Sometimes I hear the emphasis placed on the second syllable, and other times on the second to last syllable. I myself use both pronunciations depending on context, and it makes me wonder if there is an underlying rule that I can't quite put my finger on.

  • I'd be very, very surprised to hear anyone put the stress on the last syllable. I think you meant second-to-last and third-to-last syllables. Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 3:03
  • Don't like my tag eh?
    – delete
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 3:17
  • @JSBangs, true enough, I have edited the post...
    – Chris Noe
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 20:43
  • Oh, great, you've made me say it so many times it sounds weird... Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 7:00
  • I have heard people give the reason that they prefer the penultimate stress because it makes the tribe name ("Carib") stand out. This, in turn, honors those people more (they say). Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 20:36

4 Answers 4


The two pronunciations of Caribbean I know of are mentioned in Wikipedia:

  1. /kærɨˈbiːən/ (ka-rih-BEE-uhn)
  2. /kəˈrɪbiən/ (kuh-RIB-ee-uhn)

Both are standard; however, there are a couple proper nouns containing the word Caribbean that have a fixed pronunciation:

I personally make a sort of generalization from this and use #1 for the noun usage and #2 for the adjective usage, but there is no reason anyone else should use this rule unless they like it. Most people probably just stick to one preferred pronunciation.

Billy Ocean uses #1 in his song “Caribbean Queen”, as does Bob Dylan in his song “Caribbean Wind”.

  • 1
    Even if Billy Ocean said "caRIBean" he'd probably sing "CariBEan QUEEN" simply because of the meter.
    – delete
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 3:13
  • Likewise, i heard Jesse Jackson pronounce it ka-rih-BEE-uhn, that way it nicely rhymed with 'caring for human beings" in the next line of his speech.
    – doug
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 7:05
  • if i recall Billy Ocean tried out various titles including "African Queen" and "European Queen" before settling on "Caribbean". Suggesting that, meter or otherwise, location didn't matter greatly.
    – hawbsl
    Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 20:18
  • 2
    Kermit the Frog sings of being a "Carribean Amphibean" (youtube.com/watch?v=uwyPtmCPb-E) using the same stress pattern for each word and making them rhyme. Commented Mar 24, 2011 at 21:25

In the UK, the stress is usually on the second to last syllable, cariBBEan. I have heard North Americans say "caRIBbean" and "cariBBEan". I think the first one is more common in the USA. Which one is correct? That is one of those "poteyto/potahto" questions.

  • 6
    I had never heard it with stress on the second until I heard Americans say it.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Aug 20, 2010 at 12:54
  • 2
    Same here. I think this is one of those many occasions when American pronunciation emphasises the second syllable when British emphasises the first or third. There seem to be much more variant pronunciations that way round.
    – AlexC
    Commented Aug 24, 2010 at 11:49
  • 4
    Both pronunciations are reasonably common in the U.S. Commented May 6, 2011 at 3:28
  • How do you stress just the B in the second syllable? Is that a typo?
    – Barmar
    Commented Feb 7, 2015 at 15:53

Judy Garland Mack The Black ('The Pirate', 1948)

"There's a pirate, known to fame Black Macocco was the Pirate's name In his day, the tops was he Round the CaribBEan or CaRIBbean Sea"

So unless you disagree with Judy Garland, either's possible. Case closed, I think.


It's not about how Americans or Brits pronounce it, people in the West Indies say cariBBEan. They live there, how can anyone argue with that?

  • 6
    There are literally thousands of examples of city and country names that are not pronounced the same or even similar between two languages or two major dialects.
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 3:49
  • There is a distinct difference between how Americans usually pronounce it, compared to how British people pronounce it.
    – Tristan r
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 13:53
  • The same way one can argue with the non-capitalisation of 'Americans' and 'Brits'. Commented Aug 13, 2016 at 21:02

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.