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What is the correct pronunciation of the word processes because in my company some say it as "process-eez" and some say it "process-ess"?

I am confused, because my mother tongue is not English.

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"Process-ess" is certainly not right. I think you actually meant "process-əz", which has been the "standard" pronunciation. The first pronunciation seems to be a pretty recent innovation in educated circles by overextension of the irregular plural pronunciation of a set of words originally from Greek that are more common in educated speech. As mentioned elsewhere here there are also two pronunciations for the "o". – hippietrail Mar 31 '14 at 18:10

10 Answers 10

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Even in the dictionary, this word has several recognized pronunciations:

  • In the singlar, the first syllable can be pronounced with a long or short o.
  • In the plural, the last syllable can be pronounced with a long or short e.

All four of these pronunciations can be heard by clicking on the speaker icons at the M-W website.

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Thank you, the link helped me. – AbdulAziz May 22 '12 at 10:22
I find that the plural process-EEZ pronunciation is much more common nowadays at least in tech circles. The regular formation of the plural from a word ending in '-ess' would be '-ess ehz', e.g. abscesses -> 'ab sess ehz', but the '-EEZ' pronunciation became popular by analogy with 'biases'-> 'bai -uh- SEEZ'. – Mitch May 22 '12 at 15:24

There are words derived from Greek that end with "-is" in the singular and "-es" in the plural. Thus

This thesis is . . .
These theses are . . .

This basis is . . .
These bases are . . .

This axis is . . .
These axes are . . .

In these words, the final "-es" is pronounced "eez". "Bases", when it is the plural of "base", is pronounced differently from "bases" used as the plural of "basis". Likewise when "axes" is the plural of "axe", it's not pronounced the way it is when it's the plural of "axis".

My guess is that those who say "processeez" inadvertently borrowed that pronunciation from the class of words of which the above are examples.

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In addition to the pronunciations mentioned in the other answers, there are different stresses put on it depending on whether you're using it as a noun or a verb.

PRO-cess - noun, as in "Your application is subject to our internal processes"

pro-CESS - verb, as in "The bride now processes down the aisle"

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And I suppose someone called Widor has seen plenty of brides processing down the aisle. (Organists' joke, sorry) – Andrew Leach May 22 '12 at 15:51
@AndrewLeach I didn't even spot that one myself - must be a subconscious thing! I might have to go Bach and edit it. – Widor May 22 '12 at 16:00
I think the latter uses of "processes" is a lot less prevalent than "proceeds". But as to your comments, very funny, both of you! – Cyberherbalist Jul 31 '13 at 16:15
@Cyberherbalist Less prevalent, perhaps; but “They processed down the aisle” and “They proceeded down the aisle” mean to completely different things to me. The former means “The walked down the aisle in [orderly] procession”, whereas the latter just means “They continued down the aisle”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 18 '14 at 17:33
@JanusBahsJacquet, I do believe you are correct! Good catch! – Cyberherbalist Nov 18 '14 at 18:47

I would say the latter is correct, but you may have hit a regional variation. Generally speaking, if lots of people are doing it, it becomes dialect, and thus "correct". An "ess" sound at the end is more usual, however, at least where I'm from - I've never heard it pronounced the other way.

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Thank you for your kind answer. – AbdulAziz May 22 '12 at 10:22
You're welcome. – Christi May 22 '12 at 10:47

I find it odd that, based on your perception, some pronounce the noun "processes" as process-ess.

In English, when a noun ends in [s], its plural form in Standard English is [sɪz] or [səz], sometimes [si:z] (esp. in AmE), but never [sVs], where V stands for any vowel.

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Please note the standard for plural endings for "ess" words as noted above. We would not refer to the Disney princesses as "princesseez" or home addresses as adresseez. I am all American and must agree with Mr. Campbell that this new pronunciation of processes is simply a snobbism created with no etymological basis. I sit in meetings with energy industry executives and consultants and I cringe every time someone describes their technical "processeez" which are clearly too innovative and intellectual to be simple processes. Oh pleez.

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So many accepted pronunciations are innovative and have no etymological basis—welcome to the English language! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 18 '14 at 17:35

Words derived from Greek which end in -is have plural ending -es pronounced "eez", i.e. basis, stasis, proboscis, thesis. The plural of the word "process"(not being Greek) is pronounced "process's", that is with a short e sound at the end - just as in the plural of "dress, stress, tress, address" and so on. French words ending in -ee have an acute accent on the first e and it is pronounced as a flat "ay" sound.

Neil Edwards

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This is pure hunch on why an increasing number of my fellow Filipinos say /pro-se-seeez/ with a really long E and a hissing Z in the final syllable. They know that the second syllable is a short E (as in hen, beg, said), but the final syllable is something close to the short I (as in pit, his, lid). Many Filipino speakers find the short I sound difficult to pronounce, simply because we don't have this vowel sound in our phonetics. The Tagalog /i/ resembles the /ee/ sound, only that it is clipped or shorter in duration. Thus, when they pronounce the last syllable, it tends to sound more like /seez/ than /siz/. I wonder though why they don't say /ma-seez/, /kar-ka-seez/, /mo-la-seez/, and /prin-se-seez/.

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Either pronunciation is acceptable.

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What do you have as evidence to back up your claim? As it is, your answer could be interpreted as being only your opinion, some may disagree and wish to be convinced. – Mari-Lou A Sep 24 '13 at 5:43

From my limited understanding of English - being a UK citizen born and bred, I have formed this perhaps somewhat biased opinion. The reason processes ending in - 'eez' sounds idiosyncratic in the UK is because of the association with objects. Such as divorce versus divorcee. Divorce being the subject and divorcee being the person.

Therefore, the psychological confusion with the pronunciation 'process- eez' suggests that this is some other category beyond 'the process', to include several subjects as 'candidates' for the process, 'eez', rather than the action of processing. To my mind this is a peculiar Americanism which has become contagious in the last 40 odd years.

I doubt if you will find it in 1950’s or even early 1960’s scientific documentaries, such as the American atom and hydrogen bomb tests, which pepper You Tube.

It is a relatively recent American scientific or technocratic affectation and it feels like a kind of elitist pronunciation snobbery rather than a real 'word'. What I call 'an Americanism'.

As George Bernard Shaw said, “Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language”.

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How disappointing to see myself marked down, but without any remotely educated or otherwise informed or enlightened contrary opinion, based on scientific or research-based knowledge. Clearly, I have offended some typical Americans, who are extremely touchy about any hint of ignorance or pretension associated with their linguistic culture. Obviously, there are not many students of etymology, phonetics or sociolinguistics on this web site? I would guess – none..? Glad I wasn't talking about the 320 million guns owned by insane Americans! Another hand-wringing 'elephant in the room'. – E P Campbell Dec 13 '13 at 9:40
It's sad how very good points of view raised by EP Campbell got minus reviews. How shortsighted. – user63137 Jan 23 '14 at 14:48
@Rafael It's also sad how E P Campbell complains about being marked down without any educated or otherwise informed or enlightened contrary opinion, based on scientific or research-based knowledge, when he himself offers none. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 23 '14 at 17:32

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