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From the dictionaries, it seems like at least in American English, "sol" (as in "do, re, mi, fa, sol") is always pronounced "sole," but there's a spelling variation "so" is pronounced "so".

  • Oxford (or whatever dictionary Google sources): /sōl/
  • Merriam-Webster: /sōl/, or less commonly so /sō/
  • dictionary.com: /sohl/; also, so

So it seems like if you want to say /soʊ/, you have to spell it like "so"; and if see "sol", you have to say /soʊl/.

This seems strange, though, since I've almost always heard it pronounced like "so", but "sol" is still a pretty common spelling.

For instance, in these two pretty popular songs, it's pronounced "so" (but then again, the lyrics don't write it as "sol"):

So are the dictionaries correct and "sol" = /soʊl/ and "so" = /soʊ/, or is pronouncing "sol" as /soʊ/ okay?

(If this isn't broadening the question too much, I'd also like to ask whether "sole" or "so" is the more usual pronunciation.)

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    My dictionary gives both pronunciations.
    – Jim
    Dec 9, 2017 at 2:26
  • I looked at the pronunciations in OED, and it's pretty weird: Brit. /sɒl/ and /səʊl/; U.S. /sɔl/ and /sɑl/. So it looks like it's not even always the same vowel sound.
    – Laurel
    Dec 9, 2017 at 3:04
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    I (in the UK) was taught 'do, re, mi, fa, so'. According to Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solf%C3%A8ge it's supposed to be written 'sol' but pronounced 'so'. Dec 9, 2017 at 9:22
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    So' may be viewed as a corruption of sol for the solfege system, and may come about because the next step on the scale is la, so that the /l/ sounds get jammed together into one: sola, and then, pried apart again, become to the ear so la.
    – Robusto
    Oct 12, 2018 at 13:25
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    Wait... so you're not asking about how to pronounce 'solfège'?
    – Mitch
    Oct 12, 2018 at 14:10

3 Answers 3

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In my chorus class, we generally drop the 'L' and pronounce it as 'so'. I honestly don't think it matters which way you say it; as long as your not going to get marked off for it.

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In a comment, Robusto wrote:

So' may be viewed as a corruption of sol for the solfège system, and may come about because the next step on the scale is la, so that the /l/ sounds get jammed together into one: sola, and then, pried apart again, become to the ear so la.

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Sol is always pronounced "so" when singing music because under no circumstances do you want to and a note when singing on a vowel. This has nothing to do with English. It has to do with keeping the throat open.

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    Welcome to ELU. I guess that should say "end a note". However, while singing "on the vowel" is good, all good things have to come to an end: that happens with a consonant.
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 2, 2019 at 6:19
  • Under no circumstances? Did anyone tell every lyricist ever?
    – nnnnnn
    Aug 2, 2019 at 7:52

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