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Pronunciation: aunt

I’m not sure if we can ask pronunciation questions here. Well, I’d like to know the correct way to pronounce “aunt,” whether it’s closer to “ant” or “ont.” When you answer, please say where you’re from. I’m curious if it’s an American vs British English thing.

In Western Canada we say “ant.”

  • January 2, 2006
  • Posted by jon
  • Filed in Misc
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There was a 'flip" of the pronunciation sometime in the late 70s/early 80s. Black Americans began pronouncing it as a Brit would say it--'ought' sound. Before then, it was always like the bug--'ant'.
I believe it had to do with wanting to sound more sophisticated, as growing up as a black man or woman in the USA in the 70s and 80s was still troubled, especially living and working in predominately Caucasian areas. Most likely a well known figure like Jesse Jackson or a more controversial one like Don King used it like that in a speech and it caught on.
Personally I think it sounds very ridiculous when you hear that same person saying "axe" for ask and other Ebonic pronunciations, but they hold on fast to the "ought" sound for aunt.

Edward Michaels October 22, 2016, 9:51pm

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I grew up in Texas. Everyone and their dog, regardless of race, says it like the insect--'ant'. American blacks regardless of where they are from within the U.S. all now say it like 'ought' sound, because sometime in the 80s, some big shot black celeb/politician (most likely Jesse Jackson) decided to say it that way in a speech. Blacks all over the country picked up on it, so as to sound "more sophisticated". I can promise you up until that time, blacks in the South all said it 'ANT', as did N. E. Coast blacks. It's sounds so ridiculous, because when you got all these blacks saying things like 'axe' for ask and 'wutchyou...' for 'what are you...', but got to say all poshy Brit-like 'aunt', it's like Eliza Doolittle posturing.

Edward Michaels October 22, 2016, 9:41pm

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HOW TO PRONOUNCE Aunt in Canada or is it Ant?

Marion MACdONALD June 1, 2016, 5:55pm

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"Aunt" should rhyme with "Haunt;" therefore I say ont.
Born in Arkansas but raised in California.

Kelvin Richardson May 27, 2016, 5:56pm

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it doesent work

trinity May 4, 2016, 9:20am

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In Ohio we say "ant".

kay January 1, 2016, 3:39pm

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Just to contribute to the confusion, many Black Americans also use "ain'." As far as I can tell, an ain'ie is a grand aunt or an aunt who cared for nieces and nephews and/or who pass down family traditions. When my niece was born, I made sure that I was not "auntie" but ain' J because I have a lot to pass down!! I was born and raised in California, but my family is from East Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Because it is a title of honor, I do not view it as slang. Ain' is simply an offshoot of the beautiful, colorful foilage that is SAEE!
For the record, I pronounce aunt phonetically.

J. Gail Avery December 22, 2015, 6:45pm

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I live in New Orleans and am a black Creole. My mother was a high school English teacher and always said, "Ants walk on the ground. Your father's sister is your "Ont". I've looked it up and for some reason a majority of American speakers use the ant pronunciation. I taught my son to say "ont" and always feel it sounds better and cannot be confused with the insect. Plus I believe it has something to do with British influence in the colonies. Though this was French, Spanish colony, there was the Carib connection and I'm sure New Orleans had many British settlers and planters. And of course we had a large immigrant population from Ireland mid-century around the Civil War. In combination with Italians and Germans, who knows how it happened. But it does seem to be more prevalent in the black population.

I also grew up saying "draw a bath," which of course means draw water up out of a well. There were no wells in New Orleans to draw anything from in my childhood, but what a holdover! Two hundred years! And the French " I'm making groceries, a chicken, a dress..." From Faire de cuisine, faire de whatever, are direct translations from French to English. Franglais. I think there are so many crossovers down here, that's what happened.

Ann Plicque September 28, 2015, 10:14am

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@Brus - Yes, Jeremy Hunt is often the butt of this kind of joke. Was your vicar a country vicar, by any chance? Rhetorical question.

Warsaw Will May 29, 2014, 2:08am

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WWill - the pronunciation had nothing to do with the tale at all, as it is a written tale. I just put it in because it reminded me of the old ducks in the eastern parts of South Africa who talk that way, when choosing to use English. They say 'aunt' as in 'authentic' but also say 'aren't' the same way. "We aunt goin' to taahn todayee" means 'We aren't going to town today', for example ('aunt' pronounced as in authentic).
Now, is there another possible answer to the vicar's question? I believe it came up in the British parliament (in London) not long ago, when someone cocked up while calling for Mr Jeremy Hunt to say something about something. Ribaldry and laughter all round. Not a dry seat in the House.Indeed, how the barriers have fallen!

Brus May 28, 2014, 6:58pm

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@Brus - but was the pronunciation of aunt an essential part of the story (in which case I think I've missed something), or did you add that on yourself? Talking of your story, one thing I have noticed is how often allusions are made nowadays on Radio Four to the other possible answer to the Vicar's question, in relatively sedate programmes such as 'Just a minute'. How the barriers have fallen!

