Help:IPA/English

Throughout Wikipedia, the pronunciation of words is indicated by means of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). The following tables list the IPA symbols used for English words and pronunciations. Please note that several of these symbols are used in ways that are specific to Wikipedia and differ from those used by dictionaries.

If the IPA symbols are not displayed properly by your browser, see the links below.

If you are adding a pronunciation using this key, such pronunciations should generally be formatted using the template {{IPAc-en}}. The template provides tooltips for each symbol in the pronunciation. See the template page for instructions.

Key

If there is an IPA symbol you are looking for that you do not see here, see Help:IPA, which is a more complete list. For a table listing all spellings of the sounds on this page, see English orthography § Sound-to-spelling correspondences. For help converting spelling to pronunciation, see English orthography § Spelling-to-sound correspondences.

The words given as examples for two different symbols may sound the same to you. For example, you may pronounce cot and caught the same, do and dew, or marry and merry. This often happens because of dialect variation (see our articles English phonology and International Phonetic Alphabet chart for English dialects). If this is the case, you will pronounce those symbols the same for other words as well.[1] Whether this is true for all words, or just when the sounds occur in the same context, depends on the merger.[2] The footnotes explain some of these cases.

Consonants
IPA Examples
b buy, cab
d dye, cad, ladder[3]
dj dew[4]
giant, badge
ð thy, breathe, father
f fan, leaf
ɡ guy, bag
h high, ahead
hw whine[5]
j[6] yes, hallelujah
k sky, crack
l lie, sly, gal[7]
lj lute[4]
m my, smile, cam
n nigh, snide, can
nj new[4]
ŋ sang, sink, singer
p pie, spy, cap
r[8] rye, try, very
s sigh, mass
sj consume[4]
ʃ shy, cash, emotion
t tie, sty, cat, latter[3]
tj tune[4]
China, catch
θ thigh, path
θj enthuse[4]
v vine, leave
w wine, swine
z zoo, has
zj Zeus[4]
ʒ pleasure, beige[9]
 
Marginal segments
IPA Examples
x loch, Chanukah[10]
ʔ uh-oh /ˈʔʌʔoʊ/
ɒ̃ bon vivant[11]
æ̃ fin de siècle[11]
ɜː Möbius (UK only)[12]
Vowels
Strong vowels ...followed by R[13]
IPA Examples IPA Examples
ɑː PALM, bra ɑːr START
ɒ LOT, blockade[14] ɒr moral[15]
æ TRAP, tattoo, sang[16] ær marry[17]
PRICE, pie[18] aɪər hire[19]
MOUTH, how[18] aʊər flour[19]
ɛ DRESS, prestige, length[20] ɛr merry[17]
FACE ɛər SQUARE, Mary[17][21]
ɪ KIT, historic, sing[22] ɪr mirror
FLEECE, pedigree, idea[23] ɪər NEAR, serious[21]
GOAT[24][22] ɔːr FORCE, hoarse[25]
ɔː THOUGHT[26] NORTH, horse[25]
ɔɪ CHOICE ɔɪər coir[19]
ʊ FOOT ʊr courier
GOOSE, cruel[23] ʊər tour, CURE (/ˈkjʊər/)[27][21]
ʌ STRUT, untidy, trustee, sung[28][29] ɜːr NURSE, blurry, urbane, foreword[30]
ʌr hurry[31]
Weak vowels
IPA Examples IPA Examples
ə COMMA, abbot, bazaar ər LETTER, forward, history[32]
ɪ rabbit, bizarre, Latin, heating[22][33] motto, retroactive, follower[22][34]
i HAPPY, mediocre[35] California[36]
u fruition[34][35] influence[37]
Syllabic consonants[32]
IPA Examples IPA Examples
əl bottle (either [əl] or [l̩]) ən button (either [ən] or [n̩])
əm rhythm (either [əm] or [m̩])
 
Stress[38] Syllabification
IPA Examples IPA Examples
ˈ intonation /ˌɪntəˈneɪʃən/ . /ˈhaɪər/ hire, /ˈhaɪ.ər/ higher[39]
/ˈtæks.peɪər/ taxpayer
ˌ

Notes

  • Words in SMALL CAPITALS are the standard lexical sets. Not all of the sets are used here. In particular, we excluded words in the lexical sets BATH and CLOTH, which may be given two transcriptions, the former either with /ɑː/ or /æ/, the latter with /ɒ/ or /ɔː/.
  • The length mark ⟨ː⟩ does not mean that the vowels transcribed with it are always longer than those without it. When unstressed, followed by a voiceless consonant, or in a polysyllabic word, a vowel in the former group is frequently shorter than the latter in other environments (see Clipping (phonetics) § English).

