I am currently listening to an audiobook reading of Keats poetry by Sir Ralph Richardson, and I have noticed a peculiar pronunciation of adjectives ending in -ed. While I have heard in the past certain words like winged being pronounced as wingid rather than wingd, I thought it an archaic peculiarity of a small subset of words. Yet today I have heard Sir Richardson pronounce stained in the same odd fashion, as steinid rather than the overwhelmingly more common steind. It has made me think and wonder whether this oddity is some sort of literary remnant from the past, or perhaps just a mistake from his part.

For copyright purposes I cannot link to the recording, but if I haven't made myself clear, you can hear what I'm talking about in this publicly available reading of Annabel Lee by Poe.

"Annabel Lee" - Edgar Allan Poe (Poem Version) on Youtube (0:54)


1 Answer 1


In Shakespeare's time, many words ending -ed were pronounced the modern way, with just /t/ or /d/, but many words we pronounce today with /t/ and /d/ were pronounced with /-ɪd/, and for many words, both pronunciations were acceptable.

Shakespeare took advantage of this to make his poetry scan, and often indicated the pronunciation (for those which could be pronounced either way) by spelling them either mask'd or masked.

By Keats' time, the pronunciation was much closer to the modern version (I don't know whether it was exactly the same), but poets still took advantage of the archaic pronunciations to make their poetry scan, indicating the pronunciation in the same way that Shakespeare did. Keats did this extensively, while Wordsworth seems to have used this quite rarely, if at all.

  • 2
    In blessed are the meek it's two syllables for me, but in the meek are blessed by God it's only one syllable. Much the same with the learned professor learned something today, except I still tend to write learnt for the second one. May 20, 2017 at 12:51
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers: Right. And these pronunciations today are always for adjectives, and not verbs. But I think these pronunciations are disappearing among young people; I think markèd is probably already gone (although I remember hearing it when I was younger), and agèd, blessèd, and learnèd are on their way out. May 20, 2017 at 12:54
  • 4
    Well, I did say I still tend to write (and enunciate) learnt, so I'd certainly agree that one is heading for the dustbin of history. But I'd have thought everyone still distinguishes Help the aged from a well aged wine. May 20, 2017 at 12:59
  • 1
    @PeterShor Perhaps what you heard when younger was "markèdly"? AFAIK "marked" has long been pronounced with silent e. But "markedly" is one of several adverbs in -edly where the e is pronounced (e.g. supposedly, allegedly).
    – Rosie F
    May 20, 2017 at 19:10
  • @Rosie F: Merriam-Webster still gives a variant two-syllable pronunciation of marked for the meaning "having a distinctive or emphasized character; has a marked drawl". I suspect this pronunciation is essentially obsolete now, but maybe it was still around 40 years ago. This may be what I remember (although maybe you're right about "markèdly"); "a markèd man" sounds utterly wrong to me, but "a markèd limp" doesn't. May 20, 2017 at 22:55

Your Answer

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

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