Warsaw Will May 28, 2014, 1:48pm

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WWill, It’s a very old story, the vicar and the crossword. You are correct, it’s a strange way to say aunt, but in Britain lots of people say things in strange ways. The Telegraph the other day had correspondence about it, involving how to contract long meaningless clichés like “know what I mean?” and "I've got to be honest" into one word, and then perhaps one syllable. I do know a few old ladies who say ‘aunt’ as in ‘authentic’ but they say lots of other things in a drawly way, too, especially after a few gins. Come to think of it, they are always South Africans from the eastern side of that lovely country. And they say "aren't" exactly the same way as "aunt" and although they never say "authentic" they would say that in the same way too. Like 'awnt', 'awthentuk' .

How do Americans say "arctic" and "antarctic"? Do the inhabitants of those inhospitable places cringe and raise their eyebrows when they hear these terms enunciated this way? Okay, me too ...

Back to 'aunt' ...

Brus May 28, 2014, 11:36am

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@Brus - I'm fascinated to know who in Britain pronounces the au in aunt even approximately like the au in authentic. Or perhaps I should say pronounced, seeing it's on British Railways, which (for non-Brits) hasn't existed for twenty years or so.

Warsaw Will May 28, 2014, 2:20am

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Come to think of it, "aren't" in England is how we pronounce the female appendage to the family, like father's or mother's sister, aunt, while Americans who say "ain't" for 'aren't' also call their aunts 'ain'ts'. Think of the elocution teacher scenes in "Singing in the Rain". Does it follow then that if your aunt is an 'ant' then you must say 'aren't' as in "Sorry, we ant coming out tonight"?

Brus May 27, 2014, 7:25pm

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There was a vicar (predikant, minister, padre, priest, parson, or whatever you call it in your parts) on a train doing a newspaper crossword, and looking very surprised and bewildered and confused. He said to the professor sitting opposite "it's the last clue, I have the last three letters and it's a four-letter answer, _unt, and the clue is 'female appendage'. The professor says "well, it's 'aunt', surely?". The vicar says "Of course it is! Do you have an rubber (eraser)?"

And they both pronounce it with a long 'au' as in 'authentic' with a hint of "aren't" to mellow it a bit, because they are posh folk. And the crossword is the Times, and the train is British Railways. And they are going first class.

Brus May 27, 2014, 7:18pm

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Like I stated back in November, the pronunciation is geographical. Aunt pronounced "Ont" is a Northeastern part of the country or British way to say it. Aunt, pronounced "Ant" is everywhere else in the country, and I mean everywhere else, unless you relocated from the northeast to somewhere else. There are some in the south that also say "Aint". Black americans, at least the ones I grew up with all pronounce it "Ont" or 'Ontee". I grew up in Louisville, KY, pronounced Lou-ah-vull not Loueey Ville or Louis Ville lol! I have live in Colorado since 1980 and it is "Ant" out here except for the brothers and those from the northeast that brought it with them. To me totally sounds English, "Dear ole chap, tell you Ont and Mum to come down for a spot of tea!"

WordMasterRick May 27, 2014, 7:06pm

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It drives me nuts when people say ant. I was brought up to say ahnt and very clearly remember my high school English teacher admonishing students that an ant is something that crawls on the ground. And, although my ahnt may do that occasionally, I still refer to her as my ahnt! Lol

Pegathee May 26, 2014, 10:34pm

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I think of aunt as in water ya wouldn't say waaaaater haha
Or like taught, but there are words like gauge that sound like ayy
But I still say aunt as in taunt.
It doesn't matter if one's way sounds better or correct, it's a matter of what YOU think
But still, personally I say aunt not ant

Ocher April 15, 2014, 6:37pm

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"Ah," "au," and "aw" each are to sound like "crawdad" and "debacle." I admit. however, that "laughter" and "slaughter" are indeed pronounced differently, for "laughter" is pronounced "laffter" unless of course you're of the England persuasion due to the vowels each having one set sound, but the controversy with the word "aunt...." If it is pronounced the same as the insect, is there a reason for the dropped "u?" I've always used phonics to pronounce words of all languages--from English (American and British alike) and Spanish to Japanese. Try to keep in mind that you can't always rely on how family words things. You may want to sound like your peers, but honestly as long as it's written correctly on paper, then it really shouldn't matter.

エクセヴィアー February 15, 2014, 9:19am

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I'm from Boston and I say "ont", as does everyone I know who's from here.

Tay November 23, 2013, 1:17pm

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@Carol345 ... Lots of folks say the 'l' in walk, talk, asf. It's not hard to add the 'k' to 'tall' to make the 'talk' sound. But then, in my neck of the woods ... awl and all sound alike ... so the 'awl' and 'al' sounds the same. Thus tawk=talk.

As for the 'wh'. Most, not all, 'wh' words hav a 'hw' sound: what (h)wət, (h)wät http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/am... . Indeed, in OE they were spelt with 'hw' ... hwæt (what), hwīl (while), hwæl (whale). It was one of those letter swaps in ME mainly owing to the French way of spelling with the Carolina script (putting the 'h' after the 'w' broke up the minims). Tho for another reason, we also took on the French way of 'le' insted of 'el' ... thus lytel became lyttle/little.

