Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, a general during the last years of the Republic:

Some folks are under the impression that the standard English version of his name, Pompey, is pronounced "POM-pee," even though the Anglicized Latin variant is "pom-PAY-us," with the stress on the second syllable.

I was under that same impression as well.

Recently, though, I watched the somewhat silly yet entertaining HBO series titled, simply, Rome, in which various characters refer to and address the brave general as "POM-pay."

What gives?

Here's where it's happening in the TV show (one of many instances) - courtesy of @tchrist:


  • 1
    You can hear that happening here.
    – tchrist
    Feb 8 at 4:21
  • Please show some referenced/attributed research rather than just anecdotal evidence. Feb 9 at 11:37
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth: Done.
    – Ricky
    Feb 9 at 19:16
  • The M-W article is important; M-W is a respected authority. Feb 9 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


Both OED and Merriam-Webster agree that the second syllable is "-ee", and the first (stressed) syllable has the LOT vowel:

OED (£)

Pronunciation: Brit. pronunciation/ˈpɒmpi/ , U.S. pronunciation/ˈpɑmpi/


Pom·​pey ˈpäm-pē

There's a long tradition in English Classicism of pronouncing the ancients' names almost without regard to how they might or might not have been pronounced in their own time - eg "Cicero" with not just one but two /s/s, "Julius" with a /dʒ/, and so on. I have never heard anything other than "ee" used at the end, but I guess what HBO do is up to them... I would have thought they'd go for "Pompayus" if they wanted to seem clever, though.

  • 5
    I suspect the HBO pronunciation is just confused ignoramuses conflating Pompey with the town of Pompeii.
    – TonyK
    Feb 8 at 15:02
  • 5
    @TonyK Well that’s liable to blow up in their faces, isn’t it? Feb 8 at 16:07
  • Don't forget Don Juan. Feb 8 at 17:34
  • Also, the diminuitive-like shortening of names is somewhat common: Livy and Tully for Titus Livius and Marcu Tullius Cicero, for example.
    – chepner
    Feb 8 at 17:56
  • 2
    As a Native American English speaker I have always heard the pronunciation "pom-PAY", including and especially from my Latin teacher in school. I always considered "POM-pee" a British-ism. Feb 9 at 17:53

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