In English, the name of the famous Queen of the Iceni has been written many ways (there is some discussion in Boudica and Her Stories: Narrative Transformations of a Warrior Queen, by Carolyn D. Williams, 2009, pp. 44-47). One of them is "Boadicea", which the Google Ngram Viewer indicates has been used in English texts since at least 1700 or so (as opposed to "Boudicca", which gradually rises in prominence from around 1880, or "Boudica", which only began to rise around 1970 or so).

Some people apparently have suggested that "Boadicea" originated as some kind of spelling mistake where "cc" was confused for "ce". I'm not entirely convinced, but in any case, the etymology of the form doesn't seem to change the fact that it was in fairly widespread use for a fairly long period of time. (For comparison, the word "syllabus" is thought to have originated as a misspelling of "syttabas", but "syllabus" has nonetheless become an established English word with a standard spelling and pronunciation that isn't based on its etymology.)

I'm wondering about the usual pronunciation in English of the form "Boadicea"—in particular, the placement of the stress—and whether it has changed over time. As far as I know, everyone puts a secondary stress on the first syllable. But the placement of the primary stress seems to be more uncertain. Present-day sources like the Oxford Learner's Dictionaries seem to favor stress on the penult "e", but that seems odd to me, and it seems to make it harder to connect "Boadicea" with the early variant "Boadicia".

I was able to find a few sources from the 19th century that indicate the antepenult stress that I would expect:

Are these outliers, or was primary stress on the antepenultimate syllable (the one containing "i") of Boadicea typical at some point in history? If the antepenult-stressed version used to be typical, when did the penult-stressed version replace it? I'm hoping people will be able to find more evidence from pronunciation guides or sources like poetry and post some informative answers about the history of this name's pronunciation.

Edit: With a bit more research, I have found that Tennyson wrote a poem "Boadicea" where the name appears twice. Supposedly, it is in "Galliambic meter", but so far I haven't really been able to figure out the metrical structure of each line—according to John Frederick Nims in The Powers of Heaven and Earth: New and Selected Poems, "With lines that speed up at the end, it does have the feeling of the galliambic movement, but Tennyson does not try to consistently follow its pattern" (p. 246). If anyone can post an answer that presents a metrical analysis of this poem demonstrating how Tennyson is likely to have pronounced the name, I'd upvote it!

  • I’ve most commonly (most recently in fact earlier today, I think, or perhaps yesterday) heard it pronounced with primary stress on the paenult, /boʊdɪˡseɪə/ (or of course /buːˡdiːkə/, but I’m assuming that’s not what you’re after). But it’s also always been one of those words that I feel like I’m mispronouncing no matter how I say it. The first time I came upon it was in a predominantly Irish context, so for a long time I pronounced it /ˡbwɑdikʲa/… Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 1:42
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: Yeah, I don't even want to get into the pronunciations associated with other spellings like Boudicca/Boudica/Bunduca/Buddig here, since so many other spellings exist. I hadn't realized that some speakers used /eɪ/ in the penult, although I suppose it's not that surprising. Apparently the spelling "Boadiceia" exists as a variant. Lol, I agree about the "feel like I’m mispronouncing no matter how I say it"--part of what prompted this question!
    – herisson
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 1:45
  • At the height of her combative performances at the dispatch box in Britain's House of Commons, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was once described by an MP on the opposite benches as a "bargain basement Boadicea", the pronunciation very much as we Brits were taught it in the first years of our secondary school 50 years ago. Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 9:56

2 Answers 2


Here are the current results of my further research:

  • The pronunciation of Boadicea with antepenult stress is found at least as far back as 1813 (as mentioned in the original question, recorded in Coxe's New Critical Pronouncing Dictionary) and at least up until 1870 (recorded in Beeton's Dictionary of Universal Biography, alongside the penult-stressed variant). It's unclear to me if there was ever a strong consensus in its favor.

  • The pronunciation with stress on the penultimate e seems to have arisen no later than 1848 (recorded in Mile's American Mnemotechny), and was apparently firmly established (at least in prescriptive circles) as the standard pronunciation of Boadicea by the start of the 20th century, although by this point, some people had begun to feel that the spelling "Boadicea" was itself problematic.

I'm still hoping to learn more about the history of this name's pronunciation if I can.

18th century

I haven't found any explicit descriptions of the pronunciation of Boadicea from this century. In verse, it seems to scan as four syllables, stressed-unstressed-stressed-unstressed, but unfortunately it doesn't seem entirely clear to me whether that represents something like bo´a-dish´a with an elided penult syllable, or bo´di-se´a with an elided/contracted first or second syllable. However, I would guess it is the former.

  • "Britain", Part III of the poem Liberty, by James Thomson, in The Works of James Thomson, Volume Two (London 1757):

    As when Caractacus to battle led
    Silurian swains, and Boadicea taught
    Her raging troops the miseries of slaves.

    (Note that the last "i" in "Silurian" does not take up a syllable of the meter either)

  • Boadicea: A Tragedy, by Richard Glover (1791):

    Her children, friends, and country ; then recal,
    What once was Boadicea, fall'n how low

    (Act III, p. 41) (There are a number of other examples from this play)

19th century

  • American Mnemotechny, Or, Art of Memory, by Pliny Miles, Third Edition (New York 1848) contains a transcription in a special alphabet devised by Andrew Comstock that's equivalent to "bōădĭsē´a" or IPA /boʊædɪˈsiːɑː/ (p. 251). Oddly enough, the name "Augeas" is transcribed on the same page with antepenult stress (as the equivalent of "au´jēăs" or IPA /ɔːdʒiæs/).