As I'v said before ... the word 'aunt' comes from Old French 'ante' (today's French 'tante') so there was no 'u' there to start with ... that came from Anglo-French so it chang'd in England tho we do fine 'ante' in late ME and erly Mod English. Even in OE, the way words were said would change from shire to shire.

Both ways of saying it are acknowledg'd so I see no reason to bicker about it. Tomahto ... Tomaeto.

AnWulf November 15, 2013, 12:38am

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I am reminded of the elocution lesson in Some like it Hot, set in Hollywood when the 'talkies' came, and the established silent screen star whose name I forget turned out to speak poorly, saying 'I can't' to rhyme with 'ant' and being coached to say it with the long 'au', cahnt. Now why would they make the poor woman do this, if not for a good reason, hey? Well, the studio wanted the public to adore her, so she would have to speak properly, they reckoned. I rest my case. And I ain't American.

Brus November 6, 2013, 5:50am

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@WordMasterRick - Merriam-Webster gives both pronunciations of (n)either for American English \ˈnē-thər also ˈnī-\ - In British English we have a choice and I'm pretty sure I say \'naɪðə(r)\ ("I") on some occasions and ˈ\niːðə(r)\ ("E") on others.

Warsaw Will November 1, 2013, 9:28pm

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Unless you are from New England, for those of you geographically challenged that's the northeast(Massachusetts and above). Aunt is pronounced "ANT", if you don't live in New England and you say "ONT" you are just confused. This isn't an opinionated answer, it is based on fact. Just like the words "Neither and Either", pronounced with an "I" sound is British, with a "E" it's American.

WordMasterRick November 1, 2013, 6:50pm

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Then why not say ncle instead of uncle, and if its one of those words with a silent U, why does 'american' english drop it in many other words but not this one?

Corey H. October 5, 2013, 1:23pm

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If you look in the current Dictionary you will see that "aunt" is pronounced "ant". The "u" is silent. This is one of those words that sound alike but have different meanings. This is the way I was taught in school.

Linda October 5, 2013, 10:16am

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I pronounce it ant I lived in Kansas when I was a child and my family is from Ohio but I now live in Virginia in the tidewater area and almost everyone around here pronounces it ont even some pronounce it unt

kandace August 20, 2013, 11:16pm

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I'm from mid missouri and I have always pronounced it änt (ont) my aunt hayes this but it is the way I was raised

And it isn't so hard to do dictionary pronunciation symbols press and hold alt button on keyboard and type with the number pad any 3 digits up to 250 and you'll get a different result for each combo

Isaac s June 28, 2013, 10:19am

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@Skeeter Lewis - for example I've just heard an announcer on BBC Radio 4, with an otherwise standard "middle class" accent pronounce "past" with a short a - /pæst/ rather than a long a - /pɑ:st/.

Warsaw Will May 12, 2013, 9:46am

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@Skeeter Lewis and others - I agree with you that there is an element of class to it, but I think it's a little more complicated than that, as peteskully pointed out. There's also a regional difference. Yes RP speakers will say /ɑ:nt/ ('ahnt') everywhere in Britain, but I suspect middle middle class northerners are just as likely to say /ænt/ ('ant') as their working class counterparts. Similarly a Cockney will say /ɑ:nt/ ('ahnt') not /ænt/ ('ant'). It's the same with words like 'bath'.

Warsaw Will May 12, 2013, 7:20am

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@Kate Gladstone I do happen to agree with some of what you are saying but your comparison are almost like the people who compare august to aunt

(Taking your sentence apart) I'm also wondering if you pronounce the consonant L in "folk," "talk," and "calf."

(While I agree that it's silent, without an L it will become fok tak so even if it's not heard it does make a difference Kate instead of Fouk, tauk maybe we should add a "U" instead)

(I happen to agree with this one without these letters they will still sound the same) Doubtless you —like the rest of us — have never bothered about the B in "doubt" and the P in "receipt"

... not to mention the W in "who" (ho are you? I'm surely to get slapped across the face)

and "two." (back to agreeing)

Have you forgotten the C in "indict" (indit?)

and the G in "sign"? ( I need a sin)

Don't forget the N in "autumn," (Ok)

the M that begins "mnemonic," (This brings a world of problems while the m is silent where does that W come from)

and the B that ends "thumb." (And how do you pronounce ONE, I wonder?)


-Okay so for some regions if you don't use a "U" in aunt we will be fine. But some of the examples you use like "sign" well it becomes a whole new word completely. The point of my statement is that as long as we can communicate it doesn't matter.

I completely understand that what your saying that just because it's there doesn't mean we have to use it but I would have got with tight knit examples like "knit" which is kind of like "aunt" silent and even if you drop the letter it's still pronounced the same way "knit" and "nit" is still pronounced the same way kind of like "aunt" and "ant."

