Googling suggests that compact has the stress on the last syllable when used as an adjective and on the first syllable when used as a noun.

Is this common for all English dialects or are there differences for example between British and American English in this regard?

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    I don't think there's much dialectal variation per se (though I'm not sure), but the noun is always stressed on the first syllable, the adjective can be stressed on either the first or the last syllable, and the verb is always stressed on the last syllable. As far as I'm aware off the top of my head, this holds for all major dialects. Oct 11, 2014 at 10:07
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    Certainly this is the case in BrE. I've not thought of why the adjective goes against the general tendency of two syllable adjectives to be stressed on the first syllable, but I suspect it may be that com- is treated as a prefix.
    – Dan
    Oct 11, 2014 at 11:28
  • @JanusBahsJacquet It's commonly said that Gen Am is more regular in this regard than SSBE, for example. My casual observation would back that up. For example, the nouns address, cement which I'm informed have first syllable stress in Gen Am. Oct 13, 2014 at 0:44
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    @Araucaria: certainly address can have the stress on the first syllable in AmE. I would disagree about cement, but I think Southern English is more regular than General American in this respect, and maybe cement has first-syllable stress in the South. Nov 10, 2014 at 22:09
  • @Araucaria: the noun cement has both stress patterns given in Merriam-Webster, so it must be accented on the first syllable somewhere in the U.S. Nov 11, 2014 at 1:33

3 Answers 3


Compact (noun—a makeup case) : stress on first syllable

compact (adjective—e.g. "compact car"): equal stress both syllables

compact (verb—e.g. to compact your email folder): stress on second syllable

(American. Yes, there are regional variations)


According to Oxford Dictionaries, 'compact' as a verb takes stress on the first syllable when used to mean 'make an agreement with', and takes stress on the second syllable when used to mean 'make smaller'. I would always have stressed the second syllable in either case, but apparently I was incorrect!

  • I assume you mean 'second syllable' for the 'make smaller' case?
    – Daniel R
    Sep 12, 2016 at 11:16
  • Interesting, I wasn't aware of the 'make an agreement' meaning of the word.
    – Daniel R
    Sep 12, 2016 at 11:17

It is common in English, whatever the dialect, for some words to be stressed differently when used as different parts of speech.

As far as I know, compact has the same stress in BrE and AmE (and, I'm guessing, others).

(And you forgot compact as a verb.)


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