I have heard "marked" pronounced with 2 syllables, like "mar-ked": http://forvo.com/word/marked_(adj_-_distinctive_character) but online dictionaries show only the 1-syllable pronunciation.

When should it be pronounced with 2, and is it a mistake to use swap their use?

What about the word "aged"?

  • How about crooked? "I saw a crooked man, who walked a crooked mile." ... And there is also winged and legged. "The four-legged residents in our house." – GEdgar Dec 19 '11 at 23:02

Marked only has two syllables in poetic or archaic usage.

Aged has two syllables when used as a noun (some of the aged need motorised shopping trolleys), or as a "standalone" adjective (an aged relative). It's only one syllable when used as part of a compound adjective (middle-aged relative), or as a verb (I've aged a year since then).

Some words occur in "set phrases" where the extra syllable is effectively part of an archaic contruction (blessed are the meek).

EDIT: Per John Lawler's answer, and comments to mine and his, the word "aged" seems particularly weird. Some people use the one-syllable version for all contexts, but for those who do use the two-syllable version, the precise boundaries as to where this is appropriate seem somewhat hard to pin down.

Speaking for myself, I read this usage of an aged map as being the one-syllable version, but if my "mental lips" were moving while I read, I would say this one as "an agéd map". I can't easily articulate the distinction, but the agéd version seems more appropriate to people, or where the attribution of antiquity implies venerable rather than old and tatty, ravaged by time.

In the case of aged cheese, wine, etc, they're not normally that old anyway - the word just means they've been matured for the appropriate length of time, not that they are ancient.

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    And as an adjective: 'agèd relative'. – Barrie England Dec 19 '11 at 18:34
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    Aged doesn't, in my experience, change its pronunciation in US English. – user13141 Dec 19 '11 at 19:26
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    @onomatomaniak: Weird. So in your experience, an aged parent and a middle-aged parent both have the word aged pronounced the same? Is that with one, or two syllables? – FumbleFingers Dec 19 '11 at 19:29
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    Yes, in my experience those are both pronounced the same, with single syllables. That said, the dictionary (not surprisingly) disagrees with me. And that said, maybe the real issue is that I very rarely hear aged as a stand-alone adjective to describe a person. Americans tend to say old or elderly. Aged cheese, though, is just like middle-aged: eyjd. – user13141 Dec 19 '11 at 19:36
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    @onomatomaniak: Well even in British English, aged parent is a rather "dated/whimsical" turn of phrase. An "edge case" for me is "an aged map", where I read it as one syllable in "To create the appearance of an aged map, do this". But in "He took out an aged map" I read it as two syllables. This one really is an odd word so far as my usage is concerned! – FumbleFingers Dec 19 '11 at 19:48

I suspect your confusion stems from the fact that markedly is always pronounced as a three syllable word. There's no euphonious way to say it with two syllables, so it hasn't undergone the syllabic reduction common for many -ed words in Modern English.

Marked alone is one syllable except in archaic/poetic usage, just as FumbleFingers has already ably demonstrated.


I believe, contrary to the above, that the two-syllable pronunciation is quite common in descriptive science in general and, in particular, medical enunciations of symptoms or side-effects of a condition or medication. E.g., "topical application of X is known to cause 'mar-ked' erythema immediately surrounding the area of application".

  • Jax Frost is correct. The two-syllable "marked" pronunciation is correctly used in medical terminology and frequently in children's disability hearings. Is is by no means obsolete. – user33551 Jan 11 '13 at 16:05

Aged with one syllable seems to be limited to phrases with a number of years

  • A man aged 46 was arrested yesterday.

and when referring to non-human things (aged cheese, well-aged beef, unaged wine).

Generally speaking, adjectives formed from regular participles, like wanted, believed, added, whispered, etc, follow the pronunciation rules for the {-ED} past tense morpheme. {-ED} is pronounced

  • /-əd/ after dental stops /t/ and /d/ (because it's impossible to say final /-td/ or /-dd/)
  • /-t/ after other voiceless sounds /p k f θ s ʃ/
  • /-d/ elsewhere, including after vowels

In the case of aged, the final sound is voiced, and therefore /-d/ is possible, but it's an affricate /dʒ/ formed from a dental stop, so the epenthetic shwa is possible, and occurs in some circumstances, as FF notes in his answer.

In the case of clothed (clothed all in white), either /-d/ or /-əd/ is possible because /ð/ is voiced but also dental (final /-ðd/ is hard to pronounce), though the two syllable version is usually marked with an accent to distinguish it (clothéd all in white). See Pratchett & Gaiman's Good Omens for some examples.

In the case of marked, I think Jonathan has it right -- markedly gets the epenthetic shwa to separate the /-ktl-/ cluster, with the /t/ voiced to /d/ by the preceding vowel.

  • I'd never thought about an aged cheese before. It obviously does exist, as that link shows, but it does seem rather unusual to me (and surprisingly recent in terms of popularity). But I'm not sure the two-syllable version only applies with people. You could, for example, just about drive an aged motorcar - surely that would be two syllables? – FumbleFingers Dec 19 '11 at 19:39
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    ...I think the distinction may be more one of people, or objects (possibly "personified") as opposed to substances, mass-nouns. – FumbleFingers Dec 19 '11 at 19:40
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    When I read "an aged cheese", I have this version of a wedge of Wensleydale, tottering down the path pushing a walker. But of course that's only epenthesis having its joke. – John Lawler Jan 25 '13 at 17:15
  • Assuming the "epenthetic" version is the one with the extra syllable, I might think of the agéd cheese as being an old crumbly. A particularly prized quality of Cheshire and Lancashire cheese (and denizens! :). – FumbleFingers Jan 25 '13 at 17:33
  • "Epenthesis" means adding an "epenthetic" vowel to produce an extra syllable, usually to separate a complex cluster, the way some people occasionally pronounce film as ['fɪləm]. The trade mnemonic for epenthesis is epenethesis, with stress on the third syllable. Just like the mnemonic for metathesis is methatesis. – John Lawler Jan 25 '13 at 17:49

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the two-syllable pronunciation in audio. This pronunciation goes with the second definition:

2 \or ˈmär-kəd\ : having a distinctive or emphasized character ⟨has a marked drawl⟩

(for some reason, this pronunciation doesn't show up on my screen, even though I was able to paste it into this window.)

I would say that this pronunciation is becoming obsolete, even for this meaning, and that there is no reason for you to use it.


As for aged, I think the difference is that the one-syllable (aged cheese) has had a process worked on it, and the two syllable (aged parent) has simply gotten older. In the case of the map, if I heard it with one syllable I would think someone had intentionally made it look older, and if I heard with two syllables I would think it was just an old map.

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