I honestly don't care how anyone one says it. I just find the discussion funny and somewhat offensive and I'm not even black! Maybe it doesn't bother me how it's said because I've live in two different regions that pronounces the words differently. I don't even catch the difference half the time. The only reason why I'm here at this site today is that I heard and American and Australian person talking and during the same conversation they said it differently. Usually if the person says Ant first I will say ant as well and if the person says aunt first I will use aunt during my conversation. Neither side adjusted during this conversation and that's why I caught it. Fun thing is that they kept going like nothing. They didn't seem to notice they were saying the same thing differently.


Nit-The egg or young form of a louse or other parasitic insect, esp. the egg of a head louse attached to a human hair.

Carol345 May 11, 2013, 4:25pm

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I've lived in Rhode Island and in Georgia. I hear both in both places although more commonly used in Rhode Island is aunt and in Georgia is ant. I really don't give a flying flip as long as you spell it on paper correctly. I don't exactly want to read your ants and uncles. Like I said I don't really care if it's spelled correctly. I personally find myself switching depending on where I'm at. Now what gets on my nerves is "Windee" for "Wednesday" or "dee" for "day."

Finally, I'm not Black and I will say "ont" because that's what I learned first. It's a regional thing.

I never gotten into an argument like many of you here with people over it because they find it cool. I guess the person with an accent and a different dialect is still appealing to some.

Let me throw this one in there does anyone say regioNAL or regioNOL. I'm honestly curious.

Carol345 May 11, 2013, 3:41pm

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As an American, I am appalled by many of the (what I call) misspellings and/or mis-pronunciations of words. My 6th grade elementary teacher, Miss Echols, was a formidable woman, who hated slang of every form. It was she who instilled a love for the English language in many of us (or a hate!). Where I grew up, there was a very strong Colonial English heritage, so many of the pronunciations and spellings remained long after the official "American" versions changed. Hence, I grew up spelling gray as g-r-e-y. My spell-checker didn't like that spelling, so I amended it. I also spell Savior S-a-v-i-o-u-r. Same story. So, not all us 'Americans' approve of how things are going on here. (Oh, and in my own small rebellious way, though the new dictionaries have dropped the middle 'e', I still spell j-u-d-g-e-m-e-n-t the old-fashioned way.) As for an entire nation using silent U's or not using them at all - my husband's family is Canadian, and they have a few quirky pronunciations and spellings of their own!

Westel April 26, 2013, 4:41am

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Here is my thoughts on the topic. I am from eastern Canada and I hear both "ont" and "ant" and also hear equal amounts of of people criticizing each other based on their way of saying it.

I have a feeling that it was originally "ont" and originated in the United Kimgdom, just like other words with 'u' that aren't pronounced like 'colour' and 'neighbour'. But if that is the case, why do Americans still spell it with a 'u'?

I myself say "ont" since in both Canadian/British English and American English spell with a 'u'. Americans... make up your minds :p decide on if your spelling includes silent U's or don't use them at all.

Corey H. April 25, 2013, 10:34pm

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PROUD NATIVE OF BROOLYN, NY... AND HAVE BEEN CORRECTED MANY A TIME BECAUSE I PRONOUNCE BOTH WORDS AS 'ANT'! THANK YOU FOR THE CONFIRMATION.
MY APOLOGY FOR UPPER CAPS.... NOT YELLING JUST NEAR SITED@,@ LOL

LASMEDINAS April 24, 2013, 9:16am

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Too many people with nothing better to do....

And to the people commenting that decided to cry "racism", grow up...honestly....

DaFuq April 22, 2013, 9:22am

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As an Englishman, I've heard 'ant' and 'ahnt'. There is certainly a class component in the UK. (It's hard to get away from it.) 'Ahnt' is middle and upper class.'Ant' is working class. That's not a judgement - just a sociological observation.
I've never heard awnt, ont or aint but I celebrate the diversity of pronunciation.
The 'au' in 'launch', for example, is pronounced differently here than in the U.S., which may be complicating matters on this thread. We pronounce 'launch', 'haunt' etc. as 'lawnch' and 'hawnt'. Americans, at least to my ear, seem to be saying 'lahnch' and ''hahnt'. But I don't say 'aunt' like any of the above. It seems to be one of a kind.

By the way, I'd like to hear more from Tyrone and his crack ho aunts.

Skeeter Lewis November 2, 2012, 12:45am

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I am from Worcester, MA and as such naturally pronounce Aunt as awnt/ont. Ant just sounds odd to me. Sort of like when I hear the singer Rihanna's name pronounced as Ree-an-ah rather than Ree-ah-nah. Particularly annoying in a British accent. hahah

New Englanda October 31, 2012, 6:27pm

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I was born and raised in Virginia. The majority of the state says, "awnt," or, "ont," as many people describe it on here. Most folks in eastern North Carolina tend to say, "ont," as well.

