What is meant by long or short vowels? Long vowels are the vowels that say their own names. Short vowel sounds do not say their names. Here’s a rule to help you know when to make a short vowel sound: A vowel is usually short if it comes at the beginning of a word or between two consonants and is the only vowel in the word or syllable. A vowel is usually long if two vowels are in the word or syllable. The first vowel is long and the second is silent. Remember when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.