I often encounter nouns that I hear of for the first time, and I can not determine which syllable to stress. Unfortunately, I can not find most of these nouns in dictionaries to check the stressed syllable. These nouns are most often proper nouns, brand names (food, drugs..), trademarks, names of foreign places, cities, rivers, people,... etc.

How can native speakers predict the stress position in such nouns (names they hear of for the first time)? What would you advise me to get the stress right in such words?

  • 1
    Words from English, that has had stress for over 1000 years, may be guessable , but many problematic words are Latin or Greek in origin, and they did not have stress so there were no stress rules. The modern equivalents, Modern Greek and Italian have developed stress. Greek finds it so difficult to determine where the stress is that they have a new, "monotonic" spelling system where they put a stress mark (accent) on every word of more than one syllable. So I found the Greek for Ibuprofen (Ιβουπροφαίνη) and guess what - the stress is in the one place you would never put it in English! Sep 9, 2018 at 10:52
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    @DavidRobinson Note that the Greek has an extra syllable, and the presence of that syllable would (or at least could) change the English pronunciation too.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 9, 2018 at 11:14
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    They can't. Even different doctors pronounce the names of medications with the stress on different syllables. If it's a common enough name, everybody eventually converges on some pronunciation. But not if it's rare. Sep 9, 2018 at 11:50
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    There is no way to be sure of the pronunciation of any English proper noun, even if you have heard someone say it. Think of the English towns Shrewsbury (Shrewsbury/Shrowsbury) Cirencester (Cirencester/Cisister) and the Scottish town Dalzell (Dee Ell). There is also Loughborough, which causes all sorts of difficulties. If there are problems with the names of ancient communities what chance do you have when it comes to invented trade names.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 9, 2018 at 13:09
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    It's more difficult when the word is badly formed in the first place. When Diageo created their name in1997 (see independent.co.uk/news/business/… for alleged origin and problems of pronunciation) they said it was from Latin dies for "day" and Greek geo for "earth". There is no a in dies or its compounds. We could use the Portuguese dia where the stress is on the first syllable. We would expect the stress on the first syllable of geo so no logical person could put the stress on the second syllable of Diageo. Sep 9, 2018 at 13:37

1 Answer 1


In general, you can't. There are some patterns to English stress, but they're pretty complicated, and if you've acquired enough of the spoken language, you'll probably already have some sense of what's plausible and what isn't. Beyond that, nobody can do better than guessing.

  • +1 and I will add that since we're talking trademarks here, all bets are off anyway. For all you know they expressly want the word to be pronounced in a way that goes against all intuition or violates all rules. It's not about morphology, it's about marketing.
    – RegDwigнt
    Feb 8, 2019 at 10:03

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