NateRepublic May 20, 2012, 4:29pm

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As a Japanese speaker of Minneapolis, Minnesota, I say "awnt." I always thought "au" was an "aw" sound. Then again, I usually use Obachan...Lol, Anyway, I'll continue saying "awnt" and even "as-ter-isk" instead of the usual "aster-ix."

An ant is a bug, am I right? April 29, 2012, 10:09am

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I would think that if you are from the south, then it would be pronounced "ain't"

funny guy April 2, 2012, 1:24pm

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I'm from Central Virginia, and we say "Aint" - yep, just like the slang word "ain't". Ai rhyming with hay. Sorry, professor, but your long treatise of proper pronunciation completely omitted the matter of dialect! :-) Aint Kay, Aint Joyce. And yes, we call them Aint or Uncle where I'm from because it's a term of respect. Oh, just FYI, my father and uncle pronounced house "hosse" and about "aboot". The "ou" came out sounding more like they started to say 'ow' but changed their mind and said 'oh' - almost a diphthong, but not quite. But then they and their family were all of Scottish descent, so who could blame them? Oh, and I live in a town called Staunton, but it's pronounced "Stan-tun". Drives the telemarketers crazy!!

Happy days!

Westel March 6, 2012, 7:59am

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@Mom ... as far as aunt ... I think I say it like my parents did. But I do kno that were many other words that I didn't say like they did since I had learned the "proper" pronunciation. I would never expect my kids to talk like me if they thought I was wrong or if there are two ways to say a word and they like the other way.

AnWulf January 17, 2012, 10:47pm

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Hey everybody, I need to know if you pronounce aunt like your parents did, or, if you have changed and, as an adult, pronounce it different now. I grew up with aunt being "ant" (like the insect) and feel my children should respect that and continue with the family pronounciation.

MOM January 16, 2012, 6:58pm

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Sorry, that should've been 'a' sound in my post.

dougincanada January 11, 2012, 9:47am

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Most Canadians pronounce 'aunt' like 'ant'....it's in the dictionary. Likewise, we use the same 'ay' sound in Tanya, Sarah, tacos, pajamas (second 'a'). But on American tv shows I hear the 'aw' sound in the same words (Tawnya, Sawrah, tawcos, pajawmas). I think it's a dialectal difference, and it may vary within the US accordingly.

dougincanada January 11, 2012, 9:30am

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@An English Professor - "There are over a thousand words in Webster Dictionary as well as The Oxford Dictionary which begin with the letters "au" and every one of them is pronounced with the "awe" sound."

Better look again prof. Even if we ignore the outright French words like au jus where the au = ō (BTW, I think I did mention that aunt comes from Old French ante didn't I?) there are words like aubade ōˈbäd. The folks in Augustus, GA say əˈgəstə ... not awe, aumbry ˈambrē, and a few more. In fact, I think most of the words beginning with "au" came thru French and we're mispronouncing them by saying "awe".

As an English prof, you're likely aware that in ME, it was also spelled ante ... "Ion was Crystes ante sonne." (Mirk's Festial: A Collection of Homilies by Johannes Mirkus)

Anent "our" ... The "are" pronunciation is closer to the original pronunciation of the OE "ur, ure" (and that was also a ME spelling: It was in ure seckes don.) so it isn't surprising that many eschew the "hour" pronunciation as it was never that in the first place. That is merely the case of pronunciation chasing the spelling ... As a English prof, you're certainly aware that the Norman-French scribes often substituted the French "ou" for the English "u". Thou was originally þu then thu and then thou (still pronounced thu with the French spelling) and later the pronunciation followed the spelling with "ou" = the "ou" in about, house. Maybe the right thing to do would be to correct the spelling back to ure!

AnWulf January 3, 2012, 3:17am

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Come on people, I have one aunt (no pronuciation). I call her Joyce! Same with Uncles, use the first name. They already know yjet are my Aunt or Uncle - Duh!

Common Sense January 2, 2012, 7:35am

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The standard and proper pronunciation of aunt is aunt, not ant. This is why we spell them differently. They have different pronunciations supported by different rules of spelling and pronunciation. There are over a thousand words in Webster Dictionary as well as The Oxford Dictionary which begin with the letters "au" and every one of them is pronounced with the "awe" sound. It is not actually regional but rather due to unintended laziness or improperly developed articulators. Of course many of us use what we grew up hearing becasue we are accustomed to hearing it. We make statements such as "It doesn't sound right." This is an inaccurate statement. Nothing literally sounds correct or incorrect. Langauge is arbitrary. We must not confuse what we are accustomed to hearing with what is standard or correct usage. Numerous people shorten both words and pronunciations. Aunt takes more effort to pronounce than ant. The articulators (lips, teeth, tongue, hard and soft palates used in producing speech sounds) must work harder (mouth opens more in pronouncing aunt). Even though citizens change the way words are pronounced over many years of usage, Webster's often does not differentiate slang pronunciation from standard pronunciation. The spelling and pronunciation rules indicate that aunt is pronounced with the "awe"sound. Shortening the vowel to the "a" sound as in "cat" or "ant" does not logically apply to the word aunt. But people will still pronounce aunt using the illogical short "a" pronunciation. We do this with more words than we realize: Remember "our" is actually pronounced the way we pronounce "hour." Yet some insist on pronouncing "our" as "are" which is another common mispronunciation. Pronouncing aunt with the "awe" sound has nothing to do with being British, African-American, or "posh." It has everything to do with standard and correct pronunciation that is supported by sound spelling and pronunciation rules. Oh, some may say there are exceptions, but as most learned linguists realize, if there is an exception to a rule, it's a flawed rule.

