I've heard some people pronounce "mischievous" as "mischievious" [mis-CHEEV-ee-us] with an I between the V and the O. The word has three syllables: [MIS-chiv-us]. Why do some people pronounce this word with the four-syllable pronunciation given above? I say it how it's given.

For example, Merriam-Webster lists the mentioned four-syllable pronunciation as nonstandard, meaning it's technically incorrect, but the dictionary added it because of its popular usage.

closed as off-topic by Tushar Raj, Mari-Lou A, Janus Bahs Jacquet, choster, Ellie Kesselman May 10 '15 at 1:29

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    They do it to a-NOY-aa-ee you. – Hot Licks May 9 '15 at 18:44
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    Sounds an awful lot like a rant disguised as a question. – Tushar Raj May 9 '15 at 18:49
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    Some people pronounce the word with the emphasis on the second syllable -- mis-CHEEV-yus. It is fairly easy for the "yus" to then get stretched into "ee-us". It's a spoken language, not a computer program. – Hot Licks May 9 '15 at 18:59
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about a peeve. – Mari-Lou A May 9 '15 at 19:05
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    The short answer is that they learned it that way, and because others also use it that way. Hence February, height, jewelry, sherbet, drown, nuclear, ask, athlete, tenet, cavalry, library, espresso, realtor, cache, foliage, and plenty of others. My pet peeves are culinary (we don't cull the chicken, we cook it) and Silicon Valley (the silicone is mostly in the other end of California), but I recognize them as that. – choster May 9 '15 at 19:09

Although mischievious isn't listed as a variant spelling in Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary, you could make the case that it is one and that people who say "mis-CHEEV-ee-us" are pronouncing that variation of the word correctly, rather than pronouncing mischievous incorrectly. Here is an Ngram chart tracking occurrences of mischievious in the Google Books database across the years 1600–2000:

The two earliest instances of the spelling mischievious that a Google Books search finds are from the 1660s. From Thomas Wilson & John Bagwell, A Complete Christian Dictionary (1661):

Malicious ] 2 Joh. 10. Naughty, mischievious, evill, wicked.

Nevertheless, that same dictionary also has this entry:

Mischievous ] One devising evill, Prov. 24. 8.

From Richard Head, The English Rogue: Described, in the Life of Meriton Latroon (1665):

The next day I went into Lincolns-Inn-fields, where I saw a company of Rogues, cheats, Pick-pockets, &c, playing at Pidgeon holes (a game much practised there, and in More-fields, by such mischievious and lazie Rascals) ...

For the period 1702-1720, Google Books finds twelve unique matches for mischievious—enough to suggest that the spelling may have reflected a then-current variant pronunciation, and not merely a series of typographical errors. On the other hand, it is undeniable that a person who fully intends to type mischievous may type mischievious by mistake.

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    I wonder whether the word devious has played a role in the persistence and (minor) popularity of mischievious over the years. Is there any way to investigate such a question? – Sven Yargs May 9 '15 at 19:41
  • Frequency of near occurrence? – user98990 May 9 '15 at 20:07

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