals pedals Pete peed pint pined plaint plained plait plaid plaits plaids plate played pleat plead pleated pleaded pleating pleading pleats pleads plight plied plot plod plotted plodded plotting plodding plots plods plotter plodder plotters plodders port pawed port poured pot pod potted podded potting podding pots pods prate prayed punt punned pursuit pursued put pud quit quid quits quids rabbit rabid raiment Raymond rant rand rate raid rated raided rating raiding rates raids rattle raddle rattled raddled rebuilt rebuild receipt recede receipted receded receipting receding receipts recedes relate relayed rent rend renting rending rents rends restraint restrained ret read retting Reading reverent Revd right ride rights rides righting riding rite ride rites rides root rood roots roods root rude rot rod rots rods rote road rote rowed rout rowed saint seined sat sad satyr sadder scant scanned scent send scenting sending scents sends scut scud scuts scuds seat cede seated ceded seating ceding seats cedes seat seed seated seeded seating seeding seats seeds sent send set said shanty shandy shanties shandies shat shad sheet she'd short shored shot shod shunt shunned shutter shudder shuttered shuddered shuttering shuddering shutters shudders sight side sights sides sighted sided sighting siding sightings sidings sight sighed site side sites sides site sighed skeet ski'd skint skinned skit skid skits skids slate sleighed sleight slide slight slide slighting sliding slights slides slit slid smelt smelled snort snored sort sawed sort soared sot sod sots sods soutane Sudan spate spade spates spades spelt spelled spent spend spilt spilled spirt spurred spite spied spoilt spoiled squat squad squats squads start starred state staid stately staidly stet stead stilt stilled stoat stowed straight strayed stunt stunned suite Swede suites Swedes summat summered sunburnt sunburned Sutton sudden sweet Swede sweeten Sweden sweetish Swedish Swinton Swindon T D T's D's tab dab tabs dabs tail dale tails dales tale dale tales dales talking Dorking tally dally tallied dallied tallies dallies tallying dallying tallish Dawlish tame dame tames dames tamp damp tamped damped tamping damping tamps damps tamper damper tampers dampers tan Dan tangle dangle tangled dangled tangles dangles tangling dangling tank dank tanker danker tare dare tares dares tarn darn tarns darns tart dart tarted darted tarting darting tarts darts tart tarred taunt daunt taunted daunted taunting daunting taunts daunts tauter daughter tawse daws tear dare tearing daring tears dares tear dear tears dears teasel diesel teasels diesels teat teed tech deck techs decks Ted dead tel dell tels dells tell dell tells dells telly Delhi ten den tens dens Tenby Denbigh tennis Denis tense dense tensely densely tenseness denseness tenser denser tensest densest tensity density tent tend tents tends tessellated desolated Thai die Thais dies Thai dye Thais dyes Thame dame thought thawed threat thread threats threads thyme dime ticker dicker tickers dickers tide died tide dyed tie die ties dies tied died tying dying tie dye ties dyes tied dyed tying dyeing tight tide tights tides tike dike tikes dikes tilt tilde time dime times dimes tin din tinned dinned tinning dinning tins dins time dine tined dined tines dines tine dine tines dines tingle dingle tingles dingles tint tinned tint dint tints dints tip dip tipped dipped tipping dipping tips dips tire dire tires dyers titbit tidbit titbits tidbits title tidal tizzy dizzy to do toast dosed toe do toes does toe dough toes doze toff doff toffs doffs tog dog togged dogged togging dogging togs dogs told doled toll dole tolling doling tolls doles tolled doled tomb doom tombs dooms tome dome tomes domes ton done ton dun tons duns too do tope dope toped doped topes dopes toping doping topi dopey tor daw tors daws tor door tors doors torn dawn Tory dory Tories dories toss doss tossed dossed tossing dossing tosses dosses tot dot totting dotting tots dots totted dotted tote dote totes dotes toted doted toting doting tote toad totes toads toted toadied touch Dutch touches duchies touchy duchy tougher duffer tour dour tout doubt touted doubted touting doubting touts doubts towel dowel towels dowels tower dower towered dowered towering dowering towers dowers town down towns downs townee downy tows does tows doze train drain trained drained training draining trains drains traipse drapes trait trade traits trades traitor trader traitors traders tram drachm trams drachms tram dram trams drams trawl drawl trawled drawled trawling drawling trawls drawls tray dray trays drays tread dread treading dreading treads dreads treat treed trench drench trenched drenched trenches drenches trenching drenching tress dress tresses dresses trier drier triers driers trill drill trilled drilled trilling drilling trills drills trip drip tripped dripped tripping dripping trips drips trite tried troll droll troop droop trooped drooped trooping drooping troops droops trot trod trout drought trove drove troves droves trudge drudge trudged drudged trudges drudges trudging drudging true drew trunk drunk trunks drunks try dry tried dried trying drying tries dries tub dub tubs dubs tuck duck tucked ducked tucking ducking tucks ducks tug Doug tug dug tugs dugs tummy dummy tummies dummies tun done tun dun tuns duns tune dune tunes dunes turban Durban Turk dirk Turks dirks tusk dusk tweet tweed two do twos do's Tyne dine unbent unbend underspent underspend unheated unheeded unhurt unheard unlearnt unlearned unspoilt unspoiled utter udder utters udders vent vend vented vended venting vending vents vends wait wade waited waded waiting wading waits wades waiter wader waiters waders want wand wants wands wart ward warts wards water warder waters warders watt wad watts wads wattle waddle wattles waddles weight wade weighted waded weighting wading weights wades welt weld welts welds welter welder welters welders went wend wert whirred wert word wet wed wetted wedded wetting wedding wettings weddings wets weds what wad wheat we'd wheat weed white wide whiter wider whitest widest whites wides whiten widen whitened widened whitening widening whitens widens wicket wicked Wight wide wilt willed writ rid write ride writes rides writing riding writings ridings written ridden writer rider writers riders Writtle riddle wrote road wrote rode wrought roared
John Higgins, Shaftesbury, January 2010.