Merriam-Webster pronounces "transient" as \ˈtran(t)-sh(ē-)ənt\.

However, most Americans pronounce it as \ˈtran-zē-ənt\.

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    Merriam-Webster gives both pronunciations. Americans pronounce it both ways. What exactly is your question? – Peter Shor Jan 17 '19 at 1:04
  • @PeterShor I watched through several videos, and found no one read it as \ˈtran(t)-sh(ē-)ənt\, so that I was confused and wondering if it is a widely acceptable pronunciation. – Guoyang Qin Jan 17 '19 at 1:13
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    I sure don't pronounce it that way. – Robusto Jan 17 '19 at 1:13
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    It took me a while to even figure out what that other pronunciation was supposed to be. I’ve never heard anyone say it that way in real life. – Jim Jan 17 '19 at 1:19
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    Certainly seems to from my perspective, but maybe there’s a whole class of people I don’t know about!?! – Jim Jan 17 '19 at 1:25

Merriam-Webster seems a bit of an outlier with its intrusive t, though Cambridge UK adds a d in the recorded audio of its suggested American pronunciation. It sounds like tangent only with an intial tr. The IPA for that pronunciation is given as


which, I trust, is a typographical error. Or a really drunk guy trying for transigent.

On their American page, there are three choices, one with the added dental consonant:

ˈtræn·ʃənt, -dʒənt, -zi·ənt

So we have two authorities who add a d or t.

The American pronunciation depends on whether one gives the word three syllables or, in more rapid speech, just two, in which case the i disappears, transforming the s into a palato-alveolar fricative, either voiced or unvoiced.

The American three-syllable pronunciation voices the s just as the British:

ˈtræn zi ənt

There are a number of examples at FreeDictionary.com, which aggregates several online dictionaries. When reduced to two syllables, the s palatalizes to either ʃ or ʒ by a process called yod-coalescence a fairly common feature in English: vision, measure, education, etc. This yields:

ˈtræn ʃənt
ˈtræn ʒənt

Now the pronunciations with the added dental stop both sound odd to me, but I assume they’re used somewhere in the US or Canada. Otherwise these dictionaries wouldn’t bother to list them.

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    Kenyon and Knott, on page 436, say that transient is pronounced trænʃənt. I think that may have been the case when the dictionary was first compiled, after WWII, but it's not that common any more. I've been around longer than that dictionary, and I say it with a /z/ (or occasionally an /s/) that's somewhat palatalized, but rarely moves far enough back to be called a shibilant. – John Lawler Jan 17 '19 at 2:55
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    @JohnLawler: That echoes my own pronunciation: I'd give the noun 3 syllables, but the adjective gets palatalized to zh or sh. – KarlG Jan 17 '19 at 2:59
  • In English, an epenthetic /t/ pretty much appears automatically when you have /ns/ in the same syllable, as in prince and transportation. (Ditto /nʃ/.) And words like cancel often have this /t/. So if you pronounce transient with an /s/, the extra /t/ is pretty much expected. Of course, most people seem to pronounce it with a /z/. – Peter Shor Jan 17 '19 at 21:03

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