I am intrigued by the pronunciation for the adjective for squirrel, "sciurine".

In Wiktionary, the pronunciation in IPA is '/ˈsaɪjʊɹaɪn/' ('/ˈsʌɪjᵿrʌɪn/' in the OED online), which strikes me as odd as I (a non-zoologist) would have read it '/ˈʃuːɹaɪn/' as if it were Italian (my second language) —like shoe in proscuitto, noy sigh-yoo. All autogenerated sites seem to have this, although I am guessing they parsed few common sources or worse are autogenerated so that does not imply validity. Related are the various taxa involving squirrels, like Sciuromorpha, but neither the Wikipedia page or the discussion page talks about pronunciation.

The word science is unambiguously pronounced '/ˈsaɪəns/', but fascia is pronounced '/ˈfeɪʃə/' and conscious '/ˈkɒnʃəs/'. The Bayer designation for stars in the constellation Pisces ('/ˈpaɪsiːz/') have genitive Piscium (example), which I'd guess would be pronounced similarly ('/ˈpaɪsijʌm/') to Pisces.

Obviously, few would know the word so its usage in most contexts would just cause confusion and the dictionary does dictate how one may choose to pronounce a word. This is just a nagging curiosity of mine.

So my questions would be in the line of:

  • Do zoologist, if they even use the term, say?
  • Is the '/ˈsaɪjʊɹaɪn/' pronunciation at all natural and unambiguous?
  • Is there any similar word I am missing?
  • And if not, how trustworthy are online IPA transcriptions?
  • 1
    Think of sci as in 'sci fi' and urine has an alternative pronunciation with /aɪ/, so it's not all strange. Jul 2, 2021 at 9:25
  • I totally did not think of it like sci-urine. That solves the mystery! Jul 2, 2021 at 9:39

1 Answer 1


The OED gives the following

sciurine, adj. and n.

Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈsʌɪjᵿrʌɪn/. /ˈsʌɪjᵿrɪn/, U.S. /ˈsaɪ(j)əˌrin/, /ˈsaɪ(j)ərən/

Frequency (in current use): This word belongs in Frequency Band 2. Band 2 contains words which occur fewer than 0.01 times per million words in typical modern English usage. These are almost exclusively terms which are not part of normal discourse and would be unknown to most people. Many are technical terms from specialized discourses. Examples taken from the most frequently attested part of the band include decanate, ennead and scintillometer (nouns)...

However, in common with many rare words, accurate pronunciation - even among experts - can be a little haphazard.

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