pronunciation of "sexual" in BrE


Senior Member
Hi there,

I was looking up "to get off with someone" as the BrE equivalent of "to hook up with someone" and the dictionary entry mentioned the word "sexual." As I was reading the explanation in my head with a British accent :), I began to wonder whether it's always pronounced ['seksjʊəl] in BrE. Looked it up on
and found both what I take to be the BrE pronunciation, namely ['seksjʊəl], and the AmE pronunciation, i.e. ['sɛkʃʊəl]. So I take it the ['sɛkʃʊəl] pronunciation is used in the UK as well?

  • MilkyBarKid

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think you mean |ˈsek sh oōəl|, ...which despite those saying the former, is my preference. The former sounds too academically pretentious for me.


    Senior Member
    I may be an exception, but my pronunciation has a clear -ks- with no trace of -sh- or ʃ

    This is probably a result of my mother's Scots-Puritanical upbringing -- with the strong -ks- you can make it sound d-i-i-i-rrrty and s-i-i-i-nnnful in ways that the ' ʃ ' prevents you from doing. :eek:

    For the record, however, I have never called the old diagnostic procedure an ' ɛkʃ '-ray either. :p



    Senior Member
    UK English
    For the record, however, I have never called the old diagnostic procedure an ' ɛkʃ '-ray either. :p
    I don't think many people would :p
    The nature of the [ʃ] sound appearing is conditioned by [j] appearing next to a high-back vowel.

    This type of pronunciation, with the /ʃ/ is hugely common in the UK, and a lot of it comes from what's called Yod-coalescence, where the [j] present in an [s] being followed by [u/ʊ] sound, traditionally there has been an intervening glide [j], which coalesces with the [s] and drags it further back so it goes from being an alveolar sound to being post-alveolar, which is the [s]->[ʃ] shift mentioned.

    For many many words in America the yod was completely dropped and then it's either preserved (traditional, slightly old-fashioned, typically RP) or it has coalesced (most natural/normal pronunciation in the UK).

    So [sɛksjʊəl] would have been the original (c.f. [sju:t] ('suit'), [ɪsju:] ('issue')) which is part of the group where yod-dropping didn't occur in American English (unlike words such as 'tune' / 'tuna', which did drop it). So it's not out of place at all to find British speakers who haven't adopted the coalesced version, but in many many other places it has occurred.

    I remember posting about this a few months ago, I'll try and find the post for anyone who wants to do some further reading.
    'produce' pronounced as pro-juice?

    Hmm that's the only post I can find, I'm sure there was another more lengthy one...

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