I think Google dictionary is not using IPA. But I don't know what phonetic notation it is using.

For example, the "y" in prefix "hypo" is pronounced differently with following phonetic notation in Google:

hy·poc·ri·sy, noun /hiˈpäkrisē/ 

hy·po·ten·sion, noun /ˌhīpəˈtenSHən/

I don't know how to understand it either. I know about IPA, so it will also be helpful if there is some online material for interpretation of the phonetic notation in terms of IPA.

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    In IPA, hypotension has /aɪ/ and hypocracy has /ɪ/. Surely Google dictionary has a pronunciation key. These symbols look like similar to those used in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. – Peter Shor Sep 24 '11 at 17:00
  • Yes, that is exactly what I have learned about IPA in schools. It is supposed to be a standard, but not used widely for some reason that I don't know. – Tim Sep 24 '11 at 17:04
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    I should also comment that this is not the right way to pronounce hypotension, at least in American dialects, because substituting the schwa for the o makes it sound almost like hypertension. In British dialects, it's even worse. – Peter Shor Sep 25 '11 at 19:17
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    @Peter: People with British accent may not feel it is bad, and I believe I am not the only one struggling to distinguish between "can" and can't" in American dialect. – Tim Sep 28 '11 at 15:16

The ī symbol used in Google's rendition of hypotension is a simplified form commonly used in dictionaries. The bar on top implies it's a "long" vowel, even if you don't know IPA.

The "full" IPA form could be ɑe aɪ ɔɪ əi aː ai, or ɑ depending on whether you're British, American, Australian, Canadian, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, or whatever. You can see why Google would rather not get bogged down with all that.

Dictionaries usually include a full list of these simplified forms with examples somewhere at the front or back of the book, and often they list some of the most common ones at the bottom of each page for easy reference.

Certainly my British Collins and Chambers both use the same symbol as Google here, but I'm afraid I don't know a formal name for the entire symbol set. In fact, I rather doubt there is one, since obviously the whole reason IPA was created was to standardise things. That's when it got complicated because if you want to accurately show pronunciation, suddenly you need a whole bunch of additional symbols for something as simple as the vowel sound in sigh (sigh).

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    Your understanding of IPA is different from the IPA I have learned. See Peter Shor's comment. IPA is supposed to be a standard, but not used widely for some reason that I don't know, and different people may have different understanding which just make the concept less clear. – Tim Sep 24 '11 at 17:06
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    @Tim: I admit I took mine from the "extended" IPA chart for English dialects, in order to make my point a bit more forcefully. But that's partly because if I hadn't, I think it's highly unlikely all speakers would agree with the representations in the simpler one. You can only go so far a "cut-down" IPA - the whole point of it is to cover every possible sound. Well, nearly - I don't think any of them would have all the "clicky" noises, for example. – FumbleFingers Sep 24 '11 at 18:40
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    @Tim: IPA is used three ways in English: (1) to encode a standardized RP pronunciation. (2) to encode a standardized General American pronunciation. (3) to encode somebody's actual pronunciation. This can lead to non-ideal results; e.g., I believe the powers that be have changed the symbols to encode the RP pronunciation of "boat" from /boʊt/ to /bəʊt/ recently. Everybody has to learn a new symbol for this vowel just because a few more RP speakers now use something closer to /əʊ/ than /oʊ/. Probably most world English speakers haven't changed their pronunciation. The symbol \ō\ didn't change. – Peter Shor Sep 25 '11 at 15:42
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    @FumbleFingers: /boʊt/ is the American pronunciation. But in 1962 (quite a bit longer ago than I realized), the standard IPA notation for the long o sound in RP was switched from /oʊ/ to /əʊ/, presumably some time after the predominant RP pronunciation switched. I assume that in 1900, the long o was pronounced the same in the U.K. and the U.S. Whereas the symbol ō means the long o sound, however it is pronounced in your dialect, so it wouldn't have needed to change. I think we're saying essentially the same thing. – Peter Shor Sep 25 '11 at 18:14
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    @PeterShor You should not need to indicate narrow phonetic transcriptions, just broad phonemic ones (the ones Wikipedia labels diaphonemes). That is how to solve the dialect issue. So for example, tight is /taɪt/, even though it’s [tʰʌit] for many speakers, & often [tʰʌiʔ]. Use /slash/ forms, not [bracket] ones. The OED now does give both RP & GA, however, as for adipose, where it gives Brit. /ˈadᵻpəʊs/, /ˈadᵻpəʊz/, U.S. /ˈædəˌpoʊs/, /ˈædəˌpoʊz/. There is zero reason not to use ɪᴘᴀ, and many reasons to eschew nonstandard notations. – tchrist Jan 8 '12 at 15:22

I guess here's what you're looking for http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pronunciation_respelling_for_English

It seems that Google Translate uses NOAD.


I did some research and it's not really a set-in-stone system, but actually a pronunciation guide using graphemes and phonemes (using letters or letter combinations to produce a certain phonic sound). I grew up using this sort of method when learning phonetics and pronunciation, but later I learned other systems such as IPA and others. Here is a link to the PDF that shows some graphemes (-ew) and phonemes (/y+oo/ or /yoo/) that many of us, I dare say, used when learning phonics:


I certainly hope this helps.


It is quite unlikely that Google does maintain any dictionary of its own. They are in the business of online advertising and not English language. (Though, of course, the language itself would hold immense value for their principle offering.)

However, meaning and definitions on Google can be obtained by searching define: <word or phrase> command in their principle search engine. The results returned are bot (automatic) based aggregations from various well known dictionary websites and/or products and not essentially populated by Google.

You will need to refer to the practices adopted by the original owner of the dictionary content. This wiki entry notes:

  • Collins COBUILD
  • Oxford American College Dictionary
  • Oxford Pocket Dictionary

as some of the sources used by Google for its dictionary.

The phonetics notation used will, therefore, depend on the word and from which provider it is sourced, Sadly, there is no way, as of now, to know that.

While Oxford is known to be IPA conformant, This wiki entry notes that COBUILD does deviate from it. You will need a little bit hard work and hard guessing, I guess, but you should get hold of it sooner than later.

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    Thanks! But do you know what kind of phonetic notation is shown in Google dicitonary? – Tim Sep 24 '11 at 13:12
  • @Tim I have added further content to the answer in response. – check123 Sep 24 '11 at 13:22

I think it is the phonetic notation of the American Heritage Dictionary. Please consider this Wikipedia page.

  • It's not. Consider the "th" in thing and this. Google has / TH / and / T͟H /, while American Heritage has / th/ and / th /. – Peter Shor Sep 13 '18 at 17:50

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