I was talking to my boyfriend about this but I wanted to get some more opinions.

"Comparable" can be pronounced as:

  1. COMP-er-uh-bul (which is how I usually pronounce it)
  2. Com-PAIR-ah-bul (which usually makes me blink and tilt my head)

Is there a specific case where one pronunciation is used over another? I tend to think that version 1 deals more with similarity than version 2. Version 2, to me, feels like it's more about the fact that two elements can be compared.

Also: can both words/pronunciations be used interchangeably (granted that my guesses toward the meanings are correct)?


7 Answers 7


The two pronunciations in question are (in IPA):

  1. /ˑkɑmp(ə)rəbəl/ (KOM-pruh-buhl)/(KOM-puh-ruh-buhl)
  2. /kəmˑp(æ/ɛ)rəbəl/ (kuhm-PARE-uh-buhl) [approximately]

Pronunciations for this word are given in dictionaries in four ways, as far as I can tell:

No dictionary I looked in lists pronunciation #2 first. Nor does any support different meanings for different pronunciations. Generally speaking, #1 is the traditional and unimpeachably correct pronunciation. #2 is commonly used, but if you use it, you should not be surprised if you are criticized or corrected.

Addendum: the user-provided pronunciation site Forvo has seven pronunciations for comparable. The two pronunciations which are pronounced like #2 are rated –3. The rest, which are pronounced like #1, are rated 0, 1, or 2.

  • 2. is arguably more consistent however. Other languages that are phonetically more consistent (e.g. Spanish or French) would put the accent on the 'a' to keep stress there.
    – Noldorin
    Aug 24, 2010 at 20:36
  • 6
    Consistency has never been a feature of English pronunciation or grammar. Certainly lots of people who have never heard comparable pronounced before might guess it is pronounced as #2 (and that is probably why so many pronounce it that way), but the facts are that what little orthoepic authority there is favors #1.
    – nohat
    Aug 24, 2010 at 20:52
  • 1 is consistent with the similarly structured "comfortable".
    – James
    Jul 21, 2011 at 19:34
  • 1
    @James, not really—‘comfortable’ may look similar, but it is derived from ‘comfort’ (which already has the stress on the initial syllable), rather than ‘compare’ (which has the stress on the second syllable). If you derive similarly from ‘console’ [kənˈsəʊl], you get [kənˈsəʊləb(ə)l], never [ˈkɒns(ə)ləb(ə)l]. Aug 10, 2013 at 3:10
  • For what it's worth, I've heard #2 used quite often in the US within the programming context where the postfix "able" is commonly added to the names of object interfaces. Also in this context it's understood that when an object implements the Comparable(#2) interface it means that a comparison operator can be applied to two such objects, but not that they are necessarily equivalent to each other which comprable(#1) would imply.
    – Gregor y
    May 12, 2020 at 0:58

What you're discussing is word stress, whether the word stressed is as




This is just another potayto-potahto question.


The New Oxford American Dictionary reports that the correct pronunciation in standard English is with the stress on the first syllable rather than the second.


I pronounce it as com-pa-ra-ble. It is more consistent with other similar adjectives ending in -able, in that its emphasis is the syllable before the -able.


There are cases to be made for the changing of the root sounds in words when they are changed from one part of speech to another. In this case, a verb to an adjective: v. comp-PARE to adj. COM-parable. Examples of other changes are: COMpliment to compliMENtary, comBINE to combiNAtion, comPETE to COMpetence.


Com-pair-able makes way more sense since you are com-pair-ing (comparing) things. Comp-rable disregards the first letter "a" in the word and to me makes it sound like it has to do with comping something (offering something complimentary). I am a hotel manager and for certain guest satisfaction issues we will comp the room (meaning we will offer their room complimentary and waive the rental fee) so when an employee would ask me if they are able to comp the room for a guest that experiences an issue, I would ask them if they believe it to be a comprable situation or if there is some other compensation that would be more suitable... well, since it has now become more common for people to say comparable as comprable I no longer use that word to explain my point in order to avoid confusion.


Two well known major supermarkets are now using this word in their advertising. One has been using it for sometime, the other has begun to do so more recently. Each pronounces it as com parable (not com pairable). It grates on me every time I hear it, because I was taught from an early age that the correct pronunciation of this word is 'comprabul' and this appears to be verified in every dictionary I've checked.


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