Usually, (and intuitively), the word is pronounced /ˈviː.və/ or /ˈviː.vɑ/

However, I recently learned that in the academic context, the same term is pronounced /ˈvaɪ.və/. Why is this the case, and what is its etymology?

  • It seems possible that this is because the borrowings of the 2 meanings occurred separately near the beginning and end of the Great Vowel Shift. "viva voce" dates back to 1565 but "viva" meaning long live only to 1640s dictionary.reference.com/browse/viva%20voce?s=t dictionary.reference.com/browse/viva . However I can't back this up with knowledge, so I'll leave that to others to answer.
    – Qsigma
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 12:09
  • 1
    You'll hear both pronunciations in UK academia, though I've never heard /ˈvaɪ.və/ in the full (but rare) viva voce.
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 12:14

1 Answer 1


"viva" meaning "long live" is borrowed from Italian or Spanish, and approximates the pronunciation of the source languages. (IIRC, the Vauxhall Viva car had the same pronunciation, though I don't have a source for that.)

However, "viva", short for "viva voce", meaning "oral examination", is borrowed from Mediaeval Latin. Pronunciation rules for Mediaeval Latin words are not the same as those for modern Italian and Spanish, though I don't know when or why the long 'i' prevaled for this sense.

Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/viva

  • @MarchHo please don't accept this answer unless your problem is fully solved: it is worth waiting for a more complete answer from someone more knowledgeable. " A question with an accepted answer isn't as likely to receive further attention as one without an accepted answer." Also: english.stackexchange.com/help/someone-answers
    – Qsigma
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 18:14

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