When using vice versa in spoken English, I tend to just completely Anglicise it and pronounce it vise VER-ser, with only one syllable in vice.

The original would be something like VEE-cay VER-sa, but I often hear people use a hybrid pronunciation more like VY-ser VER-ser, with two syllables in each word.

Which is the "correct" way to say it?

French loan phrases seem to stay fairly true to the original pronunciation, e.g. déjà vu doesn't become dedger-view and je ne sais quoi isn't juh nee sayz kwoy.
So should vice versa be pronounced true to the original?


Vice versa should be pronounced as /ˌvaɪs ˈvɜːsə/ or /ˌvaɪsi ˈvɜːsə/ in British English and /ˌvaɪs ˈvɜːrsə/ or /ˌvaɪsi ˈvɜːrsə/ in American English.

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    OED has /ˈvaɪsiː ˈvɜːsə/ [different stress from OALD] which I have never heard. I've always heard (and used) a schwa where vice has two syllables: /vaɪsə/. And I would have upvoted @Arch's answer because of that, but he deleted it. – Andrew Leach Jan 15 '13 at 12:38
  • I think the question is actually, "So should vice versa be pronounced true to the original?" – Kris Jan 15 '13 at 12:42
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    @Kris: I hope not, since there really is no 'original' pronunciation. Ciceronian? Silver Age? Mediaeval? Papal? – TimLymington Jan 15 '13 at 12:45
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    @Kris No, the original would be WEE-kay WER-sa, which I certainly wouldn't advocate. – Andrew Leach Jan 15 '13 at 13:45
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    @Kris: Erroneous (drumroll). Specifically, the belief that an English phrase 'should' be pronounced as it would be if in the original language ignores the facts of Anglicization and pronunciation shifts; this particular phrase also has two pecularities, namely that no Latin-speaker would use those two words to mean what the English phrase means, and that Latin pronunciation changed markedly over the period when the phrase was (allegedly) coined. So yes, 'true to the original' is IMO meaningless, but '"correct"' is not, so long as the inverted commas are retained. – TimLymington Jan 15 '13 at 18:33

In the middle of the twentieth century, a working class Australian would have pronounced it vicky verser because that would show (proudly) that he knew no Latin and had little regard for the snobs who did.

In fact, using the expression at all would have been a reluctant concession to polite society. The preferred form amongst his workmates would have been and arse about face.

protected by tchrist Aug 8 '15 at 11:50

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