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There appear to be two ways to pronounce the last syllable of the word delphi based on deeply held beliefs and cultural divides and assumptions:

  1. Phi fi fo fum
    IPA /fiː/ using the FLEECE vowel, a monophthong
  2. Fee phi fo fum
    IPA /faɪ/ using the PRICE vowel, a phonemic diphthong

I’ve heard that the second of those two ways listed above is the “American” pronunciation, as in the Delphi Automotive motor parts corporation — although that one isn’t how we pronounce it in my office in America, which is probably largely the result of the Russian programmer who introduced us to the Delphi programming language.

I’d say I’d never pronounce the Greek letter “phi” (ϕ, φ) like the English word fee, but I don’t speak Greek and if I did, I would probably pronounce it wrong.

The best answer would go into the history of why Delphi is called Delphi (started as the code name, but caught on) while giving a little Greek lesson (oracle at Delphi) and explaining that there are a lot of non-american Delphi programmers (Marco Cantu calls it Del fee.) It might even touch on motorsports.

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    The ONLY thing that matters is how Borland pronounces it. (Duh) As commander 'Data' in Star Trek TNG said, "my name is DATE-A, Not 'DATa'" - when asked about it he said, "One is my name, the other is not." Borland people came up with the name, they came up with how to pronounce it, based on something that properly pronounced is 'Del fee', but they chose to name it 'Del Fi' – user52884 Sep 26 '13 at 16:31
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I've always said "Dell fee".

In further support of this, the name was chosen (cite) by one of Delphi's developers, Danny Thorpe, who has a decidedly non-Greek name.

If you look into it further, you'll see the name is a reference to the Oracle at Delphi, which was pronounced in ancient Greek as /ðelˈfi/, using the Ancient Greek IPA (/i/ refers to the "hard e" sound, whereas /ai/ would refer to "hard i"). And according to this footnote, "dell fi" is actually the English corruption.

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    Yes, the name was taken from the Oracle at Delphi, a classical Greek reference, but I really don't see how my non-Greek name has anything to do with it. In the USA, we say "delf-eye", and everywhere else in the world we say "del-fee". – dthorpe Oct 12 '10 at 16:16
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    [ðelˈfi] is the Modern Greek pronunciation, not Ancient Greek. According to Wiktionary, the correct Classical Greek pronunciation would have been [delpʰo͝ɪ̗]. – Mechanical snail Oct 11 '11 at 23:14
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For what it's worth. The place/oracle it is named after in Greece is pronounced by the locals as "Dell-Fee". So that is probably the most correct, but I've never heard an American call it anything other than "Dell-Fi"

FYI: That is a truly awesome place to visit, I highly recommend it.

  • I'll go with the locals. Been to Delphi too. – Kathleen Jenkins Feb 26 '17 at 16:50
  • @KathleenJenkins Which pronunciation are you recommending? [ðelˈfi] ("thell-FEE"), with the "th" sound of "that" and stress on the second syllable? "del-FEE", with the initial consonant sound anglicized to /d/? "DELL-fee", which has anglicized initial /d/ and anglicized stress on the first syllable? – herisson Feb 26 '17 at 16:56
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    I'm not entirely convinced that how people local to some place pronounce their word for that place in their own language is always necessarily the "most correct" way for people somewhere else speaking a different language altogether to say their own word for it. Are you? ;-} – tchrist Feb 26 '17 at 17:29
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"Delphi" originates from Greek

The Greek name is written Δελφοί. This is a plural form, interestingly enough.

  • The reconstructed Classical pronunciation of this is, as mechanical snail mentions, [delpʰo͜í]. The nearest thing to that in English would be /dɛlˈpoɪ/ or /deɪlˈpoɪ/. Nobody says this.

  • The Modern Greek pronunciation is, as "note to self"'s answer mentions, [ðe̞lˈfi]; the nearest thing to that in English would be /ðɛlˈfi/. Nobody says this. Some people do say /ˈdɛlfi/, which is kind of similar but has a different first consonant and also a different stress pattern.

In English, the "i" in "Delphi" is pronounced as the Latin plural suffix "-i"

In fact, it’s easier to predict the pronunciation of the word if you just ignore the Greek spelling and pronunciation entirely and look at it as a Latin word. The way “Delphi” is spelled indicates that the word came into English through Latin (like many English words that are ultimately of Greek origin): if it had been taken directly into English as a transliteration of the (ancient) Greek spelling, we’d expect it to be spelled “Delphoi”, and if it had been taken directly into English as a transcription of modern Greek pronunciation, we’d expect it to be spelled “Dhelfi” or at least “Delfi”.

In “Delphi” the Greek plural suffix “-οι” has been replaced with the (cognate) Latin plural suffix “-i". In English words, the Latin-derived plural suffix -i is pronounced as either /aɪ/ or /i:/; neither is generally considered incorrect. Neither pronunciation is restricted to one part of the English-speaking world either: the Oxford English Dictionary entry for “Delphi” (in the sense “Delphi forecasting”) gives /ˈdɛlˌfaɪ/ as the first pronunciation for both British and American speakers.

Bilingual speakers may be more likely to use /i/

The pronunciation of the Latinate suffix "-i" as /aɪ/ is the result of the English-specific Great Vowel Shift; in other European languages, this kind of shift of original long /i/ to /aɪ/ either did not take place (e.g. in the Romance languages, like French or Italian), or was inhibited or reverted in Latinate words because of spelling (I'm thinking here mainly of German and Dutch dialects, many of which did undergo a similar vowel shift but spell the resulting diphthong not with the letter "i", but with digraphs like "ei" or "ij"). This means that non-native speakers of English who speak one of these other European languages (I assume this is the case for Marco Cantù, the programmer mentioned by Peter Turner) may tend to use /i:/ because it is more similar to the pronunciation used for the letter "i" in their native language.

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Apparently it is a country thing. Gasp! (for us Americans)

The majority of the world pronounces the Delphi programming language with a long E sound¹ according to this article from the Delphi programmers Wikia page.

I’ve always pronounced it with a long I sound², like the Phi in the first letter of my fraternity name.


Footnotes

  1. Meaning IPA /fiː/ using the FLEECE vowel, a monophthong.
  2. Meaning IPA /faɪ/ using the PRICE vowel, a phonemic diphthong.

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