"Pianist" is usually pronounced /ˈpiənɪst/, with /piˈænɪst/ as an acceptable variant only in the US and Canada, according to Wiktionary.

I'm not sure why the pronunciation /ˈpiənɪst/ would be more common though. If we were just adding an -ist, a suffix that as far as I know generally doesn't change the stress of a word, we would expect /piˈænoʊ/ → /piˈænɪst/.

Looking at the etymology, "piano" and is derived from Italian "pianoforte" (/pjanoˈfɔrte/). "Pianist" is derived from French "pianiste" (/ˈpja.nist/), which is stressed similarly to the Italian "pianoforte" – the /i~j/ glide is much more marginal than the /a/.

also, it sounds like a certain other word that's pronounced /ˈpi.nɪs/.

  • 1
    In French, pianiste, like nearly all French words, is very mildly stressed on the last syllable, which in this case is nist. And the Italian pianista is also stressed on the nist Jul 5, 2019 at 20:26
  • 3
    You think stresses follow a pattern? Then explain photograph, photography, photographic.
    – GEdgar
    Jul 5, 2019 at 20:33
  • @Peter Shot I expected that stress for French in general, but it seemed that the Wiktionary recording and Google Translate had it stressed on the first syllable.
    – mic
    Jul 5, 2019 at 20:39
  • 1
    @GEdgar: All three of those words follow pretty regular stress patterns.
    – herisson
    Jul 6, 2019 at 1:56

1 Answer 1


Although -ist usually doesn’t change stress, there are other words with this kind of stress difference. For example, Narcissus and narcissist. This doesn’t explain it, but it does suggest that there may actually be a weak preference to stress the antepenult of words of more than two syllables that end in -ist.

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