I was reading the Wikipedia page of assimilation, and according to it, cupboard is pronounced /ˈkʌbərd/ and not /ˈkʌpbɔːrd/.

I see why the /b/ is merged into the /p/ sound, making cupboard sound like "cu-board", but it seems very strange to me that the /ɔ/ is reduced to just /ə/ sound.

Is "cupboard" really pronounced as /ˈkʌbərd/?

  • People are lazy, and it's easier to say "burd" than "board".
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 16, 2018 at 20:37
  • 1
    Yes. You well know already that English spelling is not a perfect match to pronunciation, but this is one of those longer words for which you just can't know ahead of time. But you can see if you repeat the word over and over that the second syllable loses strength and the long /ɔː/ becomes a /ə/ .
    – Mitch
    Sep 16, 2018 at 20:38
  • In the fullness of time, there is only ever one stressed vowel, and thus only one that is unreduced.
    – tchrist
    Sep 16, 2018 at 22:24
  • I'm not convinced that this is a duplicate, but I haven't voted to re-open because I do feel like this question has a few flaws: the title is too vague (the question seems to be asking about the vowel in the second syllable, but the title just refers to the transcription of the entire word) and the question doesn't show enough research (before posting a question here, the next step after reading that Wikipedia article should have been to look at what dictionaries have to say about the pronunciation of this word).
    – herisson
    Sep 17, 2018 at 3:52

2 Answers 2


With the two plosives, /pb/, in the middle, it is quite hard for English-speakers to pronounce and you end up with it sounding like two separate words and you almost end up with each syllable getting its full value /kʌp.bɔːrd/.

With it split as shown, "cu-board", it is difficult to pronounce without putting the stress on the second syllable, /kə'bɔːrd/, as we tend to make unaccented syllables neutral. Of course there is a spectrum between a full vowel and a neutral one so it may not be exactly a neutral vowel.

But I would say "cub-oard", with stress on "cub" and thus the second syllable would become fairly neutral, /'kʌbərd/. You cannot put the stress on the first syllable in "cu-board" as we cannot say /kʌ/ by itself in English. (I would say /'kʌbərd/ but that is my dialect!)


You can look up the pronunciation of “cupboard” in various dictionaries. They aren’t misreporting it.

To address the apparent implied question about “why”, there are a number of words in English that look like compounds (and originated as compounds), but that are (or at least may be) pronounced with a reduced vowel in the second part of the word. The suffix -man in certain words, such as “Englishman”, is another example.

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