pronunciation: falcon


Senior Member

Here's another pronunciation problem that I find really puzzling and mind-boggling, namely the word falcon. (I know that some might arrive at the conclusion that one day I'll end up on the funny farm, spending my time poring over the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, but who cares....:D)

According to the aforementioned source, these are the following alternatives:


a) fɔːlkən /ɔː/ as in horse
b) fɔːkən silent /l/
c) fɒlkən /ɒ/ as in clock
d) fælkən /æ/ as in cat


a) fælkən
b) fɔːlkən
c) fɑːlkən /ɑː/ as in car

Which of the above do you consider to be in the most widespread use?

Do you, AmEnglish speakers, have a tendency to avoid dropping /l/?

On a side note, according to the Cambridge English Pronunciation Dictionary, version "b" is the usual British pronunciation among people who practice the sport of falconry.

Would you go along with that?

Do you happen to know why it is this version that has gained popularity among those people?
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  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    BrE b) [fɔːkən] is what I use, and is also the most regular pronunciation - the vowel change before [l] also occurred in wall, tall, alder, etc., and the subsequent loss of [l] before [k] also occurred in walk, talk, etc. It's all the pronunciations except b) that require special explanation. Presumably, the word is not in common use except among falconers (pronounced Fawkner as in the surname), so other people have over the years adopted spelling pronunciations for it. I wouldn't like to guess which was most common however.

    c) [fɒlkən] is a regular development of a) [fɔːlkən]. The shortening of this vowel before [l] + consonant has happened in many other words, around 1900 or a bit before: salt, halt, Walter.

    AmE c) [fɑːlkən] is of course the regular development from the earlier vowel [ɔː] (or even [ɒ] if it was ever at that stage in AmE, though I doubt it was).


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Another of your difficult questions, audio!

    To be honest, I think falcon is just one of those words for which several pronunciations exist; another one is almond. I say (a) /fɔːlkən/, but with a very exiguous dark 'l' - it's almost (b) /fɔːkən/, but not quite. [On the other hand, I say almond as /ælmənd/, with /æ/ as in cat.]

    I expect ETB is right and there's a degree of "spelling pronunciation" going on.

    As to which is the most common - I honestly have no idea:(.


    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Usual disclaimer...
    From the edge of the BE world where we tend to pronounce things as they are written ...
    No, let's not say that.
    Let's say that we pronounce things the way that standard English spelling represents them, in contrast with lots of other BE-speakers who have perverted the pronunciation.

    A falcon always has an /l/ in the middle.
    I think that means my falcon sounds like (c) fɒlkən /ɒ/ as in clock.


    Senior Member
    US, English
    As an AE speaker, I think it has an "L" in the middle and the "a" is pronounced like the a in cat.


    Senior Member
    My falcon sounds like choice a. (Where the a sounds like the a in cat.) I have never ever ever ever heard it without the "l".


    Senior Member
    English English
    From Not-So-Near-The-Edge as Panjo but Not-So-Near-The-Centre as Entang: it's always (c) for me too, Audiszko. Al- and -al[C]- are generally /ɒl/ for me: alter, halter, falcon, alder, even Salisbury has it (which causes a bit of bemusement among my in-laws in /'sɒlzbri/:D)

    But almond ... oh dear:( ... for the first 30-odd years I said /'ɒlmənd/ (as above) then it all went haywire: now, for some weird reason, I say /'ɑ:mənd/:confused:

    I too have no idea what the commonest pronunciation is.

    I've never met a falconer.


    Senior Member
    The first syllable rhymes with shall. After that, all bets are off. The second syllable ranges in sound from kin to ken to con. All three may be said by the same person according to the words before and after the bird, and may vary with the speed, loudness, and intensity of the person's speech. Whether a leather sleeve affects pronunciation is one I'll leave to the haberdashers.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    ... and, audiolaik, don´t forget golf

    This inconsistency of English pronunciation goes a long way to explain why we will probably never have a properly phonetic alphabet.


    Senior Member
    USA English
    I think the most common pronunciation for the bird itself is a) fælkən, but I have heard b) fɔːlkən from people more familiar with falcons.

    I have never heard c)
    fɑːlkən /ɑː/ as in car.

    For fancy things named for the bird,
    b) fɔːlkən seems to be preferred, presumably because it sounds fancier.


    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I'm outside of the radar of the BE world, though my pronunciation is BE style, whatever that means.

    I say /fɔːlkən/, and I pronounce almond like ewie /'ɑ:mənd/.

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In Derby, people tend to use BE pronunciation d), /fælkən/, just as they tend to say /ælbənɪ/ for "Albany" and /tælbət/ for "Talbot". I use BE pronunciaton a) for "falcon": /fɔːlkən/ , because this was my parents' pronunciation and the one I heard around me when I was a kid in the London area.
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    Senior Member
    Australia English
    For at least 40 years, the Ford Motor Company has sold a car called a Falcon in Australia.

    In their radio and television commercials the name has always been pronounced:
    fælkən /æ/ as in cat

    I don't think you'll hear any other pronunciation in Australia.


    Senior Member
    I said all the pronunciations to myself so many times while reading this thread that I forgot the one that I actually use. I'm pretty sure it's like the a in cat, and with the l pronounced.


    New Member
    I just finished watching "The Maltese Falcon". Falcon is constantly pronounced with the first syllable as in all or fall.
    When Ford Motor Company came out with their Falcon they used the first syllable as pal or Sal. That started the change of the pronounciation to the silly sounding one used by the Atlanta football team. I personally cannot use the new style.
    Watch the movie. It's always Falcon as in fall.
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