With a bit of a surprise I have recently learnt that most(all?) native English speakers pronounce the 's' in dislike (and similar words with the dis- prefix) as /s/, not /z/.

However, the /z/ variant also seems to exist, as a quick Google search by the "dizlike" pronunciation keywords has shown.

One of the links from the above search results leads to the following text from A Pronouncing and Defining Dictionary of the English Language abridged from Webster in 1856:

§ 70. S unmarked has its regular sharp or hissing 
sound, as in same, gas, mass, &c. 
§ 71. S, when marked thus, $, s, has the sound of 
z hard, as in has, xoas, &c. 
Note. — There has been much diversity between 
orthoepists as to the sound of s in words commencing 
in dis, as disarm, disburse, &c. Walker laid down 
this rule: "It (s) ought always to be pronounced 
like z when unaccented, and followed by an ac- 
cented flat mute (b, d, g hard, v), a liquid (I, m, 
n, r), or a vowel." Hence he gave pronunciation 
like the following, disbud, dizbud; disedify, diz- 
edify; disjoin, dizjoin; dislike, dizlike; dislodge,         <-- dizlike
cfelodge, &c. Scarcely any subsequent orthoepist 
has gone so far. Webster's Dictionary gives s the 
sound of z in only the following words, viz., dis- 
arm, disaster, discern, disease, disheir, dishonest, 
dishonor, dismal, disown, dissolve. The Imperial, 
Craig, and Wright agree almost to a word with 
Webster. Perry and Knowles give the z sound 
even in fewer words ; Smart gives it in about eight 
more; Jameson and Boag go still further; but, with 
one or two exceptions, the orthoepists as a body 
have condemned the extent to which Walker has 
gone in this respect. 


So far, I failed to find any information on (and this is essentially my question:) whether this peculiarity (using the /z/ sound in dislike) can be attributed to a particular region, background or anything of that sort, or is it just some sort of a personal preference?

So I'm asking the community for some help with this matter.

A bit more on what lead me to believe that the 'dizlike' pronunciation exists:

David Hart on Twitter: "I dislike it when people pronounce dislike as though it is spelt dizlike."

Judging from the initial comments, though, it looks like English speakers strongly disagree with the very possibility of using /z/ in dislike. Other than to mock a foreign accent, I presume.

What would be the explanation of the quoted text, then? (The one provided as an image). Yes, I realise that the date is 1856 - does this mean the /z/ pronunciation existed at that time but completely disappeared by now? Or is it just a dictionary mistake and should be ignored?

Edit 2
Transcriptions of dislike in most popular dictionaries:

Macmillan: NOUN /dɪsˈlaɪk/

Cambridge: UK /dɪˈslaɪk/ US /dɪˈslaɪk/

Merriam-Webster: dis·​like | \ (ˌ)dis-ˈlīk , ˈdis-ˌlīk \

Pronunciation examples on Forvo - 5 recordings by native speakers.

  • 4
    I've never noticed anyone saying "dislike" with a "z" sound and would consider it unusual.
    – chigusa
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 9:20
  • 1
    Why do you think pronouncing an s with an s sound is a peculiarity? Why did you expect a z sound?
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 9:27
  • Indeed, in words that contain the prefix "dis", "dis" is always pronounced with /s/, regardless of the following sound. ("Disease" is now treated as if it were a single morpheme rather than a compound of dis- and ease, so it's really not an exception; likewise dissolve. Were disaster and dismal ever thought to be compounds of dis-, I wonder -- they certainly aren't now.)
    – Rosie F
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 9:36
  • @nnnnnn I'm calling the /z/ pronunciation a peculiarity.
    – tum_
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 9:47
  • @nnnnnn "Why did you expect a z sound?" - some foreigners (including myself until recently) pronounce it with /z/ because in their native language there is a "phonetic rule" that /s/ in front of a voiced consonant tends to turn into the voiced /z/. It is not a universal rule, though, and /s/ in front of an /l/ is a bit of a corner case.
    – tum_
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 10:15

2 Answers 2


From a bit of research online, it appears that the pronunciation /dɪzˈlaɪk/ is essentially teutonic (found in Celtic, Scottish dialects, OE) and is considered archaic today.

Sources suggest it was the official pronunciation in the 1800s:

  • 1805: Stephen Jones, "A General Pronouncing and Explanatory Dictionary of the English Language," (Vernor & Hood), London.
  • 1818: John Walker, "A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, and Expositor of the English Language," (Ambrose Walker), Philadelphia.
  • 1847: William James, "Dictionary of the English and French Languages for General Use," (B. Tauchnitz, Leipzig).
  • 1872: William A. Wheeler, "A dictionary of the English language, … Mainly abridged from the quarto dictionary of Noah Webster," Springfield, Mass.
  • 3
    “dɪsˈlaɪk” is not archaic. It’s the pronunciation given by Merriam-Webster: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dislike I also don’t understand why Celtic would be described as “Teutonic”
    – herisson
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 13:08
  • @herisson Lol !!
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 10:32

I understand why you think it should be pronounced with z, (as in BrE the spelling for words differs from AmE in some words e.g. organise, trivialise, but pronunciation remains the same), but for the prefix "dis" we always remain at /s/.

Notice the year of your source material (PHILADELPHIA. 1856.), it's a very archaic work.

  • 1
    No, no - I do not think it should be pronounced with /z/. The modern dictionaries clearly give the /s/ in the transcription. But the Google search shows that the pronunciation 'dizlike' does exist (or at least did exist) - hence the question.
    – tum_
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 9:51
  • 1
    Not all words starting with dis- have it pronounced /s/. Disease, dismal, dissolve, disaster all have the /z/ pronunciation in my own (fairly standard Canadian) accent. (A minority, to be sure, as most other words do take /s/!) To my ear, using /s/ in these would be acceptable but marked, as if from a foreign (but still native-speaking English) accent or done to sound posh. Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 16:04
  • @Mitch I'm going to delete these comments in a while... On the other hand, I've just re-read the Help/On-topic page and my question seems to be OK for this place. Pronunciation and dialectology are mentioned as on-topic, the history of language is presented by Etymology only but I believe the history of pronunciation changes can hardly be seen as off-topic.
    – tum_
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 10:50

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