Learn English – Why did the letter “o” disappear in the word “pronunciation”


The verb pronounce has the letter o in its second syllable, but in the noun pronunciation, that same letter disappears from the corresponding position.

Why is that?

Best Answer

The direct answer to your immediate question is because it never had one — and so of course it couldn’t possibly lose something it never had.

The problem is that you’ve asked a bit of a backwards question; the frontwards question is:

Why did pronunciation, annunciation, enunciation, renunciation all change their vowel for the verbs pronounce, announce, enounce, renounce?

The answer lies in how we acquired them from Old French, where the verbs already had Latin’s u changed to o and which we later diphthonged, but where the differently stressed nouns did not.

More recent exports — well, or envoys — from Rome that didn’t pass through France suffered no such frobnication; just ask your nearest papal nuncio.

Here are the OED’s etymology entries for these:


ME. pronunce, pronounce, a. OFr. pronuncier (1277 in Godef. Compl.), for earlier purnuncier (mod.Fr. prononcer) :– late L. prōnunciāre for orig. prōnuntiāre to proclaim, announce, rehearse, narrate, pronounce, f. prō, PRO1 + nunti-āre to announce: cf. ANNOUNCE, ENOUNCE.


a. OFr. anonce-r, earlier anoncier, anuncier :– L. adnuntiā-re, f. ad to + nuntiāre to bear a message, f. nunti-us bringing news. See AN- pref. 6.


ad. Fr. énoncer, ad. L. ēnuntiā-re (see ENUNCIATE), after the analogy of ANNOUNCE.


ad. Fr. renoncer (OFr. also renuncer) :– L. renuntiāre (-ciāre) to announce, proclaim, also to disclaim, protest against, f. re- re- + nuntiāre to make known, report: cf. ANNOUNCE, DENOUNCE, etc.


a. earlier Ital. nuncio, nuntio (now nunzio), = Sp. and Pg. nuncio :– L. nuncius, nuntius messenger.

Understand that this is the same thing that happened to Latin uncia meaning one-twelfth part of something, which coming to us by way of Old French eventually gave us an ounce, twelve of which make a troy pound.

However, the more direct borrowing from the Latin uncia into Old English itself was ynch, a different vowel that ultimately became inch, twelve of which make a foot.

There is also the ounce that means lynx, but that word traces a slightly different route between Latin and English, having confused the leading l- for an article and therefore losing it, much as a napron became an apron over a confusion about articles, just as occurred with an orange which originally had a leading n- in the noun.