The Grammarphobia Blog

How erudite is your pronunciation?

Q: Why do so many people mispronounce “erudite” as ER-yuh-dite instead of the proper ER-uh-dite? And what does that have to say about their erudition?

A: Both ER-yuh-dite and ER-uh-dite are standard American pronunciations for “erudite.” In fact, Stewart uses the first one and Pat the second. (No, they won’t call the whole thing off.)

Both pronunciations are listed without comment in the two US dictionaries we consult the most, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.) and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.).

Interestingly, the Cambridge Dictionaries Online website lists ER-uh-dite as the British pronunciation and ER-yuh-dite as the American.

The adjective “erudite” is derived from the Latin verb erudire (to instruct or train). The verb combines e (out) with rudis (rude or untrained).

In fact “erudite” meant trained or well-instructed when it entered English in the 1400s, but that sense of the word is now considered obsolete or archaic, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The noun “erudition,” which entered English around the same time, meant training or instructing, but the OED says that sense is now obsolete too.

Today, as you know, “erudition” means great knowledge, and “erudite” means having such knowledge.

As for your question, it’s OK for an American to use either pronunciation. And it’s OK to have strong feelings about one or the other.

Pat, for example, thinks Stewart’s pronunciation of “erudite” is overly erudite. It reminds her of postings we’ve written about the pronunciation of “news” as NYOOZE and “Tuesday” as CHYOOZ-day.

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