I am an American and I always pronounce “inquiry” with second syllable stress. After hearing more and more Americans say it with first syllable stres, along with British people saying it the way I do, I though I was pronouncing it the British way. But when I consulted wiktionary and all the American dictionaries, I realized that they prefer the second syllable stress, or “British way”. Does anyone know why people pronounce it with first syllable stress and why it is so widespread among educated Americans when no American dictionary prefers it?

  • 1
    Why is it so widespread among educated Americans when no American dictionary prefers it? Because educated Americans don't look up pronunciations in dictionaries, except sometimes for very uncommon words. – Peter Shor Jan 27 at 19:42
  • 2
    The question should probably be asked the other way around: why do American dictionaries prefer it when that's not the way most educated Americans pronounce it? Probably the predominant American pronunciation has changed over time, and the dictionaries haven't caught up yet. If I had any evidence for this statement, I'd make it an answer. – Peter Shor Jan 27 at 19:46
  • The other possibility is that most Americans do pronounce it with first-syllable stress and the dictionaries are actually accurate. This despite the fact that I, like you, stress the second syllable. Perhaps there are many regions (where we don't live) where it's pronounced the other way. – Jason Bassford Jan 27 at 21:22
  • @ Jason Bassford What do you mean? I’m saying that the American dictionaries sanction the second syllable stress pronunciation over first syllable, the one that you and I say. The second syllable stress seems to be the dominant pronunciation in Britain, but it does not seem to be the dominant one for most of the educated Americans that I come across. Just to see the pronunciations, merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inquiry. As you can see, merriam Webster’s prefers the pronunciation that you and I use, and the standard one in Britain. – Polubios Jan 27 at 21:48
  • 1
    All the US TV shows we get in the UK pronounce inquiry the "American" way, with the stress on the first syllable and the second having a short i. I've never heard an American pronounce it the "British" way, including the few I've met personally. – Andrew Leach Jan 27 at 22:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.