Dictionary Preface

Pronunciation Dictionary Home

This dictionary was prepared primarily for use by personnel in WOI Radio at Iowa State University as a computerized database for printing "pronouncers" to be pasted alongside the words to be pronounced on the printed material accompanying sound recordings; this is the most convenient source of pronunciation information for announcers. Although incomplete and imperfect, the dictionary has been found useful in WOI and is being made freely available to others who may find it of value.

The purpose of this dictionary is to help American English-speaking persons pronounce the names of music composers, the titles of their compositions, and the names of artists who perform the music. The pronunciations are for the spoken word. In the dictionary format, providing for fast and convenient access to relevant information was given higher priority than economy of space in a printout. The dictionary is available in two formats, one for printing and the other for rapid access by computer.

The objective has been to supply an approximate pronunciation of words that might cause some difficulty for Americans. Most of the "pronouncers" are for words in foreign languages. For some well-known foreign words or names whose common American pronunciation differs from that in the original language, two pronunciations are given -- an Americanized version first in braces, followed by the original language. As examples, the pronouncer for Sebastian in Johann Sebastian Bach appears as {suh-BASS-tihunn} zay-BAH-stihahn, and the pronouncer for Tchaikovsky appears as {chahee-KAWF-skee} chay-KAWF-skee. For persons with foreign names who lived for a long time or now live in English-speaking countries or whose names have become so thoroughly Americanized that the foreign pronunciation would sound incorrect to many people, only an Americanized version is given. For Georges Bizet, for example, the pronouncer is shown as the Americanized zhorzh bee-zay instead of the French zhorzh bee-zeh. Where a name has been Americanized by changing the spelling, both spellings and pronunciations are given in personal name entries, but not in composition entries.

Trilled r's are not indicated, except that in Spanish and Catalan words double r's (which are trilled longer than single r's) are written as two r's separated by a hyphen to promote a longer sound. Other than this convention for Spanish and Catalan words and use of the Americanized pronunciations mentioned in the preceding paragraph, the authors have not attempted to direct users on the "bending" of the pronunciations to suit specific purposes. Information on this matter may be found in Fradkin's The Well-Tempered Announcer (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1996) and an exchange between Fradkin and Bartel in Current (Vol. 15, No. 22, pp. 17 and 18, 1996).

Pronunciation Conventions

The pronunciation conventions used in the various foreign-language, English-language dictionaries for a given foreign language differ to some degree. This dictionary, which provides English pronunciations of words from a number of other languages, has the same limitation in reverse. With only one pronunciation of a word in Italian, for example, this dictionary does not present the range of pronunciations in the various Italian-English dictionaries or the range of pronunciations in either the Italian language or the English language. Hopefully, however, the pronunciations will be adequate to be understood by those whose native tongues are the various languages pronounced.

Perhaps ideally, the International Phonetic Alphabet should be used for pronunciation. This system has a special typographic symbol for each sound. Few persons are conversant with the many symbols, however, and the symbols are generally useful only for occasional use in investigating the pronunciation of a particular word. The system used in this dictionary requires some study, but it is considerably simpler and more broadly useful for its limited purpose than the International System. In the pronouncers in this dictionary, words are respelled phonetically, and the syllables are separated by hyphens. The diacritical marks used to indicate differences in the way a given letter is pronounced have been eliminated to the extent feasible, and those used to indicate stress have been replaced by the less ambiguous convention of capitalization. Stressed syllables are indicated by capitalization of at least the letter or letters representing the stressed vowel. Unstressed syllables are written in lower-case letters. In pronouncers for syllables having consecutive vowels, the sounds of the individual letters are used, where feasible, with the sound of the vowel receiving greater emphasis written on the line of type and the sound of the vowel receiving the lesser emphasis written as a superscript. If the sound of the consecutive vowels cannot be represented in this way, the appropriate sound is used (examples are the German ey [] and eu [oy]). For doubled vowels that conventionally are to be held twice the time of a single vowel, the letter or letters representing the vowel sound are shown first on the line of text followed by the same letter or letters as a superscript.

The following conventions are employed. A few were adopted because of the limitations of the computer program.

