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When pronouncing URL, I say (roughly) "you-are-ell." A colleague insists that (roughly) "earl" is more common. Is there a widely accepted pronunciation? Within the computer world or without?

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    For shorter acronyms such as URL, it is better to pronounce each of the letters, to avoid ambiguity. In general though, there's no hard and fast rule as to how an abbreviation should be pronounced, just follow convention.
    – Kris
    Dec 31 '14 at 6:52
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    Either is acceptable. Spelling it out is the more common style, probably by a factor of 5:1 among my acquaintances, but many folks (including myself) who usually spell it out will resort to "earl" from time to time.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 13 '15 at 11:04
  • As far as showing competency/experience goes, in my experience it has been regional. In central Illinois, all my professors and the career software engineers at my company all said pronounced url and uri as words, now I find myself in central Missouri and everyone says the letters of the acronym.
    – kcar
    Aug 2 '16 at 14:28
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    I pronounce it: You Are Ell.
    – Lambie
    Jul 18 '19 at 14:52
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    When going to school for computer science, I had one professor that pronounced it earl. My classmates and I thought it was weird. Take that as you may. :)
    – Zack
    Jul 18 '19 at 15:23
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Merriam-Webster's entry for 'URL' agrees with you. So do those at Oxforddictionaries.com, Cambridgedictionaries.com and Macmillandictionary.com. Netlingo is agnostic, giving both pronunciations.

(That's not to say that the pronunciation 'earl' is wrong, but on a cursory look at the evidence it does seem to be less prevalent than the one which spells out the initials.)

I'm not aware that non-techies and those who work with computers in a professional capacity pronounce the term differently.

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    Looks like Merriam-Webster now also shows "ər(-ə)l" as an alternate pronunciation. I've been a technie all my life, since before URL was a word, and have always pronounced it "earl".
    – Gray
    Apr 1 '15 at 19:30
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    That's interesting. I've been a software developer for 20 years, with much of that time spent in web development, and I don't recall ever hearing it pronounced "earl". We talk about URLs and URIs, which are related but distinct concepts, and it seems natural to me to spell out the acronyms to highlight the distiction between them.
    – mikeagg
    Nov 13 '15 at 11:02
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    Don't know how representative I am, but when I hear "earl" I judge that speaker to be "less technical" than ones that say "you-are-ell"
    – BlueWhale
    Jul 19 '16 at 15:24
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    @Lazarus off the top of my head - urban, urbane, urn, ursine, urticaria, urticate. Aug 4 at 4:52
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    @Lazarus I know what you're trying to say but many to most native speakers would be hard placed to notice a distinction between an actual schwa and the sound "uh" (/ʌ/). What you're probably trying to verbalize is that many speakers aren't going to pronounce this with a schwa at all but with the /ɜ/ that starts "earl".
    – lly
    Aug 5 at 1:15
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It's not scientific, but the Google Ngram of "a URL" (blue line) versus "an URL" (red line) for the period 1990–2008 suggests that the published works contained in the Google Books database favor the initialism pronunciation over the acronym pronunciation by a substantial margin:

By way of contrast, consider the Ngram chart for "a FAQ" (blue line) versus "an FAQ" (red line) for the same period (note, however, that the magnification of the Y-axis in the FAQ chart is about twice that in the URL chart):

This is consistent with my memory of preferences at the computer and technology magazines where I worked as a copy editor for two decades: without much effort, you could stir up an argument about whether "a FAQ" or "an FAQ" was preferable; but partisans of "an URL" were hard to find.

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    Comparing the frequency of the accompanying articles is such a clever way of determining which pronunciation is more popular! Nice answer, +1 Mar 23 '20 at 19:23
  • In what way is it not scientific? Not an exact science, doubtless. Aug 5 at 13:36
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    The results may even be inflating slightly the evidence for the an URL pronunciation. I believe some written instances of an result from a momentary distraction of a seeing the following vowel and forgetting about pronunciation.
    – DjinTonic
    Aug 5 at 14:52
  • @DjinTonic in published edited books? Though I just had a quick look at the results, and a number of them had Dutch authors. On multiple occasions I have witnessed Dutch people being perplexed that an English speaker did not understand the supposedly English word vip, with the English speaker eventually coming to understand that they meant vee-eye-pee. So maybe they are pronouncing it earl, but not being native speakers, it doesn't count for much.
    – phoog
    Aug 8 at 1:54
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I have just watched 30 short videos from YouGlish: https://youglish.com/. 28 people pronounce URl as you -are -ell while 2 people pronounce it as earl.

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In the south of the US, earl is what you put in your car's engine.

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  • This doesn't answer the question which was about how you pronounce 'URL'. Aug 6 at 21:36

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