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.

We were discussing the merits of buying a team collaboration tool (Confluence) today, when we were completely sidetracked by the pronouncation "wiki".

Most of the folks on the team say it's pronounced "whicky"; that's what Wikipedia calls it, Wikileaks, etc.

However, a few stalwarts insist that, since its etymology is Hawiian, it's actually pronounced "weekee". They say the "big brands" like Wikipedia who insist upon calling themselves "whicky-pee-dee-ah" don't change the fact that "wiki" is pronounced "weekee".

Anyway, given that this is a neologism, what's the proper pronuncation? Is it an accent/regional preference?

share|improve this question
As Hellion's answer notes, some English dialects exhibit a difference between "wh" and lone "w" at the start of a word - the former is pronounced something like (and in many cases originally spelt as) "hw". You may want to change the spelling in your question to "wicky" unless you specifically do pronounce it like that :) –  psmears Feb 19 '11 at 14:29

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think if you were to pronounce it "weekee" you would either come off as being pedantic, or from another country with an adorable accent, or you would spend a lot of time explaining what you meant — to people who then would say, "Oh, you mean a wiki!"

I've given up on a lot of "correct" pronunciations. For example, the correct pronunciation for "acclimated" is uh•CLIMB•uh•ted, not ACK•luh•may•ted. But I've just grown weary of that discussion. And don't even get me started on American mispronunciations of Japanese words: the American SUE-moh instead of the Japanese s'MOH for sumo, harry-carry for the correct harakiri (as long as you pronounce the "r"s as soft taps of the tongue on the palate), etc.

share|improve this answer
FWIW, Merriam-Webster gives your supposed “wrong” pronunciations first for all the words you cite: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/acclimated merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sumo merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hara-kiri So if people are pronouncing those words “wrong”, it’s because the authority on pronunciation, i.e. dictionaries, is telling them to. –  nohat Dec 4 '10 at 11:33
(1) I would not call the pronunciations of sumo and harakiri in English “mispronunciations” because it is just natural that words with Japanese origin are pronounced in English way when used as an English word. There are many reasons why sumo is not pronounced as [sɯ̀móó] and harakiri not as [hàɽákíɽí] in English. (2) By the way, the Merriam-Webster dictionary does not say anything about the Japanese pronunciation of sumo or harakiri and therefore I am not completely sure why nohat cited it. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 4 '10 at 16:08
I cited Merriam-Webster because it is an authority on how to pronounce words in American English, regardless of their origin, Japanese or otherwise. Words always change pronunciation when they are borrowed into another language. That's how language works. Calling it "mispronunciation" is like calling French a "mispronunciation" of Latin. I can assure you that Merriam-Webster's reporting of how to pronounce the English words sumo and hara-kiri are unimpeachably correct. –  nohat Dec 4 '10 at 21:41
I think we know the answer to "what do you do when dictionaries disagree" is you look to common usage, which we both already agreed matches what Merriam-Webster says. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only source which disavows the correctness of the pronunciation of the English words sumo as /ˈsuːmoʊ/, hara-kiri as /hærɪˈkɪriː/, and acclimated as /ˈækləmeɪtəd/ is you. All the other dictionaries I looked in—*American Heritage*, Webster’s New World, Random House, *Oxford American*—agree with Merriam-Webster. On what basis are you correct and everyone else wrong? –  nohat Dec 6 '10 at 10:37
The point is that they are not “mispronunciations”—they are borrowed words. It is characterizing them as “mispronunciations” which is having a “tin ear” for how language actually works. –  nohat Dec 6 '10 at 16:38

I would claim that they're two different words from two different languages. Wiki means quick. Wiki is used to refer to collaboratively edited media. They are two different things.

For the record, I live in Hawai'i and am fairly pedantic about my pronunciation, e.g. I pronounce Ho'okipa as Ho-o-kipa and not Ho-kipa as most hoales do or Hoo-kipa like the tourists do. i is definitely pronounced ee and your friends are definitely right about the Hawai'ian word. It has no bearing whatsoever. It's Wikipedia, not quick.

share|improve this answer

There are plenty of words whose current pronunciation bears little or no relationship to their etymology. Personally I don't aspirate the "W" either, so I say it's "wick-ee".

share|improve this answer
As for W versus WH, in the OP's accent it must not make a difference. –  Jon Purdy Dec 5 '10 at 9:49

I think that Wiktionary is an adequate reference for this case: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/wiki, http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wikipedia.

share|improve this answer

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.