Vowel Sounds

a as in "fat" [FATT]. This is the flat American sound. In syllables in which the a to have this sound is followed by a consonant, the consonant is generally doubled, as in the foregoing example, to assure that the ay or ah sound is not used accidentally. Superscripting of the following consonant or vowel sound is used as an alternative where needed to emphasize the a sound and to avoid possible mispronunciations, e.g., "Albert" [AL-burt], "Carrad" [KAR-rudd], and the Norwegian names "Bjerke" [b'YAR-kuh] and "Leif" [LAIHF]. Where the a is followed by the ng sound, the consonant is neither doubled nor superscripted, e.g., "Franco": FRANG-ko.

ah as in "father" [FAH-thur] or "hot" [HAHT].

ar (ahr) as in "Carl" [KARL] or "Barbier" [bar-beeay]. Where the ar pronunciation is modified to other vowel sounds, these sounds are indicated; e.g., "Carrad" [KAR-rudd] and "Richard" [RIH-churd].

aw as in "caught" [KAWT] or "Austin" [AW-stunn]. ay as in "tail" [TAYL] or "Weber" [VAY-bur].

e (eh) In syllables in which the eh sound is followed by a consonant, the sound is indicated by doubling the consonant, as in "bet" [BETT] and "Alsen" [AHL-senn], or by inserting an h, as in "Albrecht" [AHL-brehht], "alférez" [ahl-FAY-rehth], and "Henk" [HEHNGK]. The h is used where the eh sound ends a syllable, e.g., "Smetana" [SMEH-tuh-nuh].

ee as in "feet" [FEET] or "Vivaldi" [vee-VAHL-dee].

ew as in "few" without the sound of y, representing the sound of u in the Norwegian language, e.g., "Hulbaekmo" [HEWL-beck-mo].

i (ih) In syllables in which the ih sound is followed by a consonant, the sound is indicated by doubling the consonant, as in "fit" [FITT] or "Josip" [YAW-sipp], or by inserting an h, as in "Cádiz" [KAH-dihth], "Fink" [FIHNGK], and "dich" [dihh]. The h is used where the ih sound ends a syllable, e.g., "Altnikol" [AHLT-nih-kawl]. as in "bite" [BT] or "Haydn" [H-d'n].

o (oh) as in "no" [NO] or "Pola" [PO-lah] for syllables ending with o (except for those ending with do or to, which for clarity are shown as doh and toh). Within a syllable, the oh sound is indicated by oh, as in "Copland" [KOHP-lunnd].

oo as in "fool" [FOOL] or "Martin" [MAR-tyih-noo].

ôô as in "look" [LÔÔK] or "Suk" [SÔÔK].

w as in "cow": KW.

oy as in "boy" [BOY] or "Reutter" [ROYT-tur]. ö as in "Montreux" [maw-trö] or "Schönberg" [SHÖN-pehrk]. This is the French eu, German ö, and Norwegian ø sound. Round the lips to say oh as in boat, but say eh as in "egg."

u (uh) is always pronounced "uh," as in "up" [UP] or "Smetana" [SMEH-tuh-nuh]. This notation is often used for unstressed vowels.

ü as in "Debussy" [deh-büss-see] or "Frühling" [FRÜ-lihng]. This is the French u or German ü sound. Round and protrude the lips to say oo as in "fool," but say ee as in "feet."

Consonant Sounds

b as in "bar" [BAR].

c is not used except as a helper for the eye with k after short vowels, as in "Niklaus": NICK-lahôôss. The hard and soft sounds of c are represented by k and s.

ch as in "chat" [CHATT] or "Tchaikovsky" [chay-KAWF-skee].

d as in "dog" [DAWG]. f as in "fat" [FATT].

g as in "go" [GO] or "Gaetano" [gahee-TAH-no]. This is the hard g, written gh before e and i to assure that the soft g sound is not inferred. J is used for the soft g sound, as in "gypsy" [JIPP-see].

h is used only at the beginning of syllables and as a helping letter for vowels, except as otherwise noted. h indicates a sound approximating that of the h in "huge," when spoken in an exaggerated way, as in a stage whisper. Examples are found in the words "ich" [ihh] and "mich" [mihh].

j as in "jack" [JACK] or "Frigyes" [FRIH-jessh].

k as in "kitten" [KITT-'n], "cat" [KATT], or "Michala" [mee-KAH-lah]. k indicates a softened k sound, as in "Bach" [BAHK]. In the softened sound, the breath is not stopped and then suddenly released as in the regular k sound, but is only partially stopped before release.

l as in "lad" [LADD].

m as in "man" [MANN].

n as in "nap" [NAPP].

p as in "pet" [PETT].

q as in "pique" [PEEK].

r as in "red" [REDD]. No distinction is made among rolled, trilled, guttural, or hard r sounds.

s or ss as in "sit" [SITT], "lass" [LASS] or "Saint-Saëns" [sehn-sahnss]. The ss is useful in places such as word endings where the American eye might automatically assume a z sound.

sh as in "ship" [SHIPP] or "Solti" [SHOHL-tee].

t as in "tell" [TELL]. th as in thin.

th as in thee. v as in "van" [VANN].

w as in "win" [WINN].

x The sound of x is represented by a combination of other letters, depending upon the word and the language.

y as in "yet" [YETT] or "Janáek" [yah-NAH-check]; also used when helping a vowel, as in "hay" [HAY].

z as in "zebra" [ZEE-bruh].

zh as in "azure" [A-zhur].

er sounds: Three are recognized. (1) In American uses (Turner [TUR-nur], Ferguson [FUR-guh-s'n], bird [BURD]), ur is employed to assure a hard r sound. (2) In some European words, ehr is used to strengthen the short vowel sound, as in the German "Herr" [HEHR]. (3) In some unstressed European syllables, er is employed to represent a sound intermediate between ur and ehr, as in "Schubert" [SHOO-bert].

