The word for imaging what something looks like (without actually looking at it) is visualizing. Is there an analogous word for representing in one's mind what something sounds like (when the actual sound is not present)? I would like to be able to use it in, for example

I’m trying to ___ how to pronounce the word before saying it.


  • Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Feb 11 at 17:50
  • For reading, there is subvocalization. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/….
    – Lambie
    Feb 11 at 20:35
  • 1
    Don't you just mean work out, or do you mean imagine?
    – tchrist
    Feb 11 at 23:52
  • 4
    It depends if you're looking for a word or phrase most people would be familiar with, or really want the most accurate word no matter how obscure it is.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 12 at 9:48
  • 1
    Your sentence with the blank for the word you're looking for is not constructed properly. "how to pronounce" should be removed. You wouldn't say "I'm trying to visualize how to see it" but "I'm trying to visualize it".
    – TimR
    Feb 12 at 10:49

3 Answers 3


While other words might be more precise, in typical usage, imagine would be used in that context.

  1. (transitive) to conjecture or guess
  2. (transitive) to use one's imagination (Wiktionary)

It need not be a visual to be imagined; this word also encompasses thinking about abstractions and other non-visuals.

Another possibility (although losing the purely imaginary aspect) might be sound out, which describes the process of breaking a word into its component syllables and using this to determine either its most likely spelling or pronunciation (depending on which is unknown). This is typically vocalized, although need not be.

  1. (transitive) To pronounce a word or phrase by articulating each of its letters or syllables slowly in sequence. (Wiktionary)

Though here you would probably say "I'm trying to sound out the word before saying it", so the phrasing is slightly different.

  • It also seems perfectly, thoughtlessly appropriate to "picture" or even "visualise" what something sounds like -- the kind of thing one wouldn't give a second thought to saying until a standup comedian pointed out it is a bit weird
    – S. G.
    Feb 12 at 16:14

It's possible that subvocalize could be the word you're looking for.

Subvocalization, or silent speech, is the internal speech typically made when reading; it provides the sound of the word as it is read Wikipedia

Or more specifically

  1. to form (words) only in the mind Collins

This would require a slight change to the phrase as in "I'm subvocalizing the word before saying it".

This also somewhat loses the purely imaginative aspect of the word (although that's not an innate part of the word, just that common usage conjures images of reading the word rather than imagining it) but I think that the definition itself pretty closely matches what you're after

  • Yes, because I could only find the other one (auralization) in a music context. Hearing music in your head.
    – Lambie
    Feb 12 at 15:58
  • +1 All three answers are relevant, but this is the one that specifically answers the question. We can imagine many things, but we auralize sound specifically. However, auralizing a tune and the lyrics are two different acts, so subvocalization is the process by which we hear voices in our heads. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subvocalization It's a concern in speeding up reading comprehension through elimination, and atypical manifestations as in schizophrenia.
    – J D
    Feb 12 at 20:00
  • @Lambie: the term I'm familiar with for music is "audiate," where you imagine the music in your head. Auralize is more generic.
    – trlkly
    Feb 12 at 21:02

There is auralize:

To form a mental representation of what something sounds like. (Wiktionary)

But most dictionaries do not include it, so maybe it is a new technological term. But The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America does use it in an article called Do you auralize?

...to suggest what the writer believes to be a new and useful verb, to "auralize," and its companion noun "auralization."

These words would be the counterpart in bearing to the terms "visualize" and "visualization" in seeing. In other words, "to auralize" would be to form a mental impression of sound not yet heard.

Auralization is much more commonly practiced than has generally been recognized. Recent research in physiology reveals that people move the musdes of the vocal mechanism involuntarily and almost imperceptibly as they read silently. Surely some auralization must accompany these reflex actions of "vocalization." Why else would one so enjoy reading poetry silently?

  • 1
    This would be hard to use in speech since it is (presumably) pronounced exactly like oralize.
    – terdon
    Feb 12 at 14:22
  • Not if you make the effort to give it the right context, leaving no room for ambiguity.
    – fev
    Feb 12 at 14:33
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    Don't get me wrong, this is indeed a good suggestion, I am just thinking it is one that would work better in writing. And since auralizing (silently imagining a sound) is almost the opposite of oralising (actually making a sound out loud), I fear most contexts would fit both words.
    – terdon
    Feb 12 at 15:29
  • 1
    The cited article is from 1952, and the term seems to have failed to catch on since. In the speech field subvocalize is well known, commonly used, and in technology used to enhance recorded or transmitted speech.
    – jimm101
    Feb 12 at 18:25

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