pronunciation of dour

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susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
Hi there,

Is there a difference between the British pronunciation of dour and the American one? Is there a preference for either [doo-uh-r] or [dou-er]?

It's "dour" as in
1. sullen; gloomy: The captain's dour look depressed us all.
2. severe; stern: His dour criticism made us regret having undertaken the job.

Thanks!
 
Last edited:
  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    As an American English speaker I've always heard and said "dour" to rhyme with "sour". If I heard "doo-uhr" I would think the person was saying either "dure" (which means difficult, hard) or "doer" (a person who does quite a lot).
     

    Merrit

    Senior Member
    English
    This is the first time in my life I've ever heard of "dour" to rhyme with "sour"!

    For me, it almost rhymes with "poor".

    If you put "dour" into the Dictionary and thread title search: block at the top of the page, and then follow the links to Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com, and then click on the little loudspeaker icons, you'll hear how to pronounce it.

    James and I are both right, but I think his is AmE while mine is BrE.

    m
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    There are three main ones:

    'däwər' - American

    'da-wə' - English

    'dür' - Scottish

    I only mention Scottish because it's a Scottish word, from the Latin 'durus', so that is its original pronounciation. However since it rhymes with the Scottish 'hour' and 'our', the English and others made it rhyme with their respective pronounciations of the 'our' ending. Except in some parts of England, particularly the North, they still remember the Scottish version.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    The OED only gives one pronunciation: /duːr/ (which is a bit like JamesM's "doer"). That's how I pronounce it, but non-rhotically (The OED's pronunciation guides show /r/ but assume that non-rhotic speakers will not pronounce it). US and UK pronunciations of the same vowel pronuncation are available here.
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Well, I see Merrit certainly does (remember the Scottish version). Copperknickers, thanks for an interesting commentary. And thank you Merrit and JamesM! So there is a preference, and yet, as Copperknickers points out, there are some parts in England where they pronounce it the [hour] way.
    Edit: Thanks, Matching Mole. It's interesting that the other pronunciation doesn't appear at all in the Oxford dictionary!
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    The Oxford Dictionary is a stickler for propriety, so of course it will have the proper pronounciation. In fact even in Southern England it was probably pronounced to rhyme with 'door' for some time, it's more mispronounciation to say 'da'wa' than phonetic shift but it's a very common one and if anything more understandable.
     

    Merrit

    Senior Member
    English
    The OED only gives one pronunciation: /duːr/ (which is a bit like JamesM's "doer"). That's how I pronounce it, but non-rhotically (The OED's pronunciation guides show /r/ but assume that non-rhotic speakers will not pronounce it). US and UK pronunciations of the same vowel pronuncation are available here.

    Mr Mole, did you notice that the example sentence in your link is "The normally dour Mr James was photographed smiling and joking with friends. " :)

    m
     

    losvedir

    Senior Member
    English - California
    This is all very interesting! I've only ever heard and said "dour" to rhyme with "sour". Something like Dow (the stock market index) er.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    The only pronunciation I've ever heard for "dour" is the one given by MM in post 5 above.

    But then, I rather think the only person I ever heard using the word was my husband - a Scot:).
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I strongly associate the word dour with Scotland and with a stereotype of Scottish men; accordingly I can't hear it in my mind except with a Scottish accent, nor do I ever say it without attempting one (including rolled rrrrrr).
     

    AmEStudent

    Senior Member
    Italian/Albanian - bilingual
    Merriam-Webster gives /duɚ/ as primary and /daʊɚ/ as secondary; of the 4 Americans on forvo only one uses the latter.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, like Teddy, I think of it as a Scottish word - however, I think it can be 'naturalised', so when I say it I wouldn't adopt a rhotic accent. I pronounce it like doer. This would be different from some Scottish words like dreich when I would adopt a kind of Scottish pronunciation - flap /r/, /ç/ for ch.

    Maybe we have different tolerances. I think dour has gone into general English more than dreich.
     

    estefanos

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I'm also an AE speaker, raised in California. The "dour rhymes with sour" pronunciation is the only one I've ever heard or used. It's not a common word, but I've nonetheless heard it spoken many times.

    I, also, would think I'd misheard, or that the word being spoken was 'dure', if it were said the other way, that is, rhyming with 'poor'.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    In the US, there is an apparent split between the coasts. In my experience, dour rhymes with tour, not with "sour". The American Heritage Dictionary has this to say on the question in its "Usage Note" following the definition:

    The word dour, which is etymologically related to duress and endure, traditionally rhymes with tour. The variant pronunciation that rhymes with sour is, however, widely used and must be considered acceptable. In a recent survey, 65 percent of the Usage Panel preferred the traditional pronunciation, and 33 percent preferred the variant.
     

    Bender_Bending_Rodriguez

    Senior Member
    English - Canadian
    In the US, there is an apparent split between the coasts. In my experience, dour rhymes with tour, not with "sour". The American Heritage Dictionary has this to say on the question in its "Usage Note" following the definition:

    The word dour, which is etymologically related to duress and endure, traditionally rhymes with tour. The variant pronunciation that rhymes with sour is, however, widely used and must be considered acceptable. In a recent survey, 65 percent of the Usage Panel preferred the traditional pronunciation, and 33 percent preferred the variant.
    In New York people say it in a way that rhymes with "tour"? That's very weird. I'm in Canada but very close to NY and, although I haven't heard the word much, people here all seem to pronounce it like "sour."
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Hi again, I just saw the last few posts about the New York, California, and Canada -- very interesting!
     

    suzbuz1st

    New Member
    English - American
    Hi! I live in Ohio (USA), which is sort of the "eastern" midwest of the continent, and I've always thought the pronunciation of "dour" to rhyme with "hour" (tower). I don't hear it pronounced that often, so I'm not sure whether I made up the pronunciation due to its resemblance to the word "hour" or whether I heard it, and was very surprised to hear the rhyming with "tour" pronunciation. I am relieved, however, to know both are acceptable.
     
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