The apostrophe ('): At the end of a word, an apostrophe indicates an incompletely expressed syllable. For example, the pronouncer for the French name "Locle" is shown as law-kl', which means that the last syllable is pronounced kluh, with just a slight uh sound. For clarity, the final letter and apostrophe are often superscripted, as in the Polish name "Micha" [MEE-hahw']. Terminal letters followed by an apostrophe are pronounced as follows: h' as a brief hah, l' as a brief luh, r' as a brief ruh, t' as a brief tuh, w' as a brief wuh, and y'as a brief yuh. Within syllables, the apostrophe may be used to aid in recognizing and pronouncing the sounds, as in the Czechoslovakian "Dvoák" [d'VAW-rshahahk], the Spanish "Español" [ayss-pah-n'YAWL], the Portuguese "casinha" [kah-ZEE-n'yah], the French Ambroise [ah-br'wahz], and the Italian "Mascagni" [mah-SKAH-n'yee]. In unstressed syllables (particularly in American English, where the stress on some syllables is less pronounced than in other languages), the apostrophe can represent the unstressed vowel, as in "Carson" [KAR-s'n] or "Thomson" [TAHM-s'n]. In the common Russian name "Alexander," the terminal syllable is pronounced quickly, and the pronouncer is shown as ah-lyick-SAHN-d'r. As "Alexander" is written in Russian, there is no letter between the letters corresponding to d and r.

French stress: Multisyllable words other than proper names have a mild sress on the last spoken syllable. In proper names, other syllables may receive some stress. But the French language has no hard stresses. To reduce possible errors in pronunciation, the French and Belgian French pronouncers herein are written without indicated stress.

Japanese stress: Japanese stress consists of a change in pitch for the stressed syllables, but is often described as flat in terms of loudness. Accordingly, no stress is indicated in Japanese words.

Superscripts for vowel sounds: There are four uses. (1) To indicate the sounds and relative strengths of consecutive vowels in a given syllable. An example is the Polish word "dwie" [dvihEH] (meaning "two"), in which the second vowel is sounded more strongly than the first. As a guide to the approximate pronunciation of the word as spoken, the sound of the first vowel is represented by the superscript "ih." The reverse situation occurs in the Finnish name "Reijo" [RAYIH-yaw] in which the more strongly sounded e (ay) occurs before the less strongly sounded i (ih). (2) To indicate a longer (conventionally double) time of sounding a particular vowel. The longer sounding time is indicated by insertion of superscripted letters representing the same sound as the preceding letters representing the vowel sound. There are two uses: (a) Indicating the longer time a doubled vowel is sounded in certain languages. An example is the Estonian name "Aavik" [AHAH-vick]. (b) Indicating the sound of a "long" single vowel in instances in which, except for length, the sounds of the long and short versions are essentially the same. An example is the pronunciation of the long a in the German word "Knabe" [k'NAHAH-buh](meaning "boy"). (3) To represent secondary sounds that would not be expected from the printed word. Examples are the American name "Mary" [MEHUH-ree], the Swedish name "Margareta" [mar-gah-REEEH-tah], and the Russian name "Rachmaninoff" [rahk-mah-nyih-nawf], where the superscripted y has the sound of y in "yet." (4) To call attention to the pronunciation of certain vowels. A superscripted n following the letter or letters for a vowel sound indicates that the vowel sound is "nasalized" or spoken with the nasal passages left open so that the breath passes through both the nose and the mouth. The n is not pronounced. Examples are the French "Jean" [zhahn], the Polish "Koliski" [ko-LEEn-skee], and the Chinese "Huang" [hooAHnG]. An example of superscripting to call attention to the pronunciation of the letter a to have the sound of a in "fat" was described previously in connection with pronunciation conventions for that letter.

Superscripts for consonant sounds: The letter in the Czechoslovakian language represents a sound unique to that language -- a weak r pronounced simultaneously with sh or zh. The overall sound is indicated in pronouncers by a superscript r followed by sh, as in "Dvoák" [d'VAW-rshahahk], or zh, as in ezá [RZHEH-zahahsh].

