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I have been split between two pronunciations of "mayor".

Most of the people I talk to pronounce it "mair" (like the horse).

But if you look on Dictionary.com the main pronunciation is "mey-er".

I wanted some clarification on which is the correct way and why there are two different versions of the word.

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This is a British/American split, probably having to do with rhotic/non-rhotic dialects. Most Americans wouldn't dream of pronouncing mare and mayor the same, and that may be why Dictionary.com gives the pronunciation the way it does. – Peter Shor Apr 7 '12 at 10:33
@PeterShor: I agree for the most part, except some southern drawls might make "mayor" sound like "mare." Maybe it's a British/American split, as you suggest, or maybe it's a Mason/Dixon split, too. – J.R. Apr 7 '12 at 10:34
As an SAE speaker, I don't. But because rhoticity and levels and lengths of diphthong- and triphthonging differ a good bit, it's almost certainly the case somewhere down here. – guifa Sep 5 '14 at 22:54
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The British have been pronouncing "mayor" with one syllable since at least 1780 (See Thomas Sheridan's 1780 "General Dictionary of the English Language" in Google books). The general American pronunciation is two syllables.

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I'm Australian and use the 'mare' pronunciation. I'm used to hearing Yanks say 'may-or', though - in movies and on TV. That said, I've just seen NYC's Mayor LaGuardia being sworn in on the History Channel - in the 1930s - both he and the officiating judge clearly said 'MARE'.


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The proper pronunciation would be as given in the Dictionary.com: mey-er.

However, when you happen to speak fast as is usual in conversations the stretch in the 'y-er' is reduced, making it sound like 'ma-ir' .

In case you wish to hear it clearly, do have a look at news videos or on TV. I'm sure you can notice how the pronunciation varies with the tempo of speech.

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-1 for the phrase "proper pronunciation", based on one dictionary. Other on-line dictionaries give both one- and two-syllable pronunciations. Peter Shor's answer is better – Phil M Jones Oct 16 '13 at 15:39

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