Upon looking up the word pejorative, I noticed two rather distinct pronunciations:


I naturally assumed the first (which is apparently the more common), but was wondering in what parts of the world the second pronunciation is commonly used.

  • 1
    I'm a bit confused. You already seem to know how it's pronounced, so are you just surveying the crowd to see which individual people use?
    – Dusty
    Apr 13, 2011 at 19:22
  • Yes, more of a survey... being that titles can't have bold/italics, it was hard to ask "How do you pronounce 'pejorative'?"
    – snumpy
    Apr 13, 2011 at 19:25
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    @snumpy Survey questions are the bane of the StackExchange network, because every answer is equally valid...what happens is you get a thread like, "I say pejorative like XX"; "No, I say perjorative like YY!, and it just becomes a mess, particularly because people don't know when to stop past the point of usefulness. I'd advise you to modify your question a bit so it doesn't get closed...
    – Uticensis
    Apr 13, 2011 at 19:30
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    @snumpy: I'm with you there, mate. You're obviously not inviting everyone to start arguing about the 'correct' pronunciation. You're effectively asking whether anyone actually uses the second. And if so, where do they come from, with a view to establishing if the variation might be geographical. Apr 17, 2011 at 22:53
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    @snumpy It's mostly an accident, its one of the ways you might pronounce if if you've read it but not heard it. I've heard two people stress the pej the first few times they say it, others skipped the a and said something like perjortive.
    – tobylane
    Apr 17, 2011 at 23:09

4 Answers 4


I think it may be be more of a question of when it was pronounced thus than where. Bryan Garner has this on the word:

Though once pronounced /pee-jər-ay-tiv/ (or, in BrE, /pee-jər-ə-tiv/), the predominant (and fully acceptable) pronunciation today is /pə-jor-ə-tiv/.

Garner's Modern American Usage

My guess is that the earlier pronunciations were holdovers from the much older, but now rare, pejorate, /pee-jər-ayt/, (make worse, cause to deteriorate).

  • Now that's helpful! If I don't see anything better over the next few days, the bounty is yours.
    – snumpy
    Apr 18, 2011 at 22:21

I'm not aware of any historical, regional or dialectal associations for the second pronunciation, though I can't rule them out.

But I do think many could conciously or unconciously associate it with the word perjury.

The misspelling perjorative isn't uncommon, and I suspect this too might be influenced by phonetic proximity to the other word sharing some semantic territory in the general area of bad stuff, socially speaking.


This pair is similar to the two ways of pronouncing territory: /təɹɪtoɹi/ and /təɹɪt(ʃ)ɹi/ where the unaccented o reduces to a schwa or is elided.

In dialects where people accentuate the /o/ in pejorative, the pronunciation will be like the first, whereas dialects which accentuate the first /e/ in pejorative will pronounce it the second way. Unfortunately, I am not very familiar with the features of different dialects and where they are spoken. Perhaps somebody else can help here.

I speak a dialect of English that accents the /o/ in territory and pejorative.

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    For what it's worth, I elide the o in territory, but I accent the o in pejorative (and this is common in the UK). So while the idea may be the same, there isn't a correlation between the two words :)
    – psmears
    Apr 13, 2011 at 20:30
  • Agree with @psmears.
    – Marcin
    Apr 17, 2011 at 19:21
  • And those who might stress the first syllable, would they pronounce the a long? The recessive accent often causes all subsequent syllables to become a mumble, as with TERritry. Placing secondary stress on the a and stretching it sounds a bit Southern US to me? Apr 17, 2011 at 19:26
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    @Cerberus while I agree that drawling out syllables unnecessarily is quite indicative of the Southeastern US, I'm from Georgia and have never heard it pronounced like that (granted, the majority of people who might pronounce it that way would likely not know its meaning).
    – snumpy
    Apr 17, 2011 at 20:03
  • @snumpy: Haha, fair enough. Well, it was only speculation; I think I know only peJOrative. Apr 17, 2011 at 20:30

France maybe. I know that it sounds very french when spoken that way.

  • 1
    Does France have a native English-speaking population? I would expect dictionaries to account for primary dialects, not foreign accents (or else there would be 100 pronunciations for each word).
    – snumpy
    Apr 18, 2011 at 18:04
  • The French would have a hard 'f' at the end for this particular word, but it's still four syllables. My gut feel is they don't mind the leading stress on long words so much. We on the other hand tend to move the stress further down as a word grows from, say detonate to detonation. Apr 18, 2011 at 23:16
  • @FumbleFingers Thanks. It's a novelty to be told why you are wrong in a constructive manner.
    – Dan
    Apr 19, 2011 at 10:23
  • Well that bit about (Brits, at least) not liking the main stress on the first syllable in long words is entirely my own 'armchair philosophising', so it might not even be true. Maybe someone more knowledgeable will either confirm or squash the idea. Apr 19, 2011 at 13:52

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