Merriam-Webster says that the pronunciation of "serious" or "series" is



But I do not make the si sound ("sin"), I made the sound ("see") in the first syllable. My pronunciation is ˈsēr-ē-əs (see-ri-ous).

In the word "seer" Merriam Webster allows 2 pronounciations, one of which is ,

ˈsir & ˈsē-ər

but it doesn't do that for "serious" or "series." So is my pronunciation incorrect? I'm in the USA.

  • 1
    Where do you get that pronunciation of series? I only see ˈsir-(ˌ)ēz merriam-webster.com/dictionary/series Without going into the precise phonology, it's probably to do with how the sound before /r/ is pronounced and transcribed, versus in other contexts. And if you listen to their recording of "series" it's quite clearly not the sound they transcribe ē (IPA /i:/). But accents vary so you may pronounce it differently.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 27 at 21:57
  • Have you listened to the recorded (audio) pronunciation MW provides? This may just be a matter of notation.
    – alphabet
    Feb 27 at 22:49
  • Cirrus (cloud) is the same initial vowel as serious for me - which is not the same as see (I'm surprised if there's a dialect where they're homophones, but I won't argue). But it might be the same as searing (heat) - in some contexts vowels are articulated a bit longer or shorter, I dunno. Feb 27 at 22:57
  • 3
    US dictionaries cannot be trusted with pronunciation. If you must refer to US pronunciation, use Kenyon and Knott, which is phonemic and doesn't use silly spelling pronunciations. In most American dialects, there is no difference between tense /i/ and lax /ɪ/ before /r/. It doesn't matter which one you say because they don't contrast. The same is true for tense /u/ and lax /ʊ/ before /r/. Feb 27 at 23:51
  • 1
    US dictionaries still use some variant (each is different) of Noah Webster's spelling-based system, invented before Western science discovered phonetics, hence useless for indicating spelling to non-native or illiterate speakers. They apparently think Americans are too stupid to learn English phonemes, and I'm sorry to say they're probably correct. Feb 28 at 1:53

1 Answer 1


In most North American acccents, there is no possible contrast between the vowel sound of sin and that of see when followed directly by an /r/ without a break. See this English Language Learners Stack Exchange question for information about the variation in which actual sound is used in this context: -eer vowel (accent/dialect variation?)

The two pronunciations Merriam Webster gives for "seer" differ by syllabification: one (ˈsir) is a monosyllable, a homophone of "sear", and the other (ˈsē-ər) is a disyllable.

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