Saturday, January 07, 2006

Today's Word: metathesis

( Scroll down for update)

(metathesis: Definition and Much More From

Metathesis is a sound change that alters the order of phonemes in a word. The most common instance of metathesis is the reversal of the order of two adjacent phonemes.

Many languages have words that show this phenomenon, and some use it as a regular part of their grammar. The process of metathesis has altered the shape of many familiar words in the English language, too.

The use of ax for ask goes back to Old English days, when ascian and axian were both in use. Some other frequently heard pronunciations in English that display metathesis are:

intersting or intresting for interesting
intregal for integral
julary for jewelry
nucular for nuclear
reelator for realtor
revelant for relevant

The process has shaped many English words historically. Bird in English was once bryd, run was once irnan, horse was hros, wasp is also recorded as hasp. The discrepancy between the spelling of iron and the usual pronunciation is the result of metathesis.

So, the next time President Bush says "nu-ku-lar" and you cringe, just remember that, with his graduate degrees from Yale, he's employing metathesis!

Update: Rudy reminds us of the "Great Vowel Shift" and provides a link at:


Rudy said...

This sounds similar to the
Great Vowel Shift.

Regards :)

OORANOS said...

Have a good time