I am confused about the pronunciation of "harass". Dictionaries list it as

  • ˈherəs
  • həˈræs
  • ˈhærəs

Is it about BrE and AmE difference? Which one is more prevalent?

  • The /e/ in the first pronunciation is caused by the Mary/marry/merry merger in America. People without this merger are very unlikely to use this pronunciation. – Peter Shor Nov 5 '12 at 18:14

Yes, both pronunciations are used.

Forvo currently lists six examples. From the United States, one speaker puts the accent on the first syllable, while two put the accent on the second syllable. From the U.K., two speakers stress the second syllable, although one speaker from Ireland stresses the first.

Final score in that small sample size: 3-3.

I've heard both, although in the U.S., I usually hear the accent put on the second syllable. Still, it's just one of those words that can be pronounced either way.

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Actually I don't think there's any pronunciation for harass as in your first one.

But the second one is British English and the third is used in both British and American English as per Oxford Dictionary.

  • /ˈhærəs/ and /həˈræs/ in BrE
  • /ˈhærəs/ and /həˈræs/ in AmE
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  • 2
    Since the majority of Americans have the Mary/marry/merry merger, /ˈhærəs/ turns into /ˈherəs/ (rhymes with terrace) in those with the merger. – Peter Shor Nov 5 '12 at 12:07
  • As an American, I've never heard another American put the emphasis on the first syllable. – scleaver Nov 5 '12 at 16:31
  • @scleaver: I've definitely heard /ˈhɛrəs/ from Americans, although it's less common than the version with the accent on the second syllable. It used to really bug me. I've assumed (with no justification whatsoever) that it's a back-pronunciation from /ˈhɛrəsmənt/, which is accented on the first syllable relatively often because that's where the stress wants to go in nouns. – Peter Shor Nov 5 '12 at 18:08
  • @PeterShor Must be a regional thing, as I've heard both /ˈhɛrəs/ and /ˈhɛrəsmənt/ but never from an American speaker. – scleaver Nov 5 '12 at 18:14
  • @scleaver: I'm now guessing that I'm totally wrong about the first-syllable pronunciation being due to the stress shift in nouns, and that it's just regional. – Peter Shor Nov 5 '12 at 18:17

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