An English Professor December 30, 2011, 12:07pm

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The standard and proper pronunciation of aunt is aunt, not ant. This is why we spell them differently. They have different pronunciations supported by different rules of spelling and pronunciation. There are over a thousand words in Webster's as well as Oxford's which begin with the letters "au" and every one of them are pronounced with the "awe" sound. It is not actually regional but rather due to unintended laziness or improperly developed articulators. Of course many of us use what we grew up hearing becasue we are accustomed to hearing it. We make statements such as "It doesn't sound right." This is an inaccurate statement. Nothing literally sounds correct or incorrect. Langauge is arbitrary. We must not confuse what we are accustomed to hearing with what is standard or correct usege. Numerous people shorten both words and pronunciations. Aunt takes more effort to pronounce than ant. The articulators (lips, teeth, tongue, hard and soft palat used in producing speech sounds) must work harder (mouth opens more in pronouncing aunt). Even though citizens change the way words are pronounced over many years of usage, Webster's often does not differentiate slang pronunciation from standard pronunciation. The spelling and pronunciation rules indicate that aunt is pronounced with the "awe"sound. Shortening the vowel to the "a" sound as in "cat" or "ant" does not logically apply to the word aunt. But people will still pronounce aunt using the illogical short "a" pronunciation. We do this with more words than we realize: Remember "our" is actually pronounced the way we pronounce "hour." Yet some insist on pronouncing "our" as "are" which is another common mispronunciation. Pronouncing aunt with the "awe" sound has nothing to do with being British, African-American, or "posh." It has everything to do with standard and correct pronunciation that is supported by sound spelling and pronunciation rules. Oh, some may say there are exceptions, but as most learned linguists realize, if there is an exception to a rule, it's a flawed rule.

An English Professor December 30, 2011, 11:56am

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I am from Nashville, Tennessee and I pronounce it more closely to ont.

Timothy Gibson December 23, 2011, 5:36pm

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Im from north carolina i say 'ont' but most people where i come from say 'ant' personally i like to say an ant is an animal not a person :)

Madelynne S December 16, 2011, 3:24pm

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Jason,

I pronounce both "aren't" and "aunt" like you do (I'm in NZ but am from the UK originally). There's a play on the homophony of "aren't" and "aunt" in the Two Ronnies' "answering the question before last" sketch which you can find on Youtube.

Chris B November 23, 2011, 1:05pm

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The other spelling for gauge is gage ... and that's the one that I brook.

For aunt: from O.Fr. ante, from L. amita "paternal aunt". After the Norman French Takover it became aunte in ME when spelling was erratic. The Old English words were faðe, faðu (father's sister) and môdrige, môdrie (mother's sister).

AnWulf November 22, 2011, 7:45pm

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Personally, I'm British, and in Great Britain, we generally pronounce the word "aunt" in the same way as we pronounce the word "aren't". Unlike in most areas of America, we don't emphysise the letter "r" in the word "aren't". It's basically like saying: "Ahh - n't".

Jason November 22, 2011, 2:11pm

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Kate, referring to the pronunciation as "long a" is standard terminology. Most vowels have a long and short version. The long version actually is longer to say because it is a dipthong. Long A is two different sounds, -eh followed by -ee, to create the --ey sound. The short version, as in "cat" is a single, short phoneme.

porsche September 9, 2011, 8:31am

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MEP, is what you call a "long a" the sound that IPA represents as /e:/? I want to know, before I look for other words besides "gauge" that use "au" tomspell that sound. (And what's imagined to be particularly "long" about that sound, anyway? The vowel in "gauge" doesn't necessarily last longer than vowel in "Madge" — likewise, the vowel in "bad" lasts noticeably longer than the vowel in "bat," yet both are imagined to be "short.")

Kate Gladstone September 7, 2011, 7:03pm

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Are there any other words like "gauge" with the "au" pronounced as a LONG A?

MEP September 7, 2011, 4:04pm

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I live in Va and pronounce it "ont" but i family who live in Buffalo,Ny who pronounce it "ant"!!

Sydney August 20, 2011, 7:02pm

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I'm also wondering if you pronounce the consonant L in "folk," "talk," and "calf." Doubtless you —like the rest of us — have never bothered about the B in "doubt" and the P in "receipt" ... not to mention the W in "who" and "two." Have you forgotten the C in "indict" and the G in "sign"? Don't forget the N in "autumn," the M that begins "mnemonic," and the B that ends "thumb." (And how do you pronounce ONE, I wonder?)

