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I am puzzled on how to pronounce cha- words. For example, I know that "chameleon" or "chamomile" are pronounced with a hard "c" like in "camel", not with a soft "c" like in "change". "Charity", on the other hand, is pronounced as in "change".

Is there some rule to infer the correct pronunciation?

marked as duplicate by sumelic, Mitch, choster, Hellion, JHCL Nov 3 '15 at 21:01

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No, there really isn’t.

If you know the languagethe word comes from, you can sometimes make a better guess, like chorus is from Greek, so it’s a /k/ sound there.

But there isn’t really a hard and fast rule. Usually, though, it’s like in church, so guess that way if you have to guess; the sound is /tʃ/.

Wait, I take that back. There is one rule. Words beginning with chr- are always with a /k/ sound. chronological, chrysoprase, Chris. So are words beginning with chl-, like chloroplast.

The imported French word chaise has a softer sound, just a /ʃ/.

I suspect most (maybe all?) words beginning with chy- come from Greek, and so have a hard sound there. They’re all uncommon and rare. For example, chyle is /kaɪl/, < Fr. chyle (= Ital. chilo, Sp. quilo):-L. chȳlus, a. Gr. χῡλός juice (of plants, animals, decoctions).

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    Along the lines of chaise, don't forget Chicago and chaps (as in cowboy attire, not as in "fellows"). – mmyers Nov 14 '10 at 4:50
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    @mmyers: For many American speakers, "chaise" is a homophone of "chase", at least in its most common usage in the term "chaise longue", which I often hear rendered as "chase lounge". Sigh. For most, "chaps" is always [tʃæps]. – Jon Purdy Nov 14 '10 at 5:32
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    There are also several "cha-" words from Hebrew used in English that are properly pronounced with the back of the throat, such as "challah." – mskfisher Nov 16 '10 at 16:18
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    @mskfisher - +1, but I would more likely give "Chutzpah" as an example. – Moshe Nov 17 '10 at 2:55
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    @PLL - Yes, but those people are pronouncing it wrong then. ;-) – Moshe Apr 3 '11 at 1:20

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