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I basically came these words across together in a text, and I was wondering whether or not they are pronounced the same way. 'War' is actually pronounced as 'wor', so I'm not entirely sure.

Personally, when I pronounce them I do not hear a difference, but I'm not a native English speaker. Therefore, could anyone perhaps shed some light on the pronunciation, whether or not it is different?

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5 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I'm sitting here saying the two words to myself and marveling that I never noticed that similarity in pronunciation before. :)

The difference is all in the "or."

In worship, the "or" is pronounced more as "ur" by most Americans. We say it as "wurship."

Warship is pronounced more the way it looks: "wawrship," with the mouth opening a bit wider on the "a."

Accent is on the first syllable in both words.

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As Brian’s answer points out, this is slightly inaccurate about the British pronunciation — we too pronounce the ‘wor-’ of ‘worship’ to approximately rhyme with ‘fur’, ‘her’, etc. Otherwise, completely agreed… –  PLL Mar 20 '11 at 18:34
    
@PLL Deleted. I shouldn't have commented on British pronunciation. (It sounds different to my ear.) –  Kelly Hess Mar 20 '11 at 19:09
    
This doesn't work in St. Louis, where they pronounce pork as "park" and Highway 40 as "Highway Farty" ... So there would be no difference between worship and warship to them. –  Robusto Mar 21 '11 at 19:25
    
The variations among American dialects are so interesting. In east Texas, a lot of people pronounce "horse" so that it rhymes with "farce." They're quite selective with this and do it with only a handful of or words. IIRC, forty is one of them. –  Kelly Hess Mar 21 '11 at 19:32
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I'd more or less agree with the above answer, apart from the part about the difference between English and American pronunciations.

Dictionary.com has the two pronounced as /ˈwɔrˌʃɪp/ [wawr-ship] for warship, and /ˈwɜrʃɪp/ [wur-ship] for worship. These are about how I'd expect them to sound as a British English speaker.

Merriam-Webster suggests \'wər-shəp\ or \'wòr-shəp\ for worship. I'm not quite sure about either of those.

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I find all of these answers very strange. For me, the sole difference is that worship is stressed only on the first syllable while warship has both stressed, just as though it were written war ship. Of course, I realise now that most accents differentiate them by pronunciation as well, and I'd naturally pronounce them differently if I were affecting another accent. –  Jon Purdy Mar 20 '11 at 20:36
    
For me (AmE), the two differences. Inclassical poetic meter, 'warship' is a spondee (long-long) and 'worship' is a trochee (long-short). And without going into phonetics, the first syllables differe for me mostly as the vowel indicates. –  Mitch Mar 20 '11 at 22:32
    
Out of curiosity I looked up the pronunciations on thefreedictionary, and surprisingly the same sound has been put behind those words - please have a look at: thefreedictionary.com/warship and thefreedictionary.com/worship. –  pimvdb Mar 21 '11 at 14:47
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Warship : wôrˌSHip ( more like Wor-Ship )

Worship: wərSHəp ( more like Wer-Ship )

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The 'a' in Warship is like the 'a' in Law. It is a sound that is hard for a non English speaker to pronounce, try making 'law' and 'low' sound different, they should sound very different and this is part of the same issue.

The 'or' in Worship is like 'err' in "to err on the side of caution", or the mechanical sound that is associated with spinning, 'whirr', as in "The machine whirred past".

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Thanks Hellion :¬) The probable mistakes were bugging me. –  alan2here Mar 22 '11 at 11:29
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I cannot hear a difference between the two at all. If I heard someone say either word out of context, I would have no idea which one they meant. (And for what it's worth, detecting audible differences comprises much of my life).

On the other hand, I agree with @Kelly C Hess -- despite their similarity, I am pretty sure I have never confused them. Fortunately there are probably very few cases when it would be ambiguous in context.

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