My father, was an educated, scholarly American gentleman raised in Colorado. He spoke, read and wrote in English and German, and could read and write in Greek, Latin and Hebrew. He always pronounced the word knowledge as now-ledge. He said he grew up pronouncing it that way.

Has anyone else ever heard this? Does anyone know where it comes from?

  • 3
    by "now", do you mean "ow" as in cow, or "ow" as in crow?
    – herisson
    May 24, 2017 at 3:58
  • I do have a vague recollection of reading that 'know-ledge' was an old-fashioned way to pronounce the word, but I can't remember where. May 25, 2017 at 8:34

1 Answer 1


The Oxford English Dictionary says this about the pronunciation of knowledge with the "long o" sound of the corresponding verb know:

The now standard pronunciation with short stem vowel has developed from a form with Middle English reduction of the diphthong ou to short ŏ (see E. J. Dobson Eng. Pronunc. 1500–1700 (ed. 2, 1968) II. §14). An alternative pronunciation reflecting the usual development of Middle English ou to long open ō is recorded by the 16th-cent. orthoepist John Hart, and persisted into the 20th cent. (no doubt influenced by the pronunciation of know v.); thus N.E.D. (1901) records an occasional pronunciation (nōu·lėdʒ) /ˈnəʊlɪdʒ/, as do various editions of Webster (from 1911 onwards; labelled as ‘sometimes, especially in British usage’), and D. Jones Eng. Pronunc. Dict. up to ed. 13 (1969; labelled as ‘rare’).

  • I've never heard "knowledge" pronounced "now-ledge"; it's always been "nah-ledge" to me, rhyming with "college". Benjamin Jowett, a 19th-century Master of Balliol College, Oxford, had this little rhyme written about him: First come I. My name is Jowett. / There's no knowledge but I know it. / I am Master of this College, / What I don't know isn't knowledge.
    – tautophile
    May 25, 2018 at 0:08
  • @tautophile: yes, the "nolledge" pronunciation seems to be pretty old, since the OED says it developed from a Middle English form. The "now-ledge" pronunciation might be considered an analogical or spelling-based restoration, like the shift that supposedly occurred from pronouncing "forehead" as "forrid" to pronouncing it as "fore-hed".
    – herisson
    May 25, 2018 at 0:11
  • I never pronounce "forehead" as "fore-head"; I always say "forred".
    – tautophile
    May 25, 2018 at 0:12
  • 1
    @herisson, the first syllable is "now" as in "cow". My father pronounced this word this way his whole life and I thought it was just him. Recently though, I heard a guest on NPR say "now-ledge". My Dad was born in Colorado but learned German along with English from his parents who were from Ohio. His family immigrated from Germany in the 1840's. He was a Lutheran pastor with the equivalent of a Masters Degree in the Classics.
    – Bonnie
    Nov 3, 2020 at 20:35

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