It is my understanding that Gala can be properly pronounced three different ways (sorry I don't know IPA):
- noun: like GAY-la meaning a party (hopefuly with GAity)
- adjective: GAL-uh, describing a type of event (on the CALendar)
- other: GAH-luh, like the kind of apple (from Latin mala: apple)

Is this the usual way to pronounce it?

EDIT: Looking around for sources, I see a video saying "Americans" say it the 3rd way, and a video declaring that British people say it the 1st way (or as someone noted: GAR-la with the usually silent R that they like to make explicit). I grew up with three pronunciations and three meanings.

A source says that it is derived: From French gala or Italian gala, both from Medieval Latin, Latinized form of Frankish wala ‎(“good, well”). (Latin would pronounce that WAH-luh.) So, that would support the 3rd pronunciation, which is also the least used in my experience. How could the original pronunciation come to be forgotten?

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    Is what the usual way to pronounce it?
    – Alex W
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 18:26
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    While there are indeed three ways to pronounce gala, I don't think any of them are used preferentially for different meanings. Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 18:39
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    Please change your transcriptions to IPA, your present transcriptions are very confusing Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 20:10
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    @nocomprende: Some people do say "dah-tah." That's the pronunciation transcribed with /ɑː/ in the linked post. You can see that it is only used by a very small percentage of people, around 2% or less.
    – herisson
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 0:31
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    @no comprende: what do you mean: nobody says dah-tah? It's the third pronunciation in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which means it's used, even if it's the least common. Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 22:24

1 Answer 1


Walker's pronouncing dictionary of the English language, from 1828, says that gala should be pronounced gayla /geɪlə/, drama should be pronounced drayma /dreɪmə/, and stratum and strata should be pronounced straytum /streɪtʌm/ and strayta /streɪtə/, etc.

Assuming that English adapted these words during Middle English, and pronounced them then in the Latin manner, if they underwent the expected changes from the Great Vowel Shift, the result would be gayla, drayma, strata pronunciation. This was actually the standard way to pronounce Latin words in English at the time. While gala and stratum were adapted when the Great Vowel Shift was almost over, presumably they were pronounced with /eɪ/ by analogy with other Latin words.

At some point since Walker wrote his dictionary, some scholars suddenly realized that this wasn't the way that Latin used to be pronounced, and tried to get English speakers to revise their pronunciation of these words. This has led to mass confusion. So now, instead of having a uniform way of pronouncing these words, different people pronounces them differently.

  • So, you are saying that scholars caused people to learn a wrong pronunciation that has now become the most common one? And the least common one (my #3) is what it should have been? With scholars like that, who needs imbeciles. But it is not true that "everybody pronounces them differently" because I specifically learned 3 distinct ways for the 3 situations that I outlined. This, to me, is what should be the case.
    – user126158
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 21:55
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    Pronunciation number 1 is what you would expect if these words had been adapted into English with their Latin pronunciation before the Great Vowel Shift, and they were affected in the standard manner by the GVS. And this is also what Walker's pronouncing dictionary recommended in 1828. (Of course, I don't know whether Walker's was the only pronunciation at that time). Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 22:17
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    By "everybody pronounces them differently," I meant that currently people pronounce them in different ways. Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 22:21
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    @nocomprende: None of these pronunciations is "wrong." What you learned is just your personal usage; I can't see any good reason for distinguishing these three meanings with three different pronunciations. But you do, and that's fine. This kind of variation in pronunciation can arise in all sorts of contexts.
    – herisson
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 23:05
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    @PeterShor: I upvoted for the link to Walker, but I think your post is currently a bit misleading insofar as it seems to suggest "gala" was taken from Latin into Middle English. The OED, and other dictionaries I have looked at, say it is actually a loan from a Romance language (either Italian, French or Spanish), with the earliest citation being from 1625 (i.e. early Modern English). It's possible Walker's favored pronunciation with /eɪ/ is the result of analogy, not regular vowel shift (in fact, analogy may be the reason why he favored it).
    – herisson
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 23:07

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