I have been noticing some of my colleagues (primarily from India) pronouncing the word "only" as though it were "one-ly" or "wunly" (/ˈwʌnliː/). Is this a common pronunciation of the word?

I don't see it as a listed pronunciation in any dictionaries I consulted.

They all give vowel-initial pronunciations—none with an initial /w/. Are there any dictionaries that countenance a "wunly" pronunciation of "only"?

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    Do your colleagues have a strong Indian accent with other words? Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 21:28
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    There are certainly variations in the pronunciation of the word, especially in the voicing of the initial vowel, but I have never in 60 years heard it pronounced "one-ly".
    – Mick
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 21:53
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    As a native BrE speaker I pronounce it "ownly" and that is universal in the UK. (sorry I'm not familiar with the phonetic alphabet or how to type it on an ordinary keyboard). I've never heard your version spoken here. Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 21:57
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    Maybe this is a phenomenon peculiar to dialects in Indian English. For example some Indian dialects do not differentiate between the voiced fricative /v/ and the the voiced approximant /w/ sound, instead they use a frictionless approximant /ʋ/ sound which tend to be in free variation for words with either sound, words such as [wet and vet], sound uncannily similar in Indian English. Maybe this is a similar phenomenon but instead of mixing consonants with consonants, it’s the approximant /w/ with a vowel /o/ sound - which is very strange.
    – aesking
    Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 0:22
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    I work with a lot of people from India, most of whom do speak with some quirks common to Indian English dialects, but I've never heard anyone pronounce "only" as "wunly".
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 2:20

4 Answers 4


I'm an Indian so I feel like I'm qualified to answer this question. The pronunciation of only as one-ly is not a common one. It is not even popular in the entirety of India. But it is extremely common in South-Indians. I have a strong feeling that the Indian colleague you are referring to is a South-Indian.

If you're interested in knowing more about the South Indian English accent, you can check this out : https://youtu.be/UgWwDSxOExc


Non-native speakers tend to approach from the semantic angle, assuming the etymology of only is "one"+"-ly". Not incorrect logic.

No native speaker pronounces it that way, though.

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    Non-native speakers tend to approach from the semantic angle,”???? Really?....who told you this?
    – user 66974
    Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 5:38

J. C. Wells in his Accents of English (Beyond the British Isles, Vol.3) has the following passage about some Indian accents:

  • The semivowels /j/ and /w/ are regularly omitted by some speakers when the following vowel is a mid or close one agreeing in backness with the semivowel : thus yet [ɛt], won't [o:nt],. Conversely, other speakers add a semi-vowel before an initial vowel in just those conditions: every [ˈjɛʋri], old [wo:lɖ], own [ʋon].

[ʋ] is the labiodental approximant most frequently used by Indians to realize /v ~ w/.


As the comments suggest and this American-English speaker can state one-ly is not a typical pronunciation. I would be willing to wager that this sounds like what Indian-English speakers are used to hearing from some homonymetic word within their own vocabulary.

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