I cannot seem to find anything on this. I see (in dictionaries, although not all of them) that the first syllable is stressed (I've been corrected countless number of times on this, too).

That means that many believe that saying it with stress on the second syllable is a way to broadcast that "you're an uneducated dummy who doesn't know how to pronounce it." But why? I don't understand.

The word "participate," for example, is on the second syllable, and it appears to me that the words are related etymologically (somehow...).

According to: https://www.etymonline.com/word/participle

participle in the grammatical sense (13c.), a variant of participe, and directly from Latin participium, literally "a sharing, partaking,"

This means that participe and participium are BOTH first-syllable pronunciations? That doesn't make sense.

Can someone explain? Or find some information that the second syllable is truly the wrong way to pronounce it?

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    There is no rule in English that related words have to be accented on the same syllable. Consider relation and relative. In Latin, the accent was usually on the third-to-last syllable, so it would have been participium. And participe was French, not Latin. – Peter Shor Feb 11 at 12:00
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    Now you've changed your question from "What is the true pronunciation of X?" (The only possible reading of 'true' must be 'correct' here, and dictionaries give proper answers for today's correct pronunciations. For 'tomato', there are two pronunciations given at the CED entry, both rather nice, neither wrong. If one group says one pronunciation is incorrect, they're wrong.) // Now you're asking "How have two equally valid pronunciations, one mainly used in the US and the other in the UK, arisen?" A far harder question. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 11 at 15:52
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    @shoover Comment (2) above has already quoted (,attributed, and linked to) this. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 11 at 19:39
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    Your example "participate" is definitely related to "participation', yet the two have emphasis on different syllables, so why should more distantly related words have emphasis on the same syllable? – nnnnnn Feb 11 at 20:33
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    @Lambie - How ’bout municipal? – Jim Feb 11 at 23:09

J. C. Wells, the phonetician, in his Pronunciation Dictionary (Longman, 3rd edition 2008) gives three possibilities for British English.

  • ˈpɑ:t ɪs ɪp l, the most common pronunciation (spaces make the syllabification of the word clear)
  • ˈpɑ:ts ɪp l, less common with only three syllables
  • pɑ: ˈtɪs ɪp l, also less common than the first one with the stress on the second syllable

All three variants are considered acceptable.

When it comes to American English, only one possibility is given.

  • ˈpɑ:rt̬ ə sɪp l

Presumably, in American English, stressing participle on the second syllable might be considered "wrong", while it wouldn't be the case in British English.

As to why, I'm not sure there is an answer. Pronunciation can change over time, different ways of pronouncing a word can exist at the same time, one can replace the other. Prague, for example, was recorded as only /preig/ by Michaelis and Jones in their Phonetic Dictionary of the English Language in 1913. There must have been a time when /prɑ:g/ started being used as well as /preig/. /preig/ has now completely died out for the Czech capital (I can't vouch for the way the various Pragues that exist in the U.S. are said though). Why is anybody's guess.

  • I guess this is the best explanation so far. Thanks, it is appreciated. – Lucidity of Power Feb 12 at 7:18

Is "participle" pronounced with stress on the first syllable or the second syllable?

From Wiktionary:



  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA: /pɑːˈtɪsɪpəl/
  • (US) IPA: /ˈpɑɹtɪˌsɪpəl/

So some people stress the first syllable and some people stress the second syllable. According to Wiktionary, people in the US are more likely to stress the first syllable and people from the UK (Received Pronunciation) are more likely to stress the second syllable.

In each environment, the other pronunciation might be viewed as wrong.

The reason I like giving Wiktionary as a reference is that it refers to regional differences. The same entry from Oxford Learner's Dictionaries:

participle noun

  • /pɑːˈtɪsɪpl/
  • /ˈpɑːrtɪsɪpl/

Again both pronunciations are given, but no regional information.

English doesn't follow the pronunciation of other languages (e.g. Latin in your example). It only follows its own pronunciation, which almost inevitably varies by location.

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