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Why is the spelling of pronounce and pronunciation different? If one originally did not know the spelling of pronunciation, one would when hearing it verbally deduce its spelling to be pronounciation, which is the incorrect spelling.

Why is the difference in spelling so? Also, are the two words pronounced differently? (I think I am using the American pronunciation for pronunciation (pro-noun-ciation), but according to howjsay.com, it's pronounced as pro-nun-ciation. Is this just for British English or universally?)

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I wish I had a dollar for every time I've found myself typing "pronounciation" and had to back up to spell it correctly. My fingers seem wired to a misspelling and no amount of repetition seems to help. –  Robusto Nov 28 '10 at 0:20
The two words are pronounced the way they are spelt - in most versions of English. I think it is just the Americans who changed it. –  Rory Alsop Sep 21 '13 at 17:28
@Rory: the Americans changed what? Americans pronounce these words the way they are spelled, as well. –  Peter Shor Sep 22 '13 at 11:05
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3 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

pro-NOUN-ciation is universally wrong. Even the highly permissive Merriam-Webster dictionary marks it with an obelus (÷). Here is what they say about pronunciations marked with an obelus:

The obelus, or division sign, is placed before a pronunciation variant that occurs in educated speech but that is considered by some to be questionable or unacceptable. This symbol is used sparingly and primarily for variants that have been objected to over a period of time in print by commentators on usage, in schools by teachers, or in correspondence that has come to the Merriam-Webster editorial department. In most cases the objection is based on orthographic or etymological arguments. (source)

As for why the word pronounce has an O between the two N’s and pronunciation does not, it is unclear, but both words derive from French, pronunciation from pronunciation and pronounce from pronuncier. There is probably some variation in the way the different word stress affected how the words were spelled after being borrowed into English.

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(The French is misspelled, it's prononcer and prononciation.) –  Mat Sep 21 '13 at 17:15
@Mat You seem to have got that, where from? Can you give some useful leads to prononcer and prononciation? –  Kris Dec 31 '13 at 6:16
@Mat, it should be prononcier, since we’re talking about Old French, not Modern French. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 31 '13 at 12:01
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Trisyllabic laxing is the reason for the pronunciation difference, which led to the spelling difference.

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Both words have different roots, as shown by etymonline. That could be the reason why they are spelled & pronounced differently.


early 15c., "mode in which a word is pronounced," from L. pronuntiationem (nom. pronuntiatio) "act of speaking,"


early 14c., "to utter, declare officially," from O.Fr. pronuncier (late 13c.), from L.L. pronunciare, from L. pronuntiare "to proclaim, announce, pronounce," from pro- "forth, out, in public" (see pro-) + nuntiare "announce," from nuntius "messenger" (see nuncio).

As a side note, I have not encountered anyone using "pro-NOUN-ciation", but then again, I'm not from the US.

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No, they are from the same root (pronuntio), but the longer word was adopted directly from Latin, as a learned word, but the shorter one came from French, where the vowel had already changed from the Latin original. –  Colin Fine Nov 29 '10 at 17:18
Where's the o in either of the sources? How then are they 'different roots'? –  Kris Dec 31 '13 at 6:12
@ColinFine That's not relevant, at least one of the claimed 'roots' should have had an o in it? Else where's the argument here? –  Kris Dec 31 '13 at 6:13
BTW, the use of both in Both words have different ... is incorrect. –  Kris Dec 31 '13 at 6:14
@Kris, etymonline apoears to have corrected and expanded these entries since 2010. They now have o’s in both words (both from Old French, neither directly from Latin). –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 31 '13 at 12:07
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protected by Community Dec 31 '13 at 11:37

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