The pronunciation of "e" in "mercury".

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Senior Member
I am curious to know why the letter "e" in "mercury" is pronounced /ə/ as it is the stressed syllable. I guessed it is pronounced /ˈmeːkjʊri / but I was wong.
  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Sorry, I don't think that's the one that we should look out for because this is a stressed syllable. It is the one above:

    (the 'nurse' vowel)

    This is longer or more tense, and slightly lower, than the ər vowel.

    I don't pronounce the 'r' in my own accent, so I say /mɜːkjʊri/.

    Baab, your pronunciation would sound more acceptable in a Scottish accent.


    American English
    Does it sound like the second sound to you in "demure", natkretep?

    I surmised a divide on this.

    I still agree with benny.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    M-W unabridg. has the same symbol, the backwards 'e' for the e in her, the u in hurt, and the y in myrtle. There are second and third choices for 'hurt.'
    Yes - Merriam-Webster doesn't use IPA symbols: it indicates that fact by surrounding its phonetic representations with \ \, rather than IPA's / /.

    I wonder, in fact, if that's what underlies baab's question. As nat says, in IPA "mercury" would have /ɜr/ or /ɜː/.
    But according to this table of Merriam-Webster pronunciation symbols, M-W uses ə in its representations of all of:
    ~ the first vowel of abut
    ~ the second vowel of abut
    ~ the first vowel of further
    ~ the second vowel of further.
    Last edited:
    I think the point of M-W is that while there may be tiny differences by region and nation, one cannot codify one nuance as correct. As above, even the presence of the sound 'r', if at all, varies.

    Thus distinguishing the vowels of 'further' is likely a snipe hunt unless one is doing a phonetic survey by region, country, age group and so on.
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