How are i.e. and e.g. pronounced?

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    Why do English use Latin abbreviations anyway? In norwegian we use "dvs." as short for "det vil si" ("that is"), and "f.eks." as short for "for eksempel" ("for example"), and we would never pronounce it as an abbrevation (unless you're trying to sound geeky). – Stein G. Strindhaug Mar 21 '11 at 11:33
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    @Stein: In English, it's used to sound smart. – endolith Apr 25 '11 at 21:57
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    @Stein -- Latin abbreviations are a holdover from the period where Latin was a standard part of the curriculum. I.e., e.g, and even etc. were common abbreviation used by scholars for centuries. We still invent and use abbreviations. Now we have lol and wtf. – Jay Elston May 22 '11 at 3:55
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    As an exception, etc is pronounced et cetera. – Pitarou Dec 23 '11 at 12:09
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    Interesting, if this question was asked today it would be closed as general reference and would get a dozen downvotes. The ELU community has become a lot more haughty and aggressive – Armen Ծիրունյան May 22 '13 at 20:58

i.e. stands for id est (Latin), which means "that is". You use it to link in a deeper explanation about something. Pronounce it "eye - ee".

e.g. stands for exempli gratia (also Latin), which means "for example". You use it to link in an example of a more generic term. Pronounce it "ee - jee"

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    Can I read them out as, 'that is' and 'for example'? (When there's some audience) – Xiè Jìléi Aug 12 '10 at 23:18
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    It depends on who your audience is. Children, I think, would be distracted with the abbreviations. Educated adults wouldn't mind, though. – Chris Dwyer Aug 12 '10 at 23:27
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    I have lived my entire adult life thinking "i.e." stood for "in essence". Thanks for this! – Paul Lammertsma Aug 13 '10 at 0:42
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    @Paul I have a friend who thought e.g. stood for “example given.” At least the mnemonic would prevent inappropriate substitution of i.e. – Greg Bacon Jun 5 '11 at 19:57
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    @Malfist EXEMPLI GRATIA does not mean free example, it means "for the sake of an example". One shouldn't mistake the Latin noun grātia (grace, thankfulness, sake, present only in Romance languages) for the Latin adjective gratis (free, present both in the Romance and the Germanic languages). – Talia Ford Sep 22 '13 at 7:46

For i.e. I usually say "that is", occasionally "eye-ee".

For e.g. I always say "for example".

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    +1, this is also how I do it. – John Gietzen Nov 25 '11 at 20:17
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    Can e.g. be pronounced as 'ack'? – Pacerier Nov 26 '13 at 0:11
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    Sure, but that'd make you weird. – Joel Christophel May 24 '15 at 16:43

When I was in college, one of my philosophy professors instructed us to use translated English for abbreviated or initialized latinisms when reading a text aloud. I would agree that in most cases you should speak the translated English rather than speaking the letters of the initialization.

  • i.e. is used for clarification and should be spoken "that is". While most English speakers will recognize the meaning of "eye ee" when spoken, saying "that is" is clearer.
  • e.g. is used for providing one or many examples and should be spoken "for example".

While i.e. and e.g. are relatively common, other abbreviated or initialized latinisms, such as viz., are less frequent and their English translation should certainly be provided when reading from a text that includes a latinism.

For example, take the following quote from Plato:

Perfect wisdom has four parts, viz., wisdom, the principle of doing things aright; justice, the principle of doing things equally in public and private; fortitude, the principle of not flying danger, but meeting it; and temperance, the principle of subduing desires and living moderately.

When reading that quote aloud, the translation for viz. should be provided.

  • Incorrect:
    • "Perfect wisdom has four parts, viz, wisdom, the principle..."
    • "Perfect wisdom has four parts, videlicet, wisdom, the principle..."
  • Correct:
    • "Perfect wisdom has four parts, namely, wisdom, the principle..."
    • "Perfect wisdom has four parts, that is to say, wisdom, the principle..."

Speaking the translation for initialized and abbreviated latinisms provides greater clarity for the audience than simply speaking the initials or the latin.

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    Plato was Greek and lived at a time when the Romans had little (if any) influence on Greek language or culture. I wonder how he came to use the abbreviation "viz." :-) – Jay Elston May 22 '11 at 4:07
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    +1 But how will blowhards satisfy their pomposity needs without liberal seasoning with vocalized latinisms? – Greg Bacon Jun 5 '11 at 20:01
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    @Greg, remember "Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur," which translates into "Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound." – Andrew Neely Oct 20 '11 at 12:01
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    This is the correct answer: you pronounce them as their English equivalents. – tchrist Sep 30 '12 at 20:22
  • +1, I have been pronouncing 'viz' as 'viz'. 'namely' is appropriate. Thanks for sharing the correct usage. – Ashwin kumar Dec 28 '12 at 5:51

Just pronounce the letters: "Eye eee" and "eee gee".

I have never met anyone who actually said "id est" and "exempli gratia", which is what they really stand for.

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    Did you meant "eee jee" and not "eee gee"? – IsmailS Aug 13 '10 at 6:24
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    @Ismail: They're pronounced the same, and "gee" is even an English word (merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gee). Either will do. – mmyers Aug 13 '10 at 12:59
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    Shouldn't "Eye eee" be written "Eye ee"? – Octania Jan 25 '18 at 11:58

I can't believe this wasn't addressed in the Oatmeal Comic but I usually say the letters or replace it with "for example" (and now, thanks to the comic, I'll replace it with "in other words" instead and use e.g. when I mean "for example").

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and as for the pronunciation of the Latin:

i.e. = id est

e.g. = IgzemplI gra:tI

(NB a: is pronounced like the "a" in car or can't)

but remember - as has been mentioned here; it's much better practice to use the English long-forms in speech:

i.e. - "that is" / "or"
e.g. - "for example"

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  • What happened to the "a" at the end of "gratia"? Is it not pronounced? (I'm a beginner to Latin, especially pronunciation which I haven't been paying much attention to…) – ShreevatsaR Nov 5 '10 at 20:47
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    A more modern an common (British) pronunciation would be {gra:tI} However classical Latin would retain the "a:" sound at the end - {gra:tIa:} – Adam FG Nov 7 '10 at 15:33
  • Which pronunciation are you trying to indicate here? a) reconstructed Latin pronunciation b) restored pronunciation of Latin for English speakers c) traditional English pronunciation of Latin? As it is, your indicated pronunciations are an inconsistent hybrid of b and c (you indicate a voiced /gz/ rather than /ks/ for the "x", but a broad /a:/ for "a" and monophthongal /I/ for "i"). – herisson Jun 30 '15 at 15:42

Latin abbreviations

  1. i.e. = that is, such as, or "in other words"
  2. e.g = for example
  3. et. al. = and others (i get a lot of strange looks when I use this)
  4. NB. = nota bene; Note well (and this one as well... I have no idea why this one is capitalized)

  5. etc. = et cetera ("and other things", or "and so forth")

and yes when reading aloud I just use the translation to avoid confusion

Pronuciation: just say the letters for most cases; except etc. and et cetera are pronounced the same.

et. al. is pronounced et all

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  • This doesn't answer the question about pronunciation. – EleventhDoctor Jun 30 '15 at 12:23
  • @EleventhDoctor: I updated my answer... – djm Jun 30 '15 at 13:05

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