I just came across the words and then I looked them both up in the dictionary app, which shows the word "mobile" pronounces as /'məʊbaɪl/, whereas the other word-"automobile", which ends with the same spelt "mobile" pronounces as /'ɔːtəməbiːl/? I'm not sure if this "mobile" word pronounces differently as shown in the app or they actually pronounce the same?

  • They're pronounced differently as described. You'll notice that the noun "mobile" doesn't mean what "-mobile" means in the noun "automobile," like if "automobile" were really "auto mobile." Also, you'll find a lot of words that actually are forms of each other do change when adding a suffix or prefix, like "pathological" is pronounced "path-o-LO-gi-cal," whily "pathology" is pronounced "pa-THO-log-y," not "pa-tho-LO-gy." Apr 23, 2021 at 4:33
  • @BenjaminHarman - actually -mobile in automobile is derived from mobile (adjective). etymonline.com/word/automobile
    – user 66974
    Apr 23, 2021 at 5:17
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    @BenjaminHarman: The pathology-pathological variation is because of English stress patterns. Apr 23, 2021 at 10:06
  • In the US I've always heard the noun, referring to a piece of art dangling from strings, pronounced the same as the ending of automobile.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 23, 2021 at 11:54
  • In American English the last syllable of both is identical /bil/, but the next-to-last (i.e, first) syllable in mobile is stressed, and the vowel is tense back rounded /o/, while the next-to-last syllable in automobile is unstressed, and the vowel is lax central unrounded /ə/. Nobody would ever confuse them. Apr 23, 2021 at 16:02

1 Answer 1


Because mobile entered English in the 15th century and underwent the Great Vowel Shift (GVS). The GVS was a series of changes in the pronunciation of English vowels that took place between 1400 and 1700 [Wikipedia]. It must have been pronounced with /iː/ and the GVS changed the vowel /iː/ to /aɪ/ (also see bite, which was pronounced the same as beat before the GVS).

Automobile on the other hand entered English after the GVS and preserved its original vowel.

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    For some people it went through the GVS; for others it's a spelling pronunciation. It's been years since I heard any English speaker pronounce mobile as /mobayl/. If I heard it now, I would expect it to refer to a named object or event, with the very special pronunciation preserved in the name, in context. Apr 23, 2021 at 16:32

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