pronunciation: samba. [Merriam Webster Unabridged IPA symbols]

Sasha Ivanov

Senior Member
samba /'sam, 'säm, 'saam, 'såm/
Could you please explain to me exactly what the difference is between the four sounds, please, using respelling.
That would help me a lot in the future.
I know the first, its just "sam", "bad".
Second, I found, ä is "mop".
The forth is just an "a" with one dot, same exact simple dot as in ä, but one, smack in the center.
I just couldn't find this symbol and found similar.
Last edited:
  • elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    This is not an English-language question. The dictionary should include a guide to their transcription symbols.


    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Second, I found, ä is "mop".
    In my Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language (College edition, 1956), they give this as the symbol for the 'a' in 'car' and 'father'.
    This is strange for me, because in BE the 'o' in 'mop' sounds nothing like the 'a' in 'car' and 'father', but sure enough today's online M-W uses the same symbol for all three.

    Here are some other guides from the above edition:

    For the plain 'a' with no marks, it gives 'fat' and 'lap'.
    For the one with a horizontal line above it, it gives 'ape' and 'date'.
    It also has 'â' (with a hat or circumflex) for 'bare' and 'care'. The online one uses 'e' for this.
    It lists the 'å' with a single dot (which if you look closely is actually a tiny circle) in a section "Foreign Sounds" as representing the sound in French 'bal', saying it "can perhaps best be described as intermediate between 'a' and 'ä', corresponding closely to IPA /a/".


    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    In my AE dialect, the A in "father" and "ah" is the same as the O in "mop".

    The WR dictionary uses /ɑ/ for all three (in AE, but not in BE).

    Sasha Ivanov

    Senior Member
    Just say, US speakers, can you personally pronounce this word four different ways? IF yes, then how. In respelling. SAM-buh, SAHM-buh, maybe SAAHM-buh??, SUHM-buh?


    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    I pronounce "samba" using /ɑ/ for both vowels. But I think that's a Spanish pronunciation.
    Americans might use /æ/ for the first vowel.
    Americans might use /ə/ for the second vowel.

    SAM-buh, SAHM-buh, maybe SAAHM-buh??, SUHM-buh?
    It isn't clear what sound each of your spellings represents.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    Why worry about learning all four potential pronunciations? Why not pick one (I'd recommend SAM-buh as it is in AE and BE) and next time you are out dancing, or watching some dancing, and might wish to say the word, you won't be wrong.


    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I have a 10th edition Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. It only gives \ˈsam-bə, ˈsäm-\. This translates to IPA /ˈsæmbə/ and /ˈsɑmbə/. I suspect the single-dot version represents /ˈsambə/ - the continental value of <a>, which many British accents are approximating.


    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    To find Merriam Webster's guide to their transcription symbols.

    Do a dictionary search for any English word to get to any WR definition page.​
    Click on the link at be bottom of our definition page.: Look up [word] at Merriam-Webster​
    Click on the 'Help' link at the bottom of the Merriam Webster definition page.​
    The link leads to a page titled "Help" with a section titled: Merriam-Webster Reference Help.​
    That includes:​


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I haven't heard anyone that knows the word and its origin pronounce it with the short a of cat. I would always expect the a of father.

    Someone who had never seen the word might pronounce it with the short a.

    Merriam Webster has had their own pronunciation guide for a hundred years or more I'm guessing. The first Merriam Webster dictionary was published in 1847, before IPA was even invented. I'm guessing the early editions probably didn't have pronunciation information but I could be wrong.