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There are three ways I know to pronounce the -ed at the end of an adjective:

  1. /t/ as in cracked.
  2. /d/ as in lined.
  3. /ɪd/ as in naked

I realise naked is a special case because, as etymonline states, it comes for Old English nacod, so the suffix isn't added.

This answer shows the pattern of pronunciation of -ed in all other cases. However it doesn't explain why wicked ends with /ɪd/ (or /id/ or /əd/ depending on the dialect).

Etymonline says that wicked comes from OE wicca, so the d wasn't already there.

Why do we pronounce wicked as /ˈwɪkɪd/ and not /ˈwɪkt/?

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    The other wicked (something with wicks, like a candle) is pronounced /wɪkt/. – Hugo Jan 7 '13 at 15:57
  • Perhaps to differentiate it from the past tense of wick? – coleopterist Jan 7 '13 at 15:58
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    Also, I would suspect that it gets its /ɪd/ from the same place it gets its /lɪbiːdoʊ/. – Robusto Jan 7 '13 at 16:10
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    @coleopterist: Perhaps. Wicked (evil) is older (c1275) than wicked (with wicks) (1507), so there's more time for it to become irregular. – Hugo Jan 7 '13 at 16:19
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    Oh, by the way, the higher likelihood for /ɪ/ in the final syllable (instead of the expected /ə/) in wicked is at least partly a result of echoing the preceding stressed /ɪ/ in /'wɪk/. It's simply easier to leave the tongue in the same position than to move it towards the center; vowəl rədəkʃn is sposta make things easier, not harder. This doesn't explain why there's the extra syllable in the first place, of course; unlike the regular past of to wick. – John Lawler Jan 7 '13 at 16:50
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According to A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language, 1839,

The adjectives naked, wicked, picked (pointed), booked, crooked, forked, tusked, tressed, and wretched, are not derived from verbs, and are therefore pronounced in two syllables. The same may be observed of scabbed, crabbed, chubbed, stubbed, shagged, snagged, ragged, scrubbed, dogged, rugged, scragged, hawked, jagged; to which we may add, the solemn pronunciation of stiff-necked; and these when formed into nouns with the addition of ness, preserved the ed in a distinct syllable, as wickedness, scabbedness, raggedness, &c.

This explanation is reaffirmed in the book, Teaching Pronunciation: A Reference for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, 1996,

Whether they function as verbs or adjectives, most English words ending in the -ed suffix follow the same phonological rules as the paste tense inflectional ending (e.g., striped /t/, forked /t/, cultured /d/, used /d/, moneyed /d/, furrowed /d/, good-natured /d/, gray-haired /d/, blue-eyed /d/). There are, however, historically based differences in pronunciation between certain formed ending in -ed, depending on whether they function as adjectives or verbs. The -ed adjectives in this category have an extra syllable and take the /ɪd/ pronunciation, whereas the verbs simply take /t/ or /d/, following the rules for the regular past tense and regular past participle outlined earlier:

[Table with examples comparing the pronunciation of verb forms of words such as blessed, beloved, learned, dogged, and legged, with their adjectival equivalents]

Sometimes, even when there is an adjective with no corresponding verb, the adjective is still pronounced /ɪd/ (naked, wretched, rugged, wicked).

  • So it seems there are many adjectives that have lost their /ɪd/ – Matt E. Эллен Jan 7 '13 at 16:32
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    I still keep thinking of learnèd. – tchrist Jan 7 '13 at 16:33
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    21st-century update: picked, booked, forked, tusked, and tressed are now pronounced with the regular /-t/ allomorph. (Recent research, however, has shown that peevers and pedants may continue to epenthesize them until they die.) On the other hand, naked, wicked, crooked, and wretched are still two syllables. And, by no coincidence whatsoever, much more common as well. – John Lawler Jan 7 '13 at 16:36
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  • Naked used to have a corresponding transitive verb to nake, which perhaps is the source of the current pronunciation of the adjective. – nograpes Oct 1 '14 at 17:34
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OK, here's my two-cents worth.

(1) There are actually three ways of pronouncing the -ed endings: <ɪd> (near-close front vowel, commonly occurring in urban U.S. dialects), <əd> (unstressed mid-central vowel, commonly occurring in rural North Midland dialects), and (mid-vowel sound, now rare in America but still prominent in many British dialects).

Wicked is pronounced with two syllables because it refers to an animate thing (usually human). Thus it is like legged (a two-legged beast), hanged (a hanged person), naked (a naked person), etc. There are other words which do not belong in this category, as modern English is a very messy language. For example, wretched. But note that wretched originally applied only to humans and was applied to nonhumans over time.

Back to wicked: wicked (wɪkt) is applied to inanimate things/nonhumans, such as a lamp, just as legged (legd) is applied to inanimate things/nonhumans, such as a table. Whether the word ends in a t or a d is determined by the position of the tongue just before the final consonant, just like whether we pronounce an s or a z sound in plural forms.

The interesting question for linguists is how wicked attained its present form, given that it is derived from a substantive form, not a verbal form—probably by analogy with other adjectival verbs, just like modern American English snuck was formed by analogy with cling, clung, clung. Originally it was sneak, sneaked, sneaked.

Hope this helps.

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    I always pronounce “hanged” with one syllable, and often pronounce “legged” with one (even in reference to people/animals). – herisson Aug 28 '18 at 21:56
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There are other words in this category too. Learned, as in I learned something v. learned, as in a leaned man. Bent, as in a bent leg of a chair, v. bended, as in a man on bended knee.

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    Please use the edit button to add this note to your other answer. Thanks and welcome to EL&U! – Azor Ahai Aug 28 '18 at 16:23

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