After looking up the pronunciation on various online resources such as How to Pronounce Megalomaniacal by Emma Saying on Youtube. I came to the conclusion that this pronunciation is mega-luh-may-knee-ak-al.

However, I then watched Head to Head — Dawkins on religion: Is Religion Good or Evil? Both people in the video make a point about an alternative pronunciation to that which one would generally expect and that which I have determined. Mega-luh-man-eye-acal.

Does anybody have any further insights?

While we are here, what about 'controversy'? It is also used in Head to Head here. Is that correct I always thought it was "contra-versy" rather than "con-trov-ersy".

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    I always find the Cambridge Dictionary pretty reliable for recorded (BrE) pronunciation. I can't vouch for the AE recordings. They don't list megalomaniacal, but they do list megalomaniac. Recorded pronunciation in online dictionaries can be a little hit and miss at times, especially if they are public-domain contributions, which some obviously are. Maybe we need a Pronunciation.SE? – Mick Oct 26 '16 at 13:53
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    The tonic accent in megalomaniacal is on the i. – Lambie Oct 26 '16 at 13:59
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    Merriam-Webster says maniacal is pronounced with eye. Oxford Dictionaries Online also says maniacal is pronounced with eye. And maniacal is going to have the same pronunciation as megalomaniacal. Your online sources (do you have more than one?) saying it's pronounced with knee seem rather untrustworthy. – Peter Shor Oct 26 '16 at 15:35

The OED doesn't include a pronunciation for megalomaniacal, only for megalomaniac.

megalomaniac, adj. and n.

Pronunciation: Brit. /ˌmɛɡ(ə)lə(ʊ)ˈmeɪnɪak/ , /ˌmɛɡl̩ə(ʊ)ˈmeɪnɪak/ ,
U.S. /ˌmɛɡ(ə)loʊˈmeɪniˌæk/ , /ˌmɛɡ(ə)ləˈmeɪniˌæk/

(All citations are for the OED Online, Oxford University Press, September 2016.)

If you just tacked some sort of unaccented -al at the end, these would come close to your first suggested pronunciation. However, a clue to why the second might be preferred comes from the pronunciation guide for maniac and maniacal, respectively:

maniac, adj. and n.

Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈmeɪnɪak/ , U.S. /ˈmeɪniˌæk/

maniacal, adj.

Pronunciation: Brit. /məˈnʌɪəkl/ , U.S. /məˈnaɪə(k)əl/

As you can see, when going from maniac to maniacal the emphasis shifts from the first to second syllable, and the pronunciation of the vowel represented by the letter i changes as well, for both British and American speakers (though the exact emphasis and vowel-sound are slightly different). Using this pronunciation with the prefix megalo- looks like it would sound much more like the second pronunciation you reference.

FWIW, I (native speaker of American English) would use the second, "eye" pronunciation.

  • 2
    I'm totally baffled by the (k) in the U.S. pronunciation of maniacal. It can't possibly be optional, can it? Shouldn't it be /məˈnaɪək(ə)l/ instead? – Peter Shor Oct 26 '16 at 18:55
  • @PeterShor I certainly think that I pronounce the k, but perhaps it represents a glottalization of some sort? Listening to the OED's audio example, the k is sort of swallowed. However, it's also possible that this is an example of the rare typo in the OED (I copied and pasted directly, and just checked again to make sure it's actually like that in the original). – 1006a Oct 26 '16 at 19:15
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    The U.S. pronunciation for diabolical is /ˌdaɪəˈbɑlək(ə)l/, so I strongly suspect they misplaced the parentheses. – Peter Shor Oct 26 '16 at 19:26

Maniac is pronounced /'meniyæk/ in American English phonemics, with initial stress, but maniacal is pronounced /mə'nayəkəl/, with the stress shifted forward to the second syllable.

Megalo- is pronounced /'mɛɡəlo/, so the whole thing sounds like two words, with two stresses: /'mɛɡəlomə'nayəkəl/. It seems like too much word, frankly; maniacal is already overkill.


Maniac is MAY-nee-ak, but maniacal is muh-NEYE-ikul.

The British mispronounce controversy as con-TROH-versy, when of course, the correct pronunciation is CON-traversy.

Edit: accepting correction from some Brits in the comments who have a lack of humor uncharacteristic of their little isle.

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    The British do not mispronounce controversy: they put the tonic accent on the second syllable. And there are many words where the tonic accent in BrE and AmE are different. Ain't no thang. – Lambie Oct 26 '16 at 13:58
  • I don’t know what kind of English you’re talking about here, but maniac certainly is not stressed on the second syllable in any kind of English that I’m familiar with. And the British in general pronounce controversy with initial stress as well, just like the Americans; stressing the second syllable is a less common alternative. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 26 '16 at 14:16
  • As a BrE speaker, I'd suggest MAY-nee-ak and con-TROH-versy. (It would be con-TRAH-ver-shal though...). – AndyT Oct 26 '16 at 16:03
  • I like your edit but point out that you've spelt humou wrong. – BladorthinTheGrey Oct 26 '16 at 20:41
  • If you must use re-spelling, I'd suggest writing it as "con-TROV-versy." It's the vowel in "providence" or "bovver boys"; "OH" looks like you're trying to indicate the vowel in "drove." The problem with "AH" was that British "short o" (the vowel in words like "lot" etc.) is not the same as British "AH" (which is found in words spelled with "ar," such as "cart"). – sumelic Oct 27 '16 at 4:31

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