Looking through the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors (part of the Oxford Style Manual, I was suprised to read in its dictionary part the following entry on page 619a:

apodictic clearly established, not -deictic

The Oxford Dictionaries entry for apodictic says the etymology is:

via Latin from Greek apodeiktikos, from apodeiknunai 'show off, demonstrate'.

Is there any reason other than simple convention why the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors recommends writing "apodictic" despite the etymological origin of the word?

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    Worrying about conformity to earlier versions rather than modern usage is the etymological fallacy. These Google Ngrams seem to indicate that ODWE has correctly identified the more popular current variant. The situation seemed to be reversed only around 1890. ODWE should perhaps hedge more carefully (but you don't provide its policy on wording); I'd prefer 'preferred to' to 'not'. Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 7:56
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    I disagree almost totally. A non-hypocritical 'must use the original' claimer shouldn't even be speaking English. Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 8:09
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    Please include the research you've done. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references (here, checking in reputable dictionaries and using ngrams) are off-topic. You can check back to see the wealth of opinion on ELU that English needs a largely descriptivist rather than prescriptivist approach. Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 8:30
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    I'm also not in favour of the 'Have you stopped beating your wife yet?' nature of 'Is there any reason why the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors recommends writing apodictic other than insufficiently[sic] knowledge of the etymology of the word ...?' Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 8:37
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    @ClintEastwood: Well, Edwin Ashworth listed some specific problems with his last two comments. You might not agree with them, but I thought it was worth addressing his criticisms, so I made an edit to your question. Please review it to see if you find it acceptable.
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 8:57

1 Answer 1


Well, style manuals don't need a reason beyond simple convention. Some people just like consistency, and to achieve that, you have to prescribe some standard and proscribe the alternatives, even if they're legitimate variants in general. And as Edwin Ashworth points out in a comment, apodictic seems to be the more commonly used spelling, which can be considered a reason to prefer it.

There's nothing etymologically wrong with either apodictic or apodeictic. They just use different conventions for transliterating Greek ει.

Josh61's quote from the Online Etymology Dictionary is informative:


  • "clearly demonstrated," 1650s, from Latin apodicticus, from Greek apodeiktikos

The transliteration with i dates back to how the Romans romanized Greek words.

From Wikipedia: Romanization of Greek

Traditional English renderings of Greek names originated from Roman systems established in antiquity. [...] ⟨ει⟩ and ⟨ου⟩ were simplified to ⟨i⟩ (more rarely—corresponding to an earlier pronunciation—⟨e⟩) and ⟨u⟩.

This talks about names, but the same applies to words that originated in Greek but came into English via a Latin intermediary: consider irony, from Latin ironia, from Greek εἰρωνεία (eironeia).

The transliteration with ei is more letter-by-letter and occurs more frequently with names or with terms that were coined in English directly from Greek roots.

  • This makes sense. In that case the Latinisation of Greek terms, of course, would follow the pronunciation which long ago began to pronounce ει as "i". Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 7:57
  • @ClintEastwood: right. One detail that I didn't get into here is that in Latin, Greek "ει" specifically corresponded to "long i," not "short i." That isn't relevant to the English pronunciation of this word, since Latin vowels of any length are pronounced short in English before a consonant cluster like "ct." But it is relevant for the traditional English pronunciations of some other words or names, like "Darius" from Greek Δαρεῖος, which is traditionally pronounced /dəˈraɪəs/ "duh-RYE-us."
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 8:02
  • @suməlic I had never come across apodictic before, but if I'd seen it used, I would probably have assumed it to be a typo for apodeictic. Appealing to consistency seems to me rather counter-intuitive, since consistency is exactly why I'd expect it to have ei: it's so obviously from the same source as deixis and deictic (and other compounds with those words). The oddness of apodictic is really in its pronunciation, since all other words (that I know of) that include deictic do in fact have a diphthong in English, rather than the short pit vowel. Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 20:46
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: Apparently "apodixis" also existed once, though the OED suggests it is now obsolete. There's no real consistency with the spelling of this particular root, but "apodictic" is not so unusual if you compare it to other roots from Greek. I think spelling often precedes pronunciation for words like this.
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 22:15

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