In programming languages like C, Go, and C++, the character pointer data type is denoted using:

char *

What is the correct English pronunciation for this data type?

  1. Is it /kɑr stɑr/, so with the ‹ch› of char pronounced as in character /ˈkerəktər/ and choir /kwɑɪr/?
  2. Is it /tʃɑr stɑr/, so with the ‹ch› of char pronounced as in chair /tʃer/ and child /tʃɑɪld/?

My colleague has been arguing that the correct way is the second version, not the first version.

Who’s right?

  • An additional difficulty is the vowel—if you pronounce the ch as [k] (like in ‘character’), do you then also pronounce the a as [æ] (as in ‘character’)? Or do you make the word homophonous with ‘car’? ’Cause /kær/ is not usually a permitted structure for a word to have in English. (I usually ignore this and /kær/, similar to how I pronounce charset as /'kær.set/.) Jan 23 '14 at 17:15
  • I have never heard char * pronounced as "char star", only "char pointer".
    – Mr Lister
    Jan 23 '14 at 17:44
  • 1
    There's this gem in comp.lang.c infrequently asked questions: Q: How do you pronounce "char"? A: Like the first word of "char *". The accent is generally on the first syllable.
    – Gnawme
    Jan 23 '14 at 18:06
  • And do you pronounce ++ and either "pre- or post-increment"?
    – Jim
    Jan 24 '14 at 6:26
  • @Jim ++ is just "plus plus", just like * is "times" where appropriate. Oh, and I just realised that /* for comment is "slash star". Sorry for not being more consistent.
    – Mr Lister
    Jan 24 '14 at 11:22

As was pointed out in in a comment to this question, char is already a word in the English language; you should pronounce it the same way:

char /CHär/

In my 20+ years as a C++ developer, I'd say 95% of the developers I've worked with have pronounced char * so the two parts rhyme:

char* /CHär stär/

(Pronounced char-star, which makes me think of a hamburger chef.)

However, software development is such an international community that I'd say that the most important rule is this: Say it in a way that you are understood.


Such things don't always have a correct answer. In the English language, what works for most people is usually the correct answer - in other words, it's a democratic language.

In this case, saying kar would imply to the listener that you are aware that it's a short form of character. However, is char stands in itself, I've heard folk say ch.ar as in chair.

  • Most people I know pronounce it /tʃa:r/ rhymes with star with a 'ch' like church. That gives "char star" a nice ring. I admit that back in the late 70's I pronounced it /kær/ as short for character, but I quickly came to realize that this was not the accepted way.
    – Jim
    Jan 23 '14 at 17:54
  • As time goes on, shortened forms become full words in their own right, so I can see how what started off as /kær/ become the more natural /tʃa:r/. I'd say your own experience embodies the natural evolution of such words in English.
    – Å Stuart
    Jan 23 '14 at 18:08

It is pronounced as character. When you use %c in C language it is a symbol for character.so i believe it is pronounced as character. But in C/C++ books they are pronounce in both way,no differences. However because of the symbol its better to say it as you say character.


It is pronounced "char pointer" (hard ch) or "pointer to character"

Similarly, char & is "char/character reference" or "reference to character"

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