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I've heard all of the above words with X as zeh. Is that an American English thing? What's the correct way to pronounce each word?

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closed as general reference by Matt Эллен, Mitch, z7sg Ѫ, kiamlaluno, Hugo Jan 9 '12 at 13:49

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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pronunciation of xenophobia, xenon and Xena are all available online. –  Matt Эллен Jan 9 '12 at 13:31
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2 Answers 2

I grew up in the Midwest, and we pronounced all of them with the "zee" sound.

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When the letter x is in the very beginning of the word, the standard way to pronounce it is /z/. This pronunciation is standard English, it isn't restricted to dialects or countries. When its position in a word is other than the very beginning, then the letter x is pronounced /ks/ as in expect or fox.

EDIT upon comment: There are certain for which the /ks/ sound doesn't apply for the letter x. Exaggerate is a good example, as well as the word example itself, where x is pronounced /gz/.

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Actually, that's a little misleading for expect. This would be pronounced /gz/ for many people. I expect exaggerate and examine are pronounced with /gz/ for most. Point is, don't oversimplify how x is pronounced out of initial position. –  ThePopMachine Jan 9 '12 at 17:50
    
@ThePopMachine: The standard pronunciation for "expect" is /ks/. You are right about "exaggerate" and "examine", of course, and I'll edit my answer accordingly. I wanted to make a point of the big difference of pronouncing x when it is in the beginning of a word, the sound /k/ is totally absent. –  Irene Jan 9 '12 at 19:08
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