A while back I ran across a word that described the act of inserting additional letters or sounds when a person pronounces a word (which results in a mispronunciation). What is the word that has this meaning?

Update: My original example wasn't very good, but Brian Donovan provided a good example--decathlon pronounced as "decathalon" (inserting a second "a" sound where there is no "a").

Another example: hamster pronounced as "hampster"

  • Is this what you're looking for?
    – Neeku
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 16:05
  • For another example, I once cringed to hear "decathlon" pronounced as "decathalon" by the pronouncer at a children's spelling bee. The poor child was duly misled and eliminated. Similarly some Saint Louis relatives of mine used to refer to the "Missoura Athaletic Club." Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 16:16
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    @Neeku looks like that is a specialized case of what I was looking for; I apologize for the horrible example I originally included.
    – rob
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 16:49
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    BTW, it's not letters that are being inserted. Letters can only be written, never spoken; it's vowels -- real sounds pronounced by real vocal tracts of real humans -- that are inserted. And not just any vowel, either. Virtually always in English it's a shwa that's inserted. Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 17:04
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    Well, it's always vowels, whether it's letters or sounds. And while the sounds are identical, the letters aren't, since there usually isn't a standard spelling for representing epenthetic vowels, and no spelling for shwa anyway. Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 17:28

2 Answers 2


Simple insertion is epenthesis; swapping, metathesis.

  • Off-topic: Your rep and the -99-ending badge count are being envied!!
    – Neeku
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 16:06
  • @tchrist that was fast; thanks! Bonus points for also mentioning swapping.
    – rob
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 16:46
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    And vowels that have been inserted by epenthesis are epenthetic vowels. The automnemonic for epenthesis is epenethesis, and the one for metathesis is methatesis. See also haplogy, pocope, apocop, and syncpe. Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 17:00

I think the word you are looking for is paragoge. This means "the addition of a sound or a group of sounds at the end of a word."

I like Brian Donovan's example, decathlon, and would add that another common example is "rig-a-marole" for rigmarole. Off topic: The opposite mistake, taking away a sound that is needed, is called hyphaeresis.


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