I've read every word starting with "SA" in my dictionary out loud. It's driving me crazy thinking there is only a single English word starting with what appears to be such a common syllable.

Is it my Midwestern American accent? What makes "saga" special?

  • 3
    Try Soggy or somnolent. The spelling doesn't necessarily determine the pronunciation. – Jason Bassford Jan 16 at 2:11
  • There are several minor variations of the pronunciation of the "sa" sound in that context. I would say that "sagacious" comes close, but others would likely pronounce it slightly differently. – Hot Licks Jan 16 at 2:11
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    There is more than one pronunciation of "saga". According to Merriam-Webster, it can have the vowel of "father" or the vowel of "sag". – sumelic Jan 16 at 2:11
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    I don't pronounce the "r" in sardonic, so the two words start with the same sound for me. I'm blown away at the other pronunciation of "saga" - sounds quite bizarre to me! I'd love to know what countries or regions pronounce it that way: is it just AmE? – Chappo Jan 16 at 2:35
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    @Chappo: I tried looking at the pronunciation of "saga" on Youglish. Based on the clips I saw so far, the "sag" pronunciation seems pretty uncommon, and I did only hear it from American English speakers. – sumelic Jan 16 at 2:43

The phonetic translation of the word 'saga' is sɑːɡə.

There exist a many number of words that share the same sound of "sa", or in other words, the sɑː sound.

A few such words include:

  1. Cryosar
  2. Sardonic
  3. Quasar
  4. Sarcophagus
  5. Arkansas (although proper, it still has the same sɑː pronunciation)
  6. Sardines

Similarly many more exist.

  • 5
    ...if the speaker is non-rhotic. – Mitch Jan 16 at 3:02
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    @Chappo I may not have much rep on this site, but my dad grew up in Arkansas and I’m a Texan, and I have to say we both pronounce the sas in Arkansas identically to the sa in saga. – Chase Ryan Taylor Jan 16 at 6:34
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    @Chappo: As a speaker with the cot-caught merger, I pronounce the last syllable of "Arkansas" as /sɑ/. – sumelic Jan 16 at 11:33
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    Perfect! I'm from Wisconsin for what it's worth. Sardine is the winner for me, starts with the same 'sa' and is a word everyone knows. Thanks! – JP Duffy Jan 16 at 13:01
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    @Chappo: In almost all American English accents, /ɒ/ does not exist as a sound distinct from /ɑ/ and /ɔ/. The vowel in words like "lot" has merged with the vowel of the word "father", and the merged vowel is typically transcribed as /ɑ/. (In a few other words, like "cloth", the vowel instead merged with the "thought" vowel /ɔ/, which Merriam-Webster writes as "ȯ"--MW does not use IPA transcription.) For speakers with the cot-caught merger like me, /ɑ/ has additionally replaced the "thought"/"cloth" vowel. So I have /sɑ/ in all of saga, soccer, sausage, sought, Arkansas. – sumelic Jan 16 at 13:59

There are a number of words that start with the "sah" sound. They're typically words we've adopted from another language, but are now accepted English words. The following are from Merriam-Webster, starting with the comparison word; note that MW provides an audio clip on each page so you can get an idea of how each is pronounced.


\ ˈsä-gə \


\ ˈsä-(ˌ)dü \
: a usually Hindu mendicant ascetic


\ ˈsä-ˌ(h)ib \
: SIR, MASTER —used especially among the native inhabitants of colonial India when addressing or speaking of a European of some social or official status

sake (2)

\ ˈsä-kē \
: a Japanese alcoholic beverage of fermented rice often served hot

Certain words starting with sar- that are either monosyllabic or have the stress on the first syllable may have the same pronunciation as the first syllable of saga, depending on whether the speaker is non-rhotic. Candidates include sarcasm, sarcous, sard, sarge, sari, sark, sarmentose, saros and sarsen. One of these is sufficient as an example (again relying on MW's dictionary entry):


\ ˈsärd \
: a reddish-brown variety of chalcedony sometimes classified as a variety of carnelian

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