My name is Divine--like the English word, "divine". There are no tildes, no accent marks, no umlauts, or funky letters like æ...nothing shady going on here. Yet every time someone reads my name, i always hear:

"Now, excuse me if i mispronounce this...is it {'Divon', 'Devin', 'Div-in', 'Div-EE-nae' (yes, this one actually happened), etc.}...?"

I know my name isn't the most common name in the world, but it's an English word! I can understand if you have a "regular-looking" name that has an abnormal pronunciation. I imagine the protocol there would be that you sound it out as best as you can first, then go for the funny pronunciations. But why do people reverse that order with my name?

To make matters worse, after learning how my name is pronounced, and its place in the dictionary, a large percentage of those people go on to misspell my name as Devine!

Is there something about dialects, or the history of this word, or something, that makes people's brains start working when they read my name?

  • The singer Sade pronounces her name with two syllables; as does Beyonce. Desiree is pronounced with three syllables, as is Hermoine. With that as a backdrop, I'm not surprised that someone would try to pronounce your name with three syllables.
    – J.R.
    Aug 13, 2013 at 8:35
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    If you marry a Mr Right, I'd keep your maiden name. Aug 13, 2013 at 9:40
  • If you're from a non-English-speaking nationality, it could also be that English speakers tend to pronounce it as a foreign word. Alternatively, you also refer to "a 'regular-looking' name that has an abnormal pronunciation": maybe people think that your name is "a 'regular-looking' name" but expect it to have "an abnormal pronunciation"?
    – TrevorD
    Aug 13, 2013 at 10:54
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    @J.R. does Beyoncé only have two syllables? And Hermione only three?
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 13, 2013 at 11:40
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    OP is male, pronunciations offered tend to be adjusted to not sound feminine.
    – SrJoven
    Dec 2, 2014 at 0:17

2 Answers 2


Divine is not usually used as a name. Names like Devin (ranked 173 most common in the US), Devon (397), Davin (768), Devan (965) are much more common names than Divine, which doesn't even rank in the top 1000 or even appear in any of the name databases I looked in. Because people know that what they're trying to pronounce is a name, they're more likely to pronounce it like other names they've heard.

We interpret new information based on past information, assuming likelihoods based on past experience, in what is known as the availability heuristic. Because most people have never heard "divine" used as a name before, most people who see your name for the first time probably try to associate the spelling with names that they do know.

Your name is presented as a name, but (as you point out) "divine" is usually heard as an English word. Because people are viewing it as a name, they're not associating it with the English word. You don't meet a person named Ryder and consciously think of equestrianism or a person named Allan and consciously think of wrenches or a person named Jasmine and consciously think of rice or tea. You're viewing the names as names, and their alternate definitions as English words are processed subconsciously, if at all.

One possible, less likely, reason for the mispronunciation is that because "divine" is not a common name, people might actually think of its definition as a word and be hesitant to call you "divine" because of the various connotations the word carries with it. They could worry about how you might react if they pronounce it /dɪˈvaɪn/ if that turns out to be wrong. They could think: maybe she'll be offended by me giving a religious pronunciation of her name or maybe she'll think I'm giving a shallow compliment to someone I've just met.

  • 1
    How do you know it’s a she?
    – tchrist
    Aug 13, 2013 at 3:52
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    @tchrist I don't. But I had to use some sort of pronoun, and "she" is generally more PC. Also, I was associating the name with Jasmine as well as various religious names like Hope, Grace, and Faith, which are generally female.
    – 3nafish
    Aug 13, 2013 at 3:54
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    @tchrist Also, I've found that a lot of people assume that all unknown people online are male, so I assume they're female to keep things interesting. ;P
    – 3nafish
    Aug 13, 2013 at 4:02
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    @3nafish: Also i just looked at your edit...are you kidding me...???
    – user49633
    Aug 13, 2013 at 5:00
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    The "lady" in whose company Hugh Grant was found on Sunset Boulevard back in 1995 used the name "Divine Brown", although that wasn't her real name, and no-one pronounced that wrong. I admit that I am as stumped as the OP as to why people fail to pronounce her name correctly. Aug 13, 2013 at 10:15

I'd say it could be due to people avoiding what they perceive to be "the mistake she must hear all the time". That is to say, they are going for a more nonsensical response and reducing the potential offense you might take. The other points seem quite valid, too.

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