The following words which end with an ean are pronounced as /*i:n/ whereas Sean is pronounced as /ʃɒn/:

bean, dean, lean, mean...

Why is Sean not pronounced as /si:n/ but as /ʃɒn/? Where does this irregularity come from? Are there known rules in English for such cases?

  • 1
    Like with most things in English, the only rule is, you have to learn it. :/
    – Marthaª
    May 23, 2012 at 18:05
  • Martha's right. Some other "odd" ea words include: earth, dealt, break, hearth...
    – J.R.
    May 23, 2012 at 18:17
  • 1
    There is a Television weatherman named Sean McLaughlin who does pronounce it 'Seen'. Names are funny things and people are not obliged to follow any rules when determining how they want them pronounced.
    – Jim
    May 23, 2012 at 20:22
  • We pronounce it as /ʃɔ:n/ here, but your point still stands. May 23, 2012 at 22:20

1 Answer 1


Sean is an Irish name, and so follows a completely different set of rules. Siobhan is another Irish name with a very non-English pronunciation.

  • 2
    In fact Sean is just the Irish variant of John. May 23, 2012 at 23:13
  • 1
    Similarly the Irish analogue of "James" is Séamus, pronounced /ʃeɪməs/. May 25, 2012 at 15:43

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