Dialect variation

This key represents diaphonemes, abstractions of speech sounds that accommodate General American, Received Pronunciation (RP) and to a large extent also Australian, Canadian, Irish (including Ulster), New Zealand, Scottish, South African and Welsh pronunciations. Therefore, not all of the distinctions shown here are relevant to a particular dialect:

  • i⟩ does not represent a phoneme but a variation between /iː/ and /ɪ/ in unstressed positions. Speakers of dialects with happy tensing (Australian English, General American, modern RP) should read it as an unstressed /iː/, whereas speakers of other dialects (e.g. some Northern England English) should treat it the same as /ɪ/. In Scotland, this vowel can be considered the same as the short allophone of /eɪ/, as in take. Before /ə/ within the same word, another possible pronunciation is /j/ as in yet.
  • Many speakers of American and Canadian English pronounce cot /ˈkɒt/ and caught /ˈkɔːt/ the same.[j] You may simply ignore the difference between the symbols /ɒ/ and /ɔː/, just as you ignore the distinction between the written vowels o and au when pronouncing them.
  • Speakers of rhotic dialects (Irish English, North American English, Scottish English) do not distinguish between the vowels of near /ˈnɪər/, cure /ˈkjʊər/ and square /ˈskwɛər/ on the one hand and freerunning /ˈfriːrʌnɪŋ/, Q-rating /ˈkjuːreɪtɪŋ/ and dayroom /ˈdeɪruːm/ on the other. If you speak such a dialect, read /ɪər, ʊər, ɛər/ as /iːr, uːr, eɪr/.
  • In Northern Ireland, Scotland and many North American dialects the distinction between /ʊr/ as in courier and the aforementioned /ʊər/ and /uːr/ does not exist. If you speak such a dialect, ignore the difference between /ʊr/, /ʊər/ and /uːr/.
    • In Northern Ireland and Scotland this merger occurs in all environments, which means that foot /ˈfʊt/ and goose /ˈɡuːs/ also have the same vowel.[k][l] If you speak such a dialect, ignore the difference between /ʊ/ and /uː/ in all contexts.
    • In North America, the /ʊr/ of courier and the /ʊər/ of cure may instead merge with /ɔːr/ as in north or /ɜːr/ as in nurse. No such merger is possible in the case of the sequence which we transcribe as /uːr/ as there is an implied morpheme boundary after the length mark.
    • In North American dialects that do not distinguish between /ʊr/, /ʊər/ and /uːr/ there is also no distinction between the /ɪr/ of mirror and the aforementioned /ɪər/ and /iːr/. If you speak such a dialect, ignore the difference between /ɪr/, /ɪər/ and /iːr/.
    • In many North American dialects there is also no distinction between the vowels in merry /ˈmɛri/, Mary /ˈmɛəri/ and marry /ˈmæri/. If you speak such a dialect, ignore the difference between /ɛr/, /ɛər/ and /ær/. Some speakers keep marry and/or merry separate from the rest, but in the General American accent all three vowels are the same and may not be distinct from /eɪr/ as in dayroom /ˈdeɪruːm/.
    • In rhotic North American English there is no distinction between the vowels in nurse /ˈnɜːrs/ and letter /ˈlɛtər/. If you speak such a dialect, read /ɜːr/ as /ər/. The /ʌr/ of hurry often joins this neutralization; if you have it in your speech, read /ɜːr/, /ər/ and /ʌr/ as /ər/.
  • Some speakers from Northern England do not distinguish the vowel of square /ˈskwɛər/ and nurse /ˈnɜːrs/.[m] If you speak such a dialect, ignore the difference between the symbols /ɛər/ and /ɜːr/.
  • In New Zealand English, the vowels of kit /ˈkɪt/ and focus /ˈfoʊkəs/ have the same schwa-like quality.[n][o] If you are from New Zealand, ignore the difference between the symbols /ɪ/ and /ə/.
  • In contemporary New Zealand English and some other dialects, the vowels of near /ˈnɪər/ and square /ˈskwɛər/ are not distinguished.[p] If you speak such a dialect, ignore the difference between the symbols /ɪər/ and /ɛər/.
  • In Northern England English, the vowels of foot /ˈfʊt/ and strut /ˈstrʌt/ are not distinguished.[q] If you are from Northern England, ignore the difference between the symbols /ʊ/ and /ʌ/.
  • In Welsh English and some other dialects, the vowels of unorthodoxy /ʌnˈɔːrθədɒksi/ and an orthodoxy /ən ˈɔːrθədɒksi/ are not distinguished.[r] If you speak such a dialect, ignore the difference between the symbols /ʌ/ and /ə/.
  • Depending on the dialect, vowels can be subject to various mergers before /l/, so that e.g. fill /ˈfɪl/ and feel /ˈfiːl/ or pull /ˈpʊl/ and pool /ˈpuːl/ may not be distinguished. L-vocalization may trigger even more mergers, so that e.g. cord /ˈkɔːrd/ and called /ˈkɔːld/ may be homophonous as /ˈkɔːd/ in non-rhotic dialects of South East England. See English-language vowel changes before historic /l/ for more information.
  • In many dialects, /r/ occurs only before a vowel; if you speak such a dialect, simply ignore /r/ in the pronunciation guides where you would not pronounce it, as in cart /kɑːrt/.
  • In other dialects, /j/ (yes) cannot occur after /t, d, n/, etc., within the same syllable; if you speak such a dialect, then ignore the /j/ in transcriptions such as new /njuː/. For example, New York is transcribed /njuː ˈjɔːrk/. For most people from England and for some New Yorkers, the /r/ in /jɔːrk/ is not pronounced; for most people from the United States, including some New Yorkers, the /j/ in /njuː/ is not pronounced and may be ignored. (See yod-dropping.)