If writing a U in "aunt" requires pronouncing a U in that word, then what are you doing about the U in "tongue" — pronouncing it, or speaking proper English and thereby violating your own notion that we look at "what is on the paper" in order to decide how a word sounds?

Would you be willing to pronounce each and  every English word — not only "aunt," but all the rest of them — according to "what is on the paper" whenever you speak ... for one month, ror one week, or even for one day? If not, you have no right to command anyone else "to pronounce what is on the paper" when you yourself know better for any word that isn't "aunt."

Kate Gladstone July 19, 2011, 11:19am

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Re "If the U wasn't to be pronounced, then it wouldn't be in the word" — do you pronounce the K in "knit," the L in "colonel," the P in "pychology," the H in "chorus," and the GH in "through"? If you believes your own argument, you would be pronouncing them: until you follow your own logic, do not ask others to do so. (If it degrades an aunt to pronounce her title as "ant," then it must degrade knitting to pronounce "knit" identically with the larva of a louse.)

Kate Gladstone July 19, 2011, 10:43am

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aUnt is how i grew up, I was told to pronounce what was on the papeer. Also I am not a little insect that get ground under a person's heal. When the word aUnt is mispronounced through the nose to come up with a very nasal ANT, that is like slapping and spitting in my face at the same time. If the "U" wasn't to be pronounced, it wouldn't be in the word. I am one of those people that say, if u can't pronounce it correctly, don't bother using a title before the name, and don't even san "antie," as I am not a diminuative of the little black pissmour.

Carol July 19, 2011, 10:22am

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A "long A"? To Americans, the term "long vowel" denotess "the sound which is the name of that vowel-letter" e.g., "long A" is the vowel-sound in "ape, May, steak," and so on.

Kate Gladstone July 9, 2011, 4:22pm

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Well then, how do you pronounce "chants"? Personally, I pronounce it (and "aunt") with a long A, but I rather think there are those (Geordies, perhaps) who will pronounce "chants" with a short A, to rhyme with "ants".

There is no single right answer here people. Move along.

nigel July 9, 2011, 4:01pm

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Let Shakespeare settle the issue:

"The lark, that tirra-lira chants —
With hey, with hey, the thrush and the jay —
Are summer songs for me and my aunts
While we lie tumbling in the hay."
— THE WINTER'S TALE, Act IV, Scene iii

Plainly, he rhymed "aunts" with "chants."

Kate Gladstone July 6, 2011, 10:52pm

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look at http://upodn.com, it'll give you the IPA pronunciation of any word, phrase, paragraph you enter into the text box. slant and rant have the same vowel sound /æ/ as aunt... and it has nothing to do with being snobbish, it's about having a sense of humor. you can look up sense of humor at dictionary.com and possibly order one from e-bay or amazon, it might do you some good.

Pablo Diablo June 13, 2011, 1:03am

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Pablo Diablo: 'the correct pronunciation of "aunt" is /ænt/ , which sounds like "slant" or "rant."'

Huh?! "Slant" and "rant" have completely different vowel sounds: indeed, the very two vowel sounds that most of the people in this thread are arguing over.

Personally, I and the people I grew up amongst pronounce "aunt" to rhyme with "slant". I know, however, that other people, who grew up in different places, pronounce it to rhyme with "rant" (or, in other words, as a homophone for the insect "ant"). Given that both are widespread (even within England, let alone America and other English speaking countries), and that both are, normally, perfectly well understood by all English speakers, even by people who themselves say it the other way, both are correct English. People who assert that someone else's pronunciation is "wrong" or "snobbish" are, in fact, being snobbish themselves.

nigel June 12, 2011, 5:06pm

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According to the International Phonetic Association (the authority on pronunciation of words and other utterances), in either British or Real (American) English the correct pronunciation of "aunt" is /ænt/ , which sounds like "slant" or "rant." That being said, you probably won't be hanged, put on The Rack, tarred and feathered or drawn and quartered for pronouncing it like "font" or "want", you'll just be wrong. =]

Pablo Diablo June 11, 2011, 9:42am

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I have never responded to something like this on the computer, but my oldest son challenged the pronunciation of "aunt" and this has been a family topic since I was a child (now in my 60s). My aunt (awnt) was a speech therapist and came home and announced (Minn) that the word was correctly said like taunt - reasonable, right? I also cringe as I hear "ant" and therefore brought up my four sons to say "awnt" as in taunt. My oldest son, now in Turkey and taking a course from Cambridge University just challenged that once again saying that it should be "ant".

I will have to say that discovering this website has been a delight and shows me that a word such as aunt is a choice! And mine will never change because my "Awnt" Dot said it was the right way!!! How do people from other countries ever learn our language?! Thanks for a delightful conversation.

Dianne with 2 ns June 11, 2011, 7:45am

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Here in East Tennessee most of the white folks say "Ant," or "Aint." Colored folks usually say "Ahnt" or "Ahntee."

Crockett June 8, 2011, 10:38am

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My Aunt told me that the pronunciation was dictated by what side of the family the woman is from. Ahnt for mother's sister and ant for the father's sister. My Aunt may have been pulling my leg though.

