In database technology there is a standard called "Structured Query Language", which is abbreviated as SQL. However, some people pronounce SQL as "SeQueL".

If SQL is an "abbreviation" or "acronym" - what could "SeQueL" be called. Ie. what is a word called that is an invented way to pronounce an abbreviation?


It's called a phoneticized acronym. Here's an example:

Universally referred to by its phoneticized acronym; for most insiders, [FYDP] comes out sounding something like "fiddup"; the Air Force says it, "fie-dip"
Preparation of the program objectives memorandum: a selective examination of procedures in the Department of the Navy


It is an abbreviation or, more specifically, an acronym whether it is pronounced SQL or sequel. Some people have argued that "acronym" should only be used for abbreviations that can be pronounced as words, while others such as F.B.I. should be called initialisms. But, as the SQL example shows, such a distinction is rather arbitrary. And the distinction is rarely made nowadays (see link).

  • You were "sort of" objective in this answer, but not quite. ;) I would argue that there still is a lot of debate over acronym versus initialism. (Many grammar books point out the difference.) I think it's fair to say that this particular word is definitely an abbreviation. I'd also say that, based on different uses, it's also true that it's both an acronym and initialism. – Jason Bassford Jun 6 '18 at 16:04
  • The pronunciation of "SQL" as written in the question is arbitrary and has been adopted through consistent usage within a community. The abbreviation as written cannot be pronounced in English because it lacked vowels (or even implications of vowels, since there are no phonetics in the standard pronunciations of these letters that could act as vowels). In other words, you could just as easily argue it should be spoken like "Saqual", "Siqueel", "Sickle", "Sackle", or "Squeel" as you could argue it should be spoken like "Sequel". SQL is therefore only an acronym by convention. – R Mac Jun 6 '18 at 20:18
  • @RMac Don't forget that SQL was initially called "SEQUEL" (Structured English Query Language) so we don't need implied vowels in SQL if there's a continuity of spoken language from the initial version. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jun 6 '18 at 20:23
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 I did not know that. That explains the "incorrect" pronunciation, perfectly! (Here is a source to confirm what you say: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SQL#cite_note-chamberlin-boyce-sequel-19) – user184130 Jun 6 '18 at 22:00

As you note,, SQL stands for structured query language. As such, SQL is an initialism. I think, but am not entirely sure, that sequel is not a widely recognised way of saying SQL. If that is the case (note comments below asserting that sequel may be a common pronunciation), it would be a mispronunciation, according to Oxford Dictionary Online:

Incorrect pronunciation of a word.

Attribution: "Mispronunciation | Definition of Mispronunciation in English by Oxford Dictionaries." Oxford Dictionaries | English. Accessed June 06, 2018. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/mispronunciation.

  • 1
    I think it’s much more common than you think. vertabelo.com/blog/notes-from-the-lab/sql-or-sequel. When I learned back in the early 90’s using Sybase, we all pronounced it “sequel” – Jim Jun 6 '18 at 4:58
  • 5
    As I am one of the people who pronounce it SQL, I can confirm that the sequel pronunciation is common enough to be annoying. :-) – user184130 Jun 6 '18 at 6:57
  • @james random your complaint on the pronunciation of SQL is just one in a sequel of many complaints. – JJJ Jun 6 '18 at 9:46

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