The Grammarphobia Blog

High satiety

Q: I’m proofreading a book that has a pronouncer for the word “satiety.” My Web 10 gives two possibilities: (1) suh-TIE-uh-tee; (2) SAY-shuh-tee. How do you (personally) pronounce it?

A: Our newer Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) gives three possibilities: (1) suh-TIE-uh-tee;  (2) SAY-shuh-tee; (3) SAY-shee-tee.

We’ve never uttered the word, but we’d go for #1 if we were to use it.

That resembles the sole pronunciation in the Oxford English Dictionary and the only one in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.).

The OED and AH pronunciations are roughly suh-TIE-ih-tee (the next-to-last vowel is like the “i” in “pit”).

A similar pronunciation, suh-TIE-eh-tee (the penultimate vowel is like the “e” in “silent”), is the only one given in our 1956 copy of Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, Unabridged.

This would seem to indicate that the variants with the “sh” sounds have come along in the last 60 years. 

In the current M-W Collegiate, number 2 (SAY-shuh-tee) and number 3 (SAY-shee-tee) are given as “also” variants, meaning they’re “appreciably less common” but standard nonetheless. (The quote comes from the explanation at the front of the dictionary.)

Why have these two also-rans popped up? Perhaps because they resemble the “sh” sounds in “satiate” and “satiated.”

The presence of #3 (SAY-shee-tee) seems a bit odd, however, since it’s hard to pronounce (two long “e” sounds in a row). 

The word “satiety,” in case you’re interested, was adapted in the 16th century from the French satiété.

The French was an adaptation of the Latin satietatem (abundance, satiety), from satis (enough).

And with that, we’ll say, “Enough!”

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