  • New Classical Lexicon of Biography, Mythology, and Geography, by Thomas Swinburne Carr (London, 1858):

    Boadicēa, a queen of the Iceni, in Britain (p. 65)

  • A Dictionary of the English Language, by Joseph Emerson Worcester (Boston, 1860):

    BEA, CEA, DEA.

    Accent the Penultimate.

    Rhobea, Colacea, Gylacea, Pharmacea, Anacea, Panacea, Sphecea, Boadicea, Laodicea, Micea, Stratonicea, Ericea, Lancea, Ladocea, Cymodocea, Dorcea, Lyrcea, Polydeucea, Lebadea, Medea, Diomedea, Midea, Brasidea, Budea.

    (p. 1727)

  • Beeton's Dictionary of Universal Biography, Second Edition, by Samuel Orchart Beeton (London 1870):

    BOADICEA, bo´-a-dis´-e-a, or bo-a-di-se´-a (p. 177)

  • Seven Thousand Words Often Mispronounced, by William Henry P. Phyfe (New York, 1889):

    Boadicea (Queen)—bō-ăd-ǐs-ē´ȧ. (p. 104)

  • The Chautauquan: A Monthly Magazine. Volume 12. October 1890 to March 1891. "C. L. S. C. Notes on Required Readings. For October."

    "Boadicea" [ba-ad-i-se´a] (p. 106)

A relevant entry with fairy extensive discussion occurs in Notes and Queries, Ninth Series, Volume I: January–June 1898:

BOADICEA (8th S. xii. 366, 497).–The question asked by C. C. B., how this name should be accented, is one I have often asked myself. The modern Welsh Fóeddawg is accented upon the penult, but must once have been accented upon the final (Foeddáwg), as is proved, among other things, by the presence in it of the diphthong aw, derived from an older o by the action of the stress; at any rate, I know of no other reason which could account for this diphthongization. But the really important thing is to find out which of the numerous spellings of this name is the most correct. Here our best authority is Prof. Rhys, who pronounces in favor of Bodícca or Boudícca, both of which forms actually occur in inscriptions. Camden's Voadíca or Boodícia and the other variants quoted by C. C. B. are all what Prof. Rhys calls the "gibberish of editors." It is noteworthy how the terminal -cca has bothered the copyists, who have turned it into -cia or -cea; and the pronunciation which we have all learnt in the classroom, and which has been blindly followed by Tennyson (Boadicéa), is therefore absurd in so far as the stress falls upon a totally imaginary vowel for which there is no warrant. On the whole, those orthographies which do not show this intrusive vowel ought to be preferred, such as Camden's Voadíca, mentioned above, or Bondúca, and I consider that these should be accented, as I have marked them, upon the last syllable but one.
James Platt, Jun.

(p. 94; Jan 29, 1898)

20th century

I found a poem from 1902 that seems to give the penult-stressed version of the name "Boadicea". The poem was published in Punch, or the London Charivari, July 2, 1902 (Volumes 122-123); it is called "BOUDICCA". It uses the name "Boadicea" in the same place in the meter as lines like "On the Embankment!", "Briefly victorious", "Centuries after", "Since your last advent", "Wasn't included", and "Footnote or something", which all have five syllables with a stress on the first and the penult syllable.

There are a number of prescriptive sources from a few years later that provide clear evidence of the penult stress being used often enough to be considered "correct" in the early 20th century:

  • A Manual of Pronunciation, by Otis Ashmore (Boston, 1904):

    bō-ăd-ǐ-sē´ȧ (p. 52)

    (I'm not sure if the use of unreduced "ăd" in the second syllable of the transcription indicates that Ashmore put secondary stress on this syllable rather than on the first, or if it's just a sign that he was one of the kind of orthoepists who believed vowel reduction should be avoided whenever it is at all possible to imagine using an unreduced vowel. He does explicitly transcribe secondary stress using a small acute accent in some other names, but for some reason not in this one.)

  • The Pronunciation of 10,000 Proper Names, by Mary Stuart Mackey and Maryette Goodwin Mackey (New York, 1909):

    bō-ȧ-dǐ-sē´ȧ. (p. 43)

  • The New Century Book of Facts, by Carroll D. Wright (Springfield, Mass., 1909):

    bō-ăd-ǐs-ē´ȧ. (p. 88)

  • Correct Pronunciation, by Julian Abernathy (New York, 1912):

    Boadicea—bō´a-dǐ-sē´a. (p. 117)

  • A phonetic dictionary of the English language, by Hermann Michaelis and Daniel Jones (1913):


    (comparison with the other entries reveals that Michaelis and Jones are using the acute before the stressed syllable, rather than after it; the lack of a length marker after the "i" seems to indicate a pronunciation ending in the sound of "sear"; i.e. rhyming with words like "deer" or "fear")

  • I'd forgotten just how scholarly this site can be... Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 10:07

This site had had a very interesting take on the pronunciation that rang true culminating with the idea that she should be referred to as Boudega of the EceniBoudica, Boudicca, Boadicea – What’s in a name?

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