Dictionary Entries

The first item in a given entry (the word or words preceding the first diamond) gives the basic entry without punctuation or diacritical marks. Only the first letter of the first word is capitalized. These conventions are useful in alphabetizing the entries with the word-processing program employed. The same convention is followed for letters used to represent musical key signatures in German, where minor keys are designated with lowercase letters, and in French, where all the key designations are in lowercase letters. If a lowercase letter is used in the original language, a lowercase letter is used in the second item in an entry. If a lowercase letter were used to begin the first item in an entry, the entry might appear so far from the location expected alphabetically that it could be missed if a print-out is used. The reason is that when the entries are sorted the computer program employed places lowercase letters before uppercase letters or vice versa, depending upon the convention selected.

The ampersands and numerals that occur in some titles confuse the computerized alphabetization. Consequently, the corresponding English word or words are substituted in the original entry and should also be entered for search purposes. The ampersands and numerals are shown in the second item. Roman numerals are shown as such because they are composed of letters that can be alphabetized.

Where names of persons are concerned, the first item in an entry generally is the family name only. Occasional difficulty may be encountered in searching for names in languages in which the family name is customarily placed before the given name. Except for Chinese, publishers generally follow the convention in English, but do not explain what they have done. For Chinese and Korean names, all names are indexed, so that the dictionary user does not need to know which is the family name to locate the entry in a printout. The family name is shown first in the second item in the entry (and in the pronouncer, as is often the order in which the names are pronounced in the United States.) As a signal regarding the word order, however, a comma is used after the family name. Two-word family names are indexed under both words so they can be found regardless of which word is used. Single-word names, appearing frequently in operas, are indexed as if they were family names. Where first and last names are shown for operatic characters, the characters are indexed under both names.

Artists often use only a part of their total name, and sometimes they change part or all of their true name. In the dictionary, the name under which an artist appears in the source examined is almost invariably given, but the original name (if different) generally is not shown. Where an artist uses only a part of his or her full name, the part used in the source examined is employed as the main entry, and the total name, where known, is provided as additional information. In some instances, additional entries have been made so that all variations will be readily accessible in a printout.

Names of persons and titles of compositions are not always spelled and pronounced the same in different languages and, occasionally, even in a given language. Transliteration differences cause additional confusion in languages with alphabets differing from that used in English. The differing spellings and pronunciations encountered are shown in this dictionary as individual entries.

The second item in an entry (following the first diamond or between the first and second diamonds repeats the item in the first entry, but with addition of capital letters, diacritical marks, and punctuation. With names of persons, the second item includes the given name(s) as well as the family name, where readily available.

The pronunciation generally is given as the third item in an entry (between the second and third diamonds), although in instances in which the second item would be identical with the first, the pronunciation is given as the second item. Where the pronunciation of one or more of the words (other than proper names) in the pronouncer is thought to be fairly unmistakable for an English-speaking person, such words are reproduced as found in the original, but are enclosed in parentheses. A phonetically respelled pronouncer is given only for the word or words for which the pronunciation might be helpful.

For titles in foreign languages, an American translation is included if readily available. For titles that have some words in English and some in another language or names in English that are pronounced, the total title is shown, with the unpronounced English words in parentheses in the pronouncer. Americanized pronunciations are generally included in translations.

Additional items may be included in an entry to provide more information and to aid in individualizing the entry. Each succeeding item is separated from its predecessor by a diamond. In preparing the dictionary, forward slashes were used to separate the individual items in an entry. The diamonds interfere with computerized alphabetization and were substituted for the forward slashes after alphabetization because they are more obvious than the slashes and thus should improve the clarity.

Entries are alphabetized on the basis of two fields. The first field includes the words preceding the first diamond, and the second field includes all the following words. The convention of using no punctuation (except for the initial capital letter) or diacritical marks in the first field was adopted to avoid errors in computerized alphabetization that otherwise would be made. The use of words in the second field in alphabetization is helpful on balance, although the occurrence of punctuation and diacritical marks does permit irregularities.

Bold-face type is used for pronouncers. Where a foreign word included in the English equivalent (for example, the name of a city) is pronounced (and perhaps spelled) differently in English than in the native language, a pronouncer generally is inserted in brackets following the word in question. Where a portion of the pronouncer is not in bold-face type, as is generally true of key signatures, only the portion in bold face is the pronouncer. The portion in Roman is merely carried over from the foreign language.


Most of the errors are the responsibility of the transcriber. Others, however, are inherited from the publications used as sources for the words pronounced. Some sources, for example, have not reproduced all the diacritical marks essential for proper pronunciation. The marks have been added, where known.