The American Heritage® Dictionary Pronunciation Key

Pronunciations appear in parentheses after boldface entry words. If an entry word has a variant and they have the same pronunciation, the pronunciation follows the variant. If the variant does not have the same pronunciation, pronunciations follow the forms to which they apply. If a word has more than one pronunciation, the first pronunciation is usually more common than the other, but often they are equally common. Pronunciations are shown within an entry where necessary.

Stress. Stress is the relative degree of emphasis with which a word's syllables are spoken. An unmarked syllable has the weakest stress in the word. The strongest, or primary, stress is indicated with a bold mark ( ' ). A lighter mark ( ' ) indicates a secondary level of stress. Words of one syllable have no stress mark, because there is no other stress level to which the syllable is compared.

Pronunciation Symbols. The pronunciation symbols used in this Dictionary are shown below. To the right of the symbols are words that show how the symbols are pronounced. The letters whose sound corresponds to the symbols are shown in boldface.

The symbol (ə) is called schwa. It represents a vowel with the weakest level of stress in a word. The schwa sound varies slightly according to the vowel it represents or the sounds around it:

a·bun·dant (ə-bŭn'dənt)

mo·ment (mō'mənt)

grate·ful (grāt'fəl)

civ·il (sĭv'əl)

pro·pose (prə-pōz')

In English, the consonants l and n can be complete syllables. Examples of words with syllabic l and n are needle (nēd'l) and sudden (sŭd'n).

Foreign Symbols. Some foreign words use sounds that are not found in English. The (ɶ) sound is made by rounding the lips as though you were going to make the (ō) sound, but instead you make an (ā) sound. The (ü) sound is made by rounding the lips as though you were going to make the (ōō) sound, but instead you make an (ē) sound. The (KH) sound is like a (k), but the air is forced through continuously, not stopped as with a (k). The (ɴ) sound shows that the vowel before it is nasalized — that is, air escapes through the nose (and the mouth) when you say it.

Pronunciation Key

Symbols Examples Symbols Examples
ā pat ô caught, paw
ā pay ôr core
âr care oi noise
ä father ŏŏ took
b bib ŏŏr lure
ch church ōō boot
d deed, milled ou out
ě pet p pop
ē bee r roar
f fife, phase, rough s sauce
g gag sh ship, dish
h hat t tight, stopped
ĭ pit th thin
ī pie, by th this
îr dear, deer, pier ŭ cut
j judge ûr urge, term, firm, word, heard
k kick, cat, pique v valve
l lid, needle w with
m mum y yes
n no, sudden z zebra, xylem
ng thing zh vision, pleasure, garage
ŏ pot ə about, item, edible, gallop, circus
ō toe ər butter

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