Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

A recent question has reminded me of something I've been wondering about for a while: what is the correct way to pronounce tuple?

share|improve this question
What is a non-mathematical example of this? –  GEdgar Jun 27 '11 at 15:19
add comment

6 Answers

up vote 21 down vote accepted

There are two possible pronunciations, one to rhyme with two pull (/tupəl/) and the other with supple (/tʌpəl/).

Take your pick. There will always be someone to agree with you... violently :)

share|improve this answer
How to rhyme tuple with two? –  Tim N Feb 17 '11 at 10:27
@Tim, look now... –  Benjol Feb 17 '11 at 11:18
You say a Tuple and I say a Tuple ;) –  mplungjan Feb 17 '11 at 14:45
Just being picky here, but "two pull" and "tuple" are not perfect rhymes, since "pull" is [pʊl] and the "ple" in "tuple" is [pəl]. –  Kosmonaut Apr 3 '11 at 15:07
I've always pronounced it two-ple. In Python programming circles you'll find proponents of both forms - and usually we're pretty accepting of each other's craziness ;) –  Wayne Werner Apr 30 '12 at 14:19
show 4 more comments

I don't use either of the pronunciations Benjol mentioned. I say /tjupl/, the first syllable rhyming with "stew".

I suspect that Benjol has a dialect in which "dew" and "do" are homonyms, but they aren't for me or most British speakers.

share|improve this answer
Really? I've never heard anyone in England say "tewple" - it's always "toople". –  Marcin Jun 27 '11 at 19:16
(Or, in one instance, "tupple"). –  Marcin Jun 27 '11 at 19:23
You may never have heard it. But I assure you that on the rare occasions when I say the word I pronounce it /tjupl/, like "tulip" and "tutor". Why the downvote? –  Colin Fine Jun 28 '11 at 12:03
"Most British speakers" certainly does not accord with my observation. –  Marcin Jun 28 '11 at 17:09
@Marcin My guess is that you have observed British programmers using the American pronunciation, but this is the traditional British one. –  z7sg Ѫ Jun 30 '11 at 0:29
show 1 more comment

I am a British speaker.

I pronounce Dew and Do differently (dew - stew - chew / do - too - who).

But tuple/quintuple/quintuplets I pronounce with 'up', not 'oop' (tuple - supple).

So do any other British speakers I know.

share|improve this answer
The "dew"/"do" distinction you are referring to is because UK English allows the /j/ onglide to occur after coronal consonants, /t,d,s,z/ and so on. Although both AmE and BrE can distinguish "fool" /ful/ and "fuel" /fjul/, AmE treats both "dew" /dju/ and "do" /du/ as /du/. –  Kosmonaut Apr 3 '11 at 15:59
Yes, @kosmonaut, that is quite right. I used the other words to try to provide 'sounds like' examples for my own pronunciation in the absence of IPA symbols. (I've seen them used on here but I don't know how people do it) –  Karl Apr 3 '11 at 16:12
@Karl: IPA symbols are easy. Just open up a page that already has them and use murine snarf-N-barf to insert whatever you need. –  tchrist Apr 3 '11 at 17:45
Oh, just like that? Excellent, thanks. ( @tchrist ) –  Karl Apr 3 '11 at 18:12
Really? Every programmer I have met in England says "toople". –  Marcin Jun 27 '11 at 19:17
show 4 more comments

From dictionary.com:

tjʊp ə l, ˈtʌp ə l)

So, the actual pronunciation is actually either "tew-pel" or "tu-" as in "but".

share|improve this answer
Isn't /ˈtʌpəl/ more like "tupple" than "tew-pel" or "too-pel"? –  psmears Jun 27 '11 at 12:33
My pronounciation guide puts it as "ʌ" as in "but"!! I always said "but" as in "boot"... Jks. Don't know what happened when I posted that answer. –  Thursagen Jun 28 '11 at 11:48
/tjʊp ə l/ is yet another pronunciation, that nobody else has mentioned. I say /tjup ə l/ with a tense /u/ not a lax /ʊ/ –  Colin Fine Feb 18 '13 at 17:15
add comment

It should be pronounced to rhyme with quintuple, sextuple, octuple etc, since these are its origins.

share|improve this answer
This is how I've heard it pronounced in the USA (except that I would leave "quadruple" off the list since the "u" there is long). This one may be subject to some regional differences, given @Ham and Bacon's answer. –  JeffSahol Jun 27 '11 at 12:20
@JeffSahol: You're right that there are regional differences: for example the "u" is long in "quintuple", "sextuple" is long in British English. Saying it's "like quintuple" is about right, because although in my experience there's quite a lot of variation in how people say that word, exactly the same variation occurs with "tuple" :-) –  psmears Jun 27 '11 at 12:35
The pronunciation analogy with 'quintuple' etc. won't necessarily work because of of how stress modifies vowels. There could also be a competing analogy with 'double'. –  Mitch Jun 27 '11 at 13:33
add comment

When I first heard of tuple in C.J. Date’s book An Introduction to Database Systems, he goes to the trouble of explaining that it is pronounced like couple. That was in an early edition around 1983.

share|improve this answer
I'm not entirely convinced that Date has any right to pontificate, but +1 for actually providing some evidence, rather than 'this is what I do'. –  TimLymington Jun 23 '13 at 20:15
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.