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.

I just read an interesting question here on Greenwich Mean Time.

I'm interested to know when Greenwich received its peculiar pronunciation. Has it always been pronounced as "GREN-ich" (/ˈɡrɛnɪtʃ/), and is it just a simple contraction or something more?

I'm from Northern England and would say that GREN-ich is used nationally and globally, but I agree with Wikipedia that I've heard it pronounced GRIN-ich in London.

share|improve this question
3  
+1 Nice question... I didn't know that. Now it'll be a pain to avoid saying /ɡriːnwɪtʃ/ :D Even if actually I don't make that long vowel... –  Alenanno Jun 9 '11 at 18:21
    
add comment

4 Answers

Greenwich was originally Grenevic in Old English, and so has probably never been “Green-witch”.

Similarly, Norwich in Norfolk is pronounced “nor-itch”, and was originally spelt Northwic.

share|improve this answer
2  
+1: N.B. In OE Gipeswic would have been pronounced yippeswitch. –  Robusto Jun 9 '11 at 18:53
    
@Robusto. Ipswitch wasn't a good example - I changed it –  mgb Jun 9 '11 at 19:16
    
Thanks Martin. I find it interesting that it is written GREEN-wich in modern English. In our neck of the woods we have Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich: all pronounced something-witch. (It's Ipswich of course not Ipswitch). –  Dizzley Jun 9 '11 at 19:22
    
The Cheshire town is "Northwich" and is pronounced like that. Norwich is pronounced Nor-itch as you say. I wonder if the differences are regional? –  Dizzley Jun 9 '11 at 19:29
    
@Dizzley - very likely the differences are regional: the town of Greenock in Scotland is pronounced with the long E sound ("ee") not short E ("eh"): TV newscasters frequently pronounce it wrongly, presumably influenced by Greenwich's short E. –  AAT Jun 9 '11 at 20:56
add comment

Two processes at work: pre-cluster shortening followed by wyn-dropping.

pre-cluster shortening:

break ~ breakfast
green ~ Greenwich
goose ~ gosling
waist ~ waistcoat

wyn-dropping:

historical one > an
husband > hussy
inwards > innards
always > allus
will > 'll
-wich, -wick > -ich, -ick

In his Historical Wyn Dropping, Jack Windsor Lewis says

Placenames abound throughout Britain ending -wich and -wick most of which retain their spellings with w but have long dropped their wyns eg Alnwick, Berwick, Bromwich, Chiswick, Greenwich, Harwich, Keswick, Norwich, Smethwick, Warwick, Woolwich. Some have restored their wyns if they ever lost them eg Droitwich, Hardwick, Ipswich, Nantwich, Sandwich and Lerwick. Surnames are more likely to have been re-spelt more phonetically as in the cases of Garrick and Crummle(s) the latter of which also exists as Cromwell.

Check his note on Current Wyn Dropping.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I guess I was taught wrong in school, what a shame. Green, as in the color two EE together (long Es) as sounded out in the color Green> wich should be sounded out just as it is spelled out,and should sound like the word witch(who can fly on a broom.) Thus you have the word (Greenwich) a woman colored green who can fly a broom ), and I thought they were all burned at the stake.Come to Greenwich , NY,12834 and they will gladly tell you how to pronounce this word .They even have a school insignia of a Green colored woman flying on a broom,(a witch) Green-witch

share|improve this answer
6  
Greenwich, NY is pronounced differently from Greenwich, England. Just like Woburn, MA is pronounced different from Woburn, England, and Houston, TX is pronounced differently from Houston St. in Manhattan, and Theodore Roosevelt pronounced his name different from Franklin D. Roosevelt, and nobody outside of New Jersey knows how to pronounce the last name "Kean" properly. –  Peter Shor May 29 '12 at 17:10
add comment

Greenwich in South London was originally (locally) pronounced "Grin idge" or "Grin itch". The pronunciation "Gren idge" is a recent pollution from (middle-class) newcomers to the area and one that also reflects a US inflection, e.g. Grenidge Village. Older local people do not like the new inflection imposed from 'without'.

share|improve this answer
add comment

protected by Community Feb 7 '13 at 12:02

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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