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The word indict is not pronounced as it is spelled (big shocker in English, right?).

It looks like it should be pronounced in-dikt, but it is pronounced in-dite.

Why is it pronounced like this? Are there other words that combine ict to make an ite sound? I can think of others that are, instead, pronounced as they are spelled (eg. edict).

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    Just as a general thing: there are rather a lot of words in English whose spelling was adjusted to reflect Latin cognates after the word was already common in the language. Victuals, for instance, was vittailes when Chaucer wrote it, and is pronounced vittles.
    – bye
    Jul 3, 2014 at 8:14

3 Answers 3

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Besides indict and its compounds, the only other word I know of with 〈ict〉 pronounced /aɪt/ is deictic, which is pronounced /ˈdaɪktɪk/. (It has various compounds, too: anapodeictic, endeictic, epideictic.) But that’s because of the 〈ei〉 not the 〈ict〉.

What’s going on with indict is different. It used to be endite or indite. ɴᴏᴛᴇ ᴡᴇʟʟ: We got it from the French without any c in it in the first place. So we never said what wasn’t there. (And in fact indite still exists but now with a somewhat different meaning.)

Regarding indict, though, the OED2 writes that there seems to have been some confusion along the way:

indict /ɪnˈdaɪt/, v.1

Forms

  • ɑ. 4–6 endyte, 4–7 endite, 6 endight (endict).
  • β. 4–9 indite, 5 indyte, (6 indyght, 6–7 indight).
  • ɣ. 7– indict.

Etymology

ME. endite-n, a. AFr. endite-r to indict, charge, accuse, corresponds in form to OFr. enditer, -ditier, -ditter, answering to a late L. type *indictāre, f. in- (in-2) + dictāre to say, declare, dictate. But the OFr. verb is recorded only in the senses ‘make known, indicate, dictate, suggest, compose, write, instruct, inform, prompt, incite’ (Godef.), so that the history of the AFr. and ME. word is not clear. A corresponding med.L. indictāre to indict, accuse, is cited by Du Cange only in English legal use, and seems to be merely the latinized form of the AFr. and ME. verb, in accordance with which again the ME. endite has been altered to indite, and (since 1600) written indict, though the spoken word remains indite. See also indite v.

The sense of endite, indict, may have arisen from L. indīcĕre ‘to declare publicly’, taken as in Ital. indicere ‘to denounce’ (Florio); but it comes near to a sense of L. indicāre to indicate ‘to give evidence against’; and it appears as if there had been, in late L. or Romanic, some confusion of the L. verbs indicāre, indīcĕre, indictāre: thus in Ital., Florio has ‘Indicare, to shew, to declare, to utter; also to endite and accuse, as Indicere’; ‘Indícere, to intimate, denounce, manifest, declare;··also to accuse, to appeach or detect’; ‘Indittare, to indite; also as Indicere’; ‘Indittore, an inditer, a denouncer; also an intimator’.

So along with various words like debt and island, indict got dubiously “Latinized” by putting in a still/now-silent letter. The pronunciation never changed.

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    Deictic doesn't really fit—as you yourself write, it's not pronounced /ait/ there, but /aikt/. Jul 3, 2014 at 9:19
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You asked "are there other words pronounced this way?"

There used to be. Interdict used to be pronounced interdite, but too many people were ignorant and didn't know the correct pronunciation, and started using the spelling pronunciation (or maybe they just assumed it came from Latin, and used the Latin pronunciation and spelling), so now we pronounce it interdict.

It originally came from the French word entredit, so there is no etymological reason that we should pronounce the 'c'. Like indict, we added the 'c' to the spelling based on the Latin roots.

From the OED:

Forms: α. Middle English entredit, Middle English enterdite. β. Middle English interdite. γ. Middle English interdicte,

The pronunciation change seems to have happened a long time ago. Shakespeare wrote (in The Phoenix and the Turtle)

From this Session interdict
Euery foule of tyrant wing,
Saue the Eagle feath'red King,
Keepe the obsequie so strict.

so some people were using the spelling pronunciation around 1600.

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Indict came into English from Middle French, whereas other "ict" words —predict, conflict—came into English directly from Latin and retain a more Latinate pronunciation.

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    Hi, brasshat: your is not an answer but an assumption. Please provide reference or reliable information to questions. Thanks
    – user66974
    Jul 3, 2014 at 7:46

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