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I’ve always wondered how the -e word ending should be pronounced:

  1. For example (correct me if I’m wrong), the words apache, Adobe, Skype, etc. have the -e ending pronounced like in the word be.

  2. However (again, correct me if needed), the words bite, Cheyenne, Bourne have a silent -e at the end.

Is there a way to guess the pronunciation, or do you just need to know it?

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9  
I think Skype has a silent -e just like bite. "Sky-Pe" sounds really weird to me. –  user19341 Jan 3 '13 at 12:45
7  
I don't pronounce the tailing -e in Skype. For me it rhymes with type, hype, & snipe. I cringe whenever I hear "sky pee". –  user21497 Jan 3 '13 at 12:46
    
Then I have to remember who told me to pronounce it Skypee and slap him in the face –  Benoit Duffez Jan 3 '13 at 12:51
2  
Oh, well, almost everyone here in Taiwan pronounces it as "sky pee", so prepare yourself for 23 million slaps. –  user21497 Jan 3 '13 at 14:18
    
As a non-native English learner, I know "recipe" will be pronunced "recipee". –  user1798021 Oct 7 at 12:17

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The ‘e’ of Skype is not pronounced. In apache and Adobe it’s pronounced /ɪ:/, that is, like the vowel sound in ‘sea’. The pronunciation of proper nouns cannot be predicted, but in common nouns, a terminal ‘e’ often indicates the way in which a preceding vowel is to be pronounced. The ‘e’ of bite, for example, shows that it is pronounced differently from bit.

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There is no hard and fast rule for pronunciation of any English words. Pronunciation also varies regionally, so not only do you just have to know how to pronounce each word, you just have to know how to pronounce it in each part of the world in which you find yourself.

For example, the U in jaguar is pronounced like a long U in the UK whereas it is pronounced like a W in North America.

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1  
Couple that with the fact that English has loanwords from many other languages and you've really got a confusing mess on your hands if you're just learning. –  Marcus_33 Jan 3 '13 at 14:55
    
@Marcus_33 - Quite right. I certainly don't envy people trying to learn English as a second (or subsequent) language. It has to be extremely frustrating. –  Joel Brown Jan 3 '13 at 14:59

I, a nonnative speaker, would pronounce Skype like Sky with a trailing p = sky - p. That leaves a - pa - che and a - do - be as words with a pronounced -e.

All other words have less than three syllables, so I would keep the -e silent.

However, the silent -e clearly has its sense: see bit vs. bite.

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But contrast sky v Skye. –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 3 '13 at 13:01
    
"Less than three syllables"? If you didn't know Adobe was pronounced as three, it could be two (with a silent e). –  Andrew Leach Jan 3 '13 at 13:04
    
That's true, "a - dobe" can be pronounced with two syllables, thus leaving the "-e" silent. But to me, it seems logical, to pronounce the "-e" in words, that have three or more syllables. What do you think? –  Dohn Joe Jan 3 '13 at 13:06
7  
You have to look at the source language whence we derive Apache and adobe for them to make sense: Spanish. No silent e. –  tchrist Jan 3 '13 at 13:45

There are two different issues.

1) Names have an extra <e> to distinguish them from lexical words. Or you can say that these English names came from an era where final <e> was pronounced; and that these spellings have not changed.

Low vs. Lowe's home improvement stores
win vs Wynne Godley (Cambridge Economist)
row vs Nick Rowe
crown vs Crowne Plaza
born vs Bourne Shell
berk vs Edmund Burke
brown vs Browne
town vs Towne
west vs Weste
lock vs John Locke
keen vs Keene
wane vs Wayne
took vs John Tooke
wolf vs Wolfe

Other times, you can see a geminated consonant digraph to distinguish from a lexical word. You can also provide another ad hoc explanation that geminated consonants close syllables with historically short vowels.

or vs Orr
star vs Starr
car vs Carr
bar vs Barr
grim vs Grimm

2) Words with a bit of foreignisms.

Japanese: karate
Spanish: coyote, adobe, abalone, guacamole, machete, tamale, apache
French: cliche, resume, café, saute, forte, passe, protege,canape, toupee, touche, Renee, Rene
Italian: provolone
Greek: hyperbole, epitome, acme, sesame, catastrophe, apostrophe, syncope, apocope, Aphrodite, Nike, Penelope, Calliope, Terpsichore, Gethsemane, Persephone, Tempe
Latin: anemone, simile, recipe, acne, agave, extempore
Portuguese: curare

Some of these French ones may have <é> instead of <e>.

Places/Names:

Barre, VT
Boise, ID (vs. Boise, OK)
Duarte, CA
Elbe, WA
Lac Courte, WI
San Jose, CA (vs. San Jose, IL)
Tempe, AZ
Tulare, CA
Yosemite National Park, CA
Penske Truck Rental
Ryan Lochte, Olympic Swimmer
Ben Bernanke, Fed Chairman

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I'm not English speaker but I know that "Skype" will always be pronounced 'skayp'. I noticed here that "Adobe" is not pronounced 'eydawb' but otherlike what makes me a bit shocked.

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3  
Believe it or else, adobe is pronounced precisely at it is spelled! You non-native learners of English should be pleased by this happy turn of events, one for which you have no one less to thank than His Illustriousness, the Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca himself: don Hernán Cortés Monroy Pizarro Altamirano. –  tchrist Feb 8 at 18:52

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