I'm getting confusing results from dictionaries.

Would you mind uploading or linking to a recording of the correct pronunciation -- perhaps you would record yourself saying it, both isolated and in a sentence?


Does it rhyme with nemesis?

  • The OED has Brit. /ˌɛksᵻˈdʒiːsɪs/, U.S. /ˌɛksəˈdʒisᵻs/ which accords with how I would say it. – 1006a Dec 20 '16 at 20:14
  • @1006a - Could you say explicitly which syllable gets the stress, please (1, 2, or 3)? – aparente001 Dec 20 '16 at 20:15
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    Secondary stress on the first syllable, primary stress on the third syllable. The secondary is pretty strong, though, almost as strong as primary. – 1006a Dec 20 '16 at 20:15
  • "ex-eh-jee'-sus" in AmE. Does not rhyme with nemesis "nem'-eh-sis." – Mark Hubbard Dec 20 '16 at 20:16
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    Suggestion: If you Google "How do you pronounce 'word-in-question'?" you'll find audio clips for almost any word in the English language. I use it whenever I am unsure of my own pronunciation. – Mark Hubbard Dec 20 '16 at 20:34

Exegesis is pronounced /ˌɛksɪˈdʒiːsɪs/ or /ˌɛksəˈdʒiːsɪs/ (or possibly /ˌɛksəˈdʒiːsəs/), with primary stress on the second-to-last syllable. More or less: ek-sih-JEE-sis. It rhymes with thesis, for most people (not for the ones who say "thessis", which apparently some people do). I think the pronunciation on Forvo sounds correct.

There is an explanation (of sorts) for why it is stressed on the second-to-last syllable, unlike nemesis.

“Exegesis” comes from the (ancient) Greek word ἐξήγησις. The English language has had very little direct contact with Greek. Most Greek-derived words in English were either taken from Latin, or were taken from Greek by scholars but treated “as if” they were passed through Latin. For example, Greek kappa (κ) corresponds most directly in form and sound to English “k”, but Greek-derived words usually have “c” instead because that was the letter that was regularly used in Latin to transliterate Greek “κ”.

This Latinization of Greek loans extends to stress patterns. Greek has its own stress system, but in general this is irrelevant to the pronunciation of an English word that is taken from Classical Greek. Instead, most loanwords like this conform to Latin stress patterns.

In Latin, the position of the stress in a polysyllabic word was, in general, entirely determined by the sounds and syllable structure of the second-to-last syllable.

The relevant rule in this case is that if the second-to-last syllable contained a long vowel, it was stressed.

The word ἐξήγησις can be transliterated as exēgēsis. The symbol ē represents the Greek “long e” vowel (thought to have been pronounced as something like an extended version of the vowel in English “bed”). Because the second-to-last syllable of exēgēsis contains a long vowel, it would have been stressed on this syllable in Latin. And this is the source of the stress pattern of this word in English.

The word "nemesis", on the other hand, comes from Greek νέμεσις nemesis, with a short vowel in the second-to-last syllable. In words with a “short” second-to-last syllable like this, the Latin stress rule regularly places the stress on the third-to-last syllable.

Hopefully this explanation is clear enough. As with many explanations relating to English pronunciation, it has exceptions. Some words, like plethora from Greek πληθώρα/πληθώρη and metamorphosis from μεταμόρϕωσις, are pronounced differently from how we’d expect from the Latin stress rules. (In general, at least—the OED does record an alternate pronunciation of metamorphosis with stress on the second-to-last syllable, although it doesn’t seem to be common.)

Examples where the Latin stress rule holds:

  • Stressed on second-to-last syllable because it had a long vowel: oecesis, kinesis, mimesis, noesis, cyesis, ketosis, osmosis, xerosis, zygosis, meiosis, ptosis.

  • Stressed on third-to-last syllable because the second-to-last syllable was "short": genesis, emesis, ectasis, entasis, epitasis, protasis, di(a)eresis, syn(a)eresis, paresis, telesis, paralysis, hypothesis, aphesis.

  • The part about long and short vowels in Greek was confusing, but it's not your fault. Overall, great answer, thanks. – aparente001 Jan 10 '17 at 3:03

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