Why is the word 'heroine' not pronounced like 'hero-ine' but instead like 'heroin?' It has the word 'hero' in it and it's the female equivalent of a hero. It's not like I use the word in public often but it feels weird when I do because I have to pronounce it like 'heroin.'

Is there some origin to this word that created this distinction? Or is that simply how things ended up being (?)? I'd like to believe there's a reason for almost everything but who knows, right?

  • Also heroism. – snailplane Sep 30 '18 at 8:06
  • Because it's "her-o-ine", not "he-ro-ine". – Hot Licks Sep 30 '18 at 12:25
  • @snailboat (and Hot Licks) For a lack of better words... mindblown – Sriracha Mayo Sep 30 '18 at 14:58
  • Because of French origin again? – iBug Oct 6 '18 at 17:03

I don't think there is any really good reason, but to a certain extent, it could be attributed to the presence of an additional syllable relative to the word "hero".

There is a well-known tendency in English for a single vowel letter (other than U) to be pronounced as a "short" vowel rather than as a "long" vowel when it is followed by at least one consonant sound and occurs in a stressed third-to-last syllable (or an earlier stressed syllable).

Another example to illustrate this tendency would be that genus is pronounced with a "long e" sound, but the related word general is pronounced with a "short e" sound.

I said this is not a "really good reason" because there are many exceptions to this tendency. For example, the word ego(t)ism is pronounced with a "long e" sound in the first syllable.

Sometimes this tendency is described as applying particularly to derived words, and called something like "trisyllabic laxing" or "trisyllabic shortening", but my understanding is that the exact theoretical analysis (and whether it is considered to represent some actual process of "shortening" that is part of the English sound system) is controversial. Another name that has been given to this tendency is "Luick's law".

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