On the other hand, there are some distinctions which you might make but which this key does not encode, as they are seldom reflected in the dictionaries used as sources for Wikipedia articles:

  • The vowels of kit and bit, distinguished in South Africa.[s] Both of them are transcribed as /ɪ/ in stressed syllables and as /ɪ/ or /ə/ in unstressed syllables.
  • The difference between the vowels of fir, fur and fern, maintained in some Scottish and Irish English but lost elsewhere.[t] All of them are transcribed as /ɜːr/.
  • The vowels of north and force, distinguished in Scottish English, Irish English and by a minority of American speakers.[t] Both of them are transcribed as /ɔːr/.
  • The vowels of pause and paws, distinguished in Cockney and by some Estuary English speakers.[u] Both of them are transcribed as /ɔː/ when the spelling does not contain ⟨r⟩ and /ɔːr/ or /ʊər/ (depending on the word) when it does.
  • The vowels of manning and Manning, distinguished in some parts of the United States (see /æ/ raising). Both of them are transcribed as /æ/.
  • The difference between the vowels of pain and pane found in some English, Welsh, and Newfoundland dialects. Both of them are transcribed as /eɪ/.
  • The difference between the vowels of holy and wholly found in Cockney and many Estuary English speakers.[v] Both of them are transcribed as /oʊ/.
  • Any allophonic distinctions, such as:
    • The vowels of bad and lad, distinguished in many parts of Australia. Both of them are transcribed as /æ/.
    • The vowels of spider and spied her, distinguished in many parts of Scotland,[w] plus many parts of North America. Both of them are transcribed as /aɪ/.
    • The vowels of rider and writer, distinguished in most parts of Canada and many parts of the United States. Both of them are transcribed as /aɪ/.
    • The vowels of powder and pouter distinguished in most parts of Canada and some parts of the United States. Both of them are transcribed as /aʊ/.
    • Allophonic vowel length (including the Scottish vowel length rule), as in knife /ˈnaɪf/ vs. knives /ˈnaɪvz/. Phonemic vowel length, which exists in some dialects and involves pairs such as /ɛ/ vs. /ɛər/ and /ə/ vs. /ɜːr/ is also not marked explicitly. /i/ and /u/ do not represent phonemes; see above.
    • Flapping in words such as better, which we write /ˈbɛtər/, rather than /ˈbɛdər/.
    • Glottalization in words such as jetlag and, in some accents, daughter, which we write /ˈdʒɛtlæɡ/ and /ˈdɔːtər/, rather than /ˈdʒɛʔlæɡ/ and /ˈdɔːʔər/. In this system, /ʔ/ is used only for paralanguage or in loanwords where it occurs phonemically in the original language.
    • L-vocalization in words such as bottle and Alps, which we write /ˈbɒtəl/ and /ˈælps/, rather than /ˈbɒtʊ/ and /ˈæwps/.
    • The difference between allophones of /ə/ in balance ([ə]) vs. the ones in about and Russia (and, in non-rhotic dialects, better), both of which may be closer to /ʌ/ in dialects with the foot-strut split (that is, [ɐ]) vs. the one in button (the syllabicity of the following consonant). All are transcribed as /ə/ in our system.
