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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, 2013 at 15:57
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    Also, I would suspect that it gets its /ɪd/ from the same place it gets its /lɪbiːdoʊ/.
    – Robusto
    Jan 7, 2013 at 16:10
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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. Jan 7, 2013 at 16:50
  • Wiktionary list of such words: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/…
    – phlaxyr
    Sep 13, 2020 at 19:28

3 Answers 3

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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).

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    I still keep thinking of learnèd.
    – tchrist
    Jan 7, 2013 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. Jan 7, 2013 at 16:36
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    Related: english.stackexchange.com/q/32292/8019 Jan 7, 2013 at 16:39
  • 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, 2014 at 17:34
  • naked has three translations in German (no verb though), the adjectives nackt and nackig, and the rarer nackend/t (?) which appears like a participle. Alas, I can't derive from that any useful information for the question, nor is this answer precise enough about the suffix -ed to tell if one would be strictly cognate--I'm actually betting on the last one, assuming -en as in golden + resultative -t, cp. bland, bend. The verbal form uses machen (~make) as auxiliary. -ig ~ En. -y is, due to the diminutive sound symbolism, rather childish, anyway intimate, i.e. naky naky.
    – vectory
    Sep 13, 2020 at 7:46
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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 /ed/ (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.

There are other words in this category too. /lɜrnd/, as in 'I learned something' v. /'lɜr nɪd/, as in 'a learnèd man'. /bɜnt/, as in 'a bent leg of a chair', v. /'bɜn dɪd/, as in 'a man on bended knee'.

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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, 2018 at 21:56
  • There is a one-syllable adjective crooked (possessing a crook) used for musical instruments. A crook is a removable piece of tubing placed between the mouthpiece and bell of a brass instruments, especially horns. It changes the effective length of the instrument, thereby changing its fundamental pitch. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crook_(music)
    – DjinTonic
    Jul 28, 2021 at 10:06
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If the -ed- goes in the adjective position, the d/t/id pronounciation does not apply and you pronounce it as in wicked. There might be exceptions I suppose. However, this wine has aged for three years, is different from this is AN AGED WINE

Cheers!!

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    – Community Bot
    Nov 17, 2023 at 20:33
  • How are they different? They sound the same to me. Nov 20, 2023 at 10:54

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