The word government is supposed to be pronounced guhv-ern-muh nt

See here http://www.dictionary.com/browse/government?s=t

  • 6
    This appears to be an ad hoc, non-standard phonetic spelling system. There is no use of italics in IPA. Anyways, it appears that uh is italicized to set it apart as a digraph representing a reduced, unstressed vowel (so you don't think there is an h sound in the word).
    – user31341
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 17:43
  • 4
    That's not IPA, it's just a miscellaneous scheme. It seems to be italicized as a way of distinguishing unstressed /ə/ "uh" from stressed /ʌ/ "uh."
    – herisson
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 17:55
  • @jlovegren Seems like very few dictionaries use true IPA? I checked Merriam Webster to see how the word "father" is pronounced, and it says ˈfä-thər with "th" underscored. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/father I suppose that an underscored "th" is like a voiced "th", or ð in IPA?
    – Gelb
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 19:19
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    @Gelb: Specifically, few American dictionaries use regular IPA. It's more commonly used in British dictionaries, like the Oxford online British English dictionary, Cambridge Dictionaries Online, or Collins English Dictionary.
    – herisson
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 19:54
  • 2
    American bilingual dictionaries often use IPA-based phonemic systems for the English side; I used to surprise my undergraduate students regularly by telling them to look at the pronunciations in the English-Spanish part of their bilingual dictionary. American dictionaries for monolingual English speakers don't use IPA or anything scientific, because, like the metric system, it's considered too hard for Americans to understand. Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 21:10

1 Answer 1


Look at the spelling pronunciation key for dictionary.com. This tells you what all these strange spellings mean.

Dictionary.com uses a non-standard phonetic respelling. You can also get the IPA (international phonetic alphabet) pronunciation by clicking the IPA/Spell button.

  • Sadly, most of the online dictionaries don't offer obvious links to their pronunciation guides. How did you track down that one?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 19:42
  • @Hot Licks: It took me a few tries with Google. Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 19:48
  • Strangely it seems like this website is no longer on the dictionary.com domain. Here is an archive of it. It seems as though even the last (working) version of the website does not explain what the italics mean. Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 22:03

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