    • The difference between the phonetic realization of English sounds (mostly vowels) in various dialects. Let's pick some grapes for Betty should be transcribed /lɛts ˈpɪk səm ˈɡreɪps fər ˈbɛti/ regardless of the variety of English and everyone should interpret that transcription according to their own dialect. Thus, a person from South East England will read it as something like [lɛʔs ˈpʰɪk səm ˈɡɹɛɪps fə ˈbɛtˢɪi], a Scot as [ɫɛts ˈpʰɪk səm ˈɡɾeps fɚ ˈbɛte], whereas someone from New Zealand will interpret that transcription as [ɫɪts ˈpʰək səm ˈɡɹæɪps fə ˈbɪɾi]. Because we are transcribing diaphonemes rather than phones (actual sounds), it is irrelevant that, for example, the vowel in let's as pronounced by someone from New Zealand overlaps with how people with England and Scotland typically pronounce the first vowel in pick, or that the Scottish realization of /r/ after /ɡ/ overlaps with the New Zealand realization of /t/ between vowels. In other words, the symbol ⟨ɛ⟩ does not stand specifically for the open-mid front unrounded vowel in our system but any vowel that can be identified as the vowel in let's, depending on the accent. This is also why we use the simple symbol ⟨r⟩ for the second sound in grapes.

Other words may have different vowels depending on the speaker.

The pronunciation of the /æ/ vowel in most dialects of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Northern England and Wales has always been closer to [a]. Received Pronunciation has moved away from the traditional near-open front realization [æ] towards almost fully open front realization [a], and both the Oxford English Dictionary and the 2014 edition of Gimson's Pronunciation of English transcribe the vowel in lad, bad, cat, trap with /a/.[x]

For more extensive information on dialect variations, you may wish to see the IPA chart for English dialects.

Note that place names are not generally exempted from being transcribed in this abstracted system, so rules such as the above must be applied in order to recover the local pronunciation. Examples include place names in much of England ending ‑ford, which although locally pronounced [‑fəd] are transcribed /‑fərd/. This is best practice for editors. However, readers should be aware that not all editors may have followed this consistently, so for example if /‑fəd/ is encountered for such a place name, it should not be interpreted as a claim that the /r/ would be absent even in a rhotic dialect.

Other transcriptions

If you feel it is necessary to add a pronunciation respelling using another convention, then please use the conventions of Wikipedia's pronunciation respelling key.

  • To compare the following IPA symbols with non-IPA American dictionary conventions that may be more familiar, see Pronunciation respelling for English, which lists the pronunciation guides of fourteen English dictionaries published in the United States.
  • To compare the following IPA symbols with other IPA conventions that may be more familiar, see Help:IPA/Conventions for English, which lists the conventions of eight English dictionaries published in Britain, Australia, and the United States.

See also

Copyright