In Google's dictionary, the word "human" is displayed with the o͞o pronunciation symbol, whereas most other dictionaries I checked use the [standard IPA?] ü.

Are these really interchangeable or is there a subtle difference? (or is it an American vs British English thing?)

Part of the issue is that the o͞o seems less available in common computer fonts than the ü, so I'd opt for the second one.

  • 6
    All these symbols are used instead of phonetic symbols in American dictionaries, because Americans are believed by publishers to be too stupid to learn IPA. So far, they've been correct. Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 2:07
  • Note that you almost certainly do not want to use [ü]. In phonetics, the diaeresis indicates a centralised vowel, which does not apply here. What would make sense is [uː], as the “triangular colon” indicates length.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 8:25
  • 1
    Thanks for that wonderful put-down, @JohnLawler. I was born in South Africa, have lived on three continents, speak three languages, and have a Master's degree. I know that Americans are often the butt of jokes like this one, and sometimes it's true, but this is not the place for blanket stereotyping when someone just asks a simple question about a Google symbol.
    – cbmtrx
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 12:24

2 Answers 2


You should use neither of those for the phonemic representation of human. You should use the standard IPA, which is /ˈhjumən/.

So that vowel is /u/, or with the leading glide, /ju/. Sometimes the vowel is phonetically transliterated to [uː] but vowel length is not phonemic, at least in American dialects of English.

  • 1
    Ultimately this is a question about the written form of the word, so a phonemic representation (/ˈhjumən/) is what I'm looking for. Thanks.
    – cbmtrx
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 0:45

Actually it is /'hju:mən/. But when a choice is to be made between them...

ü represents close front rounded vowel [y] and is a letter in several extended Latin alphabets.

But, Google gives ˈ(h)yo͞omən , notice the y before o͞o. So, o͞o is long sound without the sound from y as in yak. It is equivalent to u:

You should see http://www.phonemicchart.com/ for standard representations.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.