Cthulhu has two common pronunciations:

  • /kəˈθuːluː/
  • /kəˈtuːluː/

In both cases, the grapheme C represents the sound /kə/.

I can not think of any other word where the grapheme C represents the sound /kə/. The RP pronunciation of "chthonic" comes the closest, but that word uses a CH grapheme to represent just the /k/ sound (as in words like "chaos" or "chorus"). As far as I'm aware, there is no vowel sound added to the initial /k/ phoneme in "chthonic". (In fact, in the US the /k/ sound is often skipped entirely and the word pronounced /ˈθɑnɪk/.)

Does the letter C by itself make the sound /kə/ in any word besides Cthulhu?

  • 1
    MODERATOR WARNING: Got an answer? Post an answer.
    – tchrist
    Jan 19, 2023 at 16:36

4 Answers 4


The informal contraction "c'mon" is pronounced /kəˈmɒn/ according to Wiktionary; clearly the "c'" is pronounced as /kə/. Of course, that may not count due to the apostrophe.

I have also heard some people pronounce "clearly" as /kəˈlɪɹli/ ("kuh-LEAR-ly") when it is meant sarcastically. But I can't find a reference for that online.

  • Great examples - thank you!! c'mon: I agree about the apostrophe changing things... sometimes it can make a schwa sound, as in it'd. clearly: Love this, thank you!!
    – kanamekun
    Jan 21, 2023 at 0:03
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    "Clearly" is not the only such word; there is also crazy ("kuh-RAY-zee"), for example, and the same can be done with some other words, too. Jan 21, 2023 at 4:30
  • @MarcInManhattan Indeed. Curiously, I can't find any articles about this online. Maybe it's a new phenomenon? (I'm in the Northeast US, in case it's a regional thing.)
    – alphabet
    Jan 21, 2023 at 5:16
  • @alphabet I'm sure there must be a term for it, but I don't know what it would be. I did find this in a quick search, though, which is quite apropos for this site: youtube.com/watch?v=J9NrqkIcrMQ Jan 21, 2023 at 5:37

My dictionary lists

all pronounced with the c silent. And
(Danish king of England, 1017-1035). This one is nowadays written Canute, but I'm guessing before 1035 is was still spelled Cnut.

  • 1
    "Cnut" is a case where the traditional anglicization is Canute, but modern scholars often disregard that and use Cnut instead to be closer to the original spelling. See the Wikipedia article and its talk page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cnut
    – herisson
    Jan 19, 2023 at 18:37
  • OED says the pronunciation of cnemial is /kn-/, and can be /kn-/ for the others. The c is not silent. However, cten- does have a silent c and is pronounced /tiːn-/.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 20, 2023 at 13:20
  • @AndrewLeach: Well, the OED can say that, but there isn't really any reason for there to be a distinction between "cnemial" and other words of Greek origin starting with "cn-", and cnemial definitely has or at least has had pronunciations where the "c" is silent. Here's a dictionary from 1901 that gives the pronunciation of "cnemial" as "ne´-me-al": A Pocket Medical Dictionary, by George Milbry Gould
    – herisson
    Jan 20, 2023 at 17:11

This is from Wikipedia...

Invented by Lovecraft in 1928, the name Cthulhu was probably chosen to echo the word chthonic (Ancient Greek "of the earth"), as apparently suggested by Lovecraft himself

So obviously there are at least four "words" I can pull out of the full Oxford English Dictionary straight away...

chthonian, chthonic, chthonography, chthononosology

...but equally obviously, it's a matter of opinion whether we accept any or all of those as "English" words

I've no idea how the ancient Greeks pronounced their "original", but it's unnatural for Anglophones to enunciate "hard C" (K) followed by another consonant without an intervening schwa, so we wouldn't normally try to write it like that. We write ker-ching! for the onomatopoeic sound of a cash register, not c-ching! or cching!.

If you feed the 3-character sequence "C" [consonant] [asterisk] into OneLook Dictionary Search you should be able to find hundreds more candidate words. I just went for CN* because I knew Cnidaria, but the OED has cnemial, cnicin, cnicnode, cnida, cnidarian in that section, and most if not all of those have at least the option of enunciating the hard C.


I would analyze this as a consonant cluster in the spelling; you may make a vowel sound between them, but it isn't just the c making it: it's a join between c and th.

because they aren't usually together in one English syllable, they're joined with a schwa

  • The "Greek original" had ch + th, which I certainly can't enunciate without an intervening schwa. But I can do ph + th without too much trouble (in, for example, Diphthong). Jan 20, 2023 at 19:22
  • @FumbleFingers I interpret diphthong as having two syllables: /ˈdɪfˌθɔŋ/. Given that, I think the ph and th are each in their own syllable... not in a cluster?
    – kanamekun
    Jan 21, 2023 at 0:00
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    @kanamekun How about phthalate?
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 21, 2023 at 8:48
  • in phthalate, I believe the phth grapheme normally represents just the sound /θ/ as in /ˈθæl.eɪt/. A similar case may be apophthegm, which is typically pronounced /ˈæ.pə.θɛm/... and the ph sometimes dropped to spell it just apothegm.
    – kanamekun
    Jan 22, 2023 at 14:13

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