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From Google I have gathered there are several ways for pronounce Israel, I have pronounced it is-rye-el. From googling it some seem to indicate it acceptable and another says it is vulgar and should be avoided, so I come to you, which one is it, as it seems it is used often enough...

Edit: Adding links to the links I looked at before asking and referenced above.

Page that offers two ways of pronunciation neither is-rye-el


Mention of several pronunciations including is-rye-el

http://www.choralnet.org/205055 . Mention that is-rye-el is vulgar and barbaric

More mentions of is-rye-el and how it is pronounced in the east.


More mentions of is-rye-el and other common pronunciations, at least one commenter seems to think is-rye-el is the usual way it is said in America.


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Where specifically have you seen that it is a vulgar pronunciation? –  Kit Z. Fox Mar 13 '13 at 0:16
I added the links that I checked before. The second link especially " But Americans, on the whole, are not properly taught, and have developed the completely barbaric "Iz-rye-el"-- barbaric, because it's neither proper English nor proper Latin, where "Eez-rah-el" is correct. Sing "Eez-rah-el" in Latin, "Iz-ray-el" in English, but stay far away from the vulgar "Iz-rye-el" or its cousin "Iz-rah-yell"!" –  Zimm3r Mar 13 '13 at 0:19
That’s a pretty offensive thing for them to write. –  tchrist Mar 13 '13 at 0:20
As far as I hear in the news, it is pronounced 'iz ree ull /'iz rij l/. The pronunciations given above seem more for biblical readings or Christmas carols. –  Mitch Mar 13 '13 at 1:16
Why do people think that Is-rye-el is offensive? Are they extrapolating from the fact that the pronunciations Eye-rack and Eye-ran are? The change from Is-rah-el to Is-rye-el is a fairly natural case of epenthesis for Americans; see this discussion of Naomi. –  Peter Shor Mar 13 '13 at 1:31

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The OED says that one says /ˈɪzreɪəl/.

But one sings /ˈɪzra(j)ɛl/ in the opening of Mendelssohn’s Elijah:

As God the Lord of Israel liveth, before whom I stand: there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.

That’s the standard sung pronunciation; it (meaning /ˈɪzra(j)ɛl/) is perhaps what people are hearing as your “rye” thing. It is hardly barbaric.

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The spoken pronunciations are what they are, and will be no matter what anybody says about them.

Your second link, however, is not about spoken pronunciation but about sung pronunciation in classical music; and that art form has its own conventions. Classical music insists on 'pure', 'Italian' vowels; it does not like diphthongs and glides, because these modify the 'pure' musical tone. This aversion is particularly acute among choral musicians, who want everybody to be singing the same vowel at the same time. Don't be misled by the spelling of the preferred pronunciation as <ay>; conscientious choristers know that this is merely an English approximation of /e:/.

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In the Jewish community in the United States you hear Is-Ree-al and Is-RYE-el, the latter being closer to the Hebrew pronunciation of YIS-ra-el. The more imprtant distinction should be the "El" which is a form of a Name of the Divinity.

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I think it is completely not on the books, but I often hear it as a two-syllable word: is-rull.

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