The word renege comes from Medieval Latin renegare (source). It is the only English word of Latin origin I'm aware of that doesn't follow the soft g pronunciation rule. The g is hard even though there's an e after it. Why?

  • 5
    Also gibbous. Aug 29, 2015 at 1:59
  • @PeterShor: gibbous is even more mysterious. The OED is stumped about why it's pronounced with /g/.
    – herisson
    Oct 18, 2015 at 6:49

1 Answer 1


It’s because it never had an affricate there. We spelled it renegue for some time, and some people still do. But just because we dropped the u for ease in spelling doesn’t mean we would change the sound.

The OED has:

renegue, renege /rɪˈniːg/, /-ˈnɛg/, /-ˈneɪg/, v.

Forms: 6–7, 9 reneague, 7–9 renegue, (6 ri-, 7 -neigue, 9 dial. -nague); 7, 9 reneg, (9 dial. -neeg); 6–7, 9– renege, 6–7 reneage, 9 dial. rena(i)ge, 8– U.S. renig.

Etymology: ad. med.L. reneg-āre, f. re- re- + negāre to deny: cf. renay v.

As you see, it had all kinds of spellings since it was adopted into English, but would never have had the affricated pronunciation of judge, only the stop of fig.

  • 2
    Compare league from the OED: ME leghe, ME–15 lege, leuge, (ME lewge, ME lewke, leuke, leeke), ME–15 leege, 15 legge, le(a)que, Sc. lig, 15–16 leag(e, 15– league. I think it's just change renege ended up with -ge and league didn't. Aug 29, 2015 at 2:05
  • So much for my theory about King Lear II.2.73 the Folio has "revenge*, the Alexander Text edits to renege. Have you seen Ngrams: rare as hen's teeth until 1920 in the States (and arrives in UK forty years later). Must be all those card sharps they were writing about. And might be a back-formation from renegado to boot.
    – Hugh
    Aug 29, 2015 at 2:57
  • 5
    Maybe the real question should be: Why didn't renege lose the e as well as the u? Dialog/ue; Monolog/ue, Catalog/ue. Aug 29, 2015 at 16:24
  • Thanks. The historical spellings explain a lot. I'm unfamiliar with the OED; what are all those numbers? Aug 29, 2015 at 16:54
  • @SamKauffman The numbers before the historical forms represent the centuries of the second millennium, so 6–7 means during the sixteenth to the seventeen centuries (1501–1700). However, a lone 1, which does not occur in this example, extends backwards in time indefinitely, so means up through the eleventh century.
    – tchrist
    Aug 29, 2015 at 17:05

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