Bootman June 6, 2011, 7:25pm

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I say ahnt. I'm not black. I'm from New England. If you say ant here people might look at you as though you've got 3 heads. You may argue that it's opinion, but I think ant is incorrect. But if someone from the west or wherever says ant then I really don't care, because that's how they were raised and what is accepted there. However, all these people here complaining about New Englanders saying ahnt is really sad. We are Americans too. And we'll pronounce aunt the way we've always been saying it. If you can't deal with that, I don't know what to say. We are part of the US. In fact, if it weren't for us, then there would be no US. Just because we have a different accent, tend to be more liberal, and might seem snobby doesn't make us from another planet. Go piss off if you have a problem with New England, cause it's not going to change only because you think it's not aMURican enough for you.

Well I live in Virginia (Real Virginia, none of that West Virginia stuff), well, near Richmond to be honest. I pronounce aunt like "ahnt" or "ont" or "awnt" those are the three ways you might hear me say it...then again I could be saying only one of those and the other two are wrong, but I say aunt like how I would say automobile, or august. Though sometimes my pronunciation is like...all over the place, but people saying it has to do with your background...here's my whole line up:
-My father is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is Scottish, Irish, and possibly German (we're still looking into the family records for his side.)
-My mother is from Baltimore, Maryland and is: Irish, Welsh, English, Newfie (Newfoundland you guys, whoop whoop! -And yes, I pronounce it as New-fin-land...though apparently, according to one person, I say New-Finland...I never knew I took a little pause, anywho), and Indian. Yeah, my Great Grandfather was from India. <3 Calcutta, India to be exact.

Although, my dad sometimes says "Hass" instead of "house..." I don't know, it was how he was raised, I mainly learned how to speak from my mom since my parents were divorced since I was 3, though my SLIGHT speech impediment might also be the cause of why I say things differently. (I think that speech impediment has gone though, I talk normally according to my friends.)
And I say Ask, not Ax...though I know most of you were saying only black people say Ax instead of Ask...which is NOT true, my school is mostly black and although they try to act ghetto, all of the ones I know have said Ask instead of ax. There was one person saying, though, that if you say "ont" for aunt (though when I say ont it's like ON-T... on it! ...with out the i in it...) that you also say "Ax" for ask and that your education is bad...or whatever, which I must say although I haven't graduated high school yet, my education is VERY good. Ok, not Straight A's good, but I'm above average.

Oh, and I only found this site because I was on the brink of falling asleep this morning, heard the news reporter say "Ant" for aunt, winced and kind of shuddered, and googled the "correct pronunciation of Aunt." Just to keep me awake, isn't that great? I do now, however, see that there is no right or wrong way to pronounce the word and that I just don't prefer hearing "Ant" for aunt...I mean, it's just me. Though I've found out quite a few new interesting ways to say it.

So I guess it's been all said and done.

Rebecca S. April 27, 2011, 1:56pm

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im from pa and i actually pronounce it unt
ive heard it both ways though. its like carmle and caramel, its right either way.

becca s April 21, 2011, 12:13pm

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I'm a black america that's from Alabama and I pronounce and spell the word as aunt, but I have a problem pronouncing your. I say yo instead. I say wit for with. I was told that I say dat instead of that, but I do not write the way that I speaks. This is holding me back from becoming a motivational speaker.

Maxsy April 18, 2011, 1:51pm

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I live in the south suburbs of chicago. Here from what ive experienced 95 percent of non african americans use ant for aunt. However I have noticed that the african american population predominantly uses the pronunciation unt as apposed to ahnt. I am indeed very surprised to have not heard anyone else on this post say the same thing. Im assuming this means that there is either a confusion between ahnt unt and ont or perhaps it is a very small regional slang. anyhow thought it was interesting.

goose March 23, 2011, 6:51pm

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Shawn:

Have you ever been in Boston? It it's a mostly blue-collar town, like most of America. If do you visit, Shawn, visit Southie. And say your piece—you may just get educated.

dogreed January 14, 2011, 5:25am

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you think you've got ant problems? Try moving to New England where people yell at you for calling a route a route. Let's take this route to the game so we can root for a rout from the home team. We speak American English in the midwest. Not the Queen's English. This is not 1692. This is not France, route should be prounced rowt...not root. Why do Americans prounounce Patrick Roy as Patrick Wah. This is not France. The ant pronunciation more than likely grew from the midwest...which was settled not so much by blue bloods as by hard working immigrants from Ireland and Poland...I love the comment on the previous page from "educated Bostonian"....if you're EDUCATED you must be right! Just ask anyone, the world is flat right? Look people, it's all just howling at the moon, we're all going to die in the end...but it sure is fun to poke fun at the Bostonians...what a haughty educated bunch. They'll even stubbornly vote straight Democrat while the entire rest of the country sees the need to recalibrate.

smcgov69 January 13, 2011, 4:29pm

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Hey, I'm from Toronto, and moved to Ottawa for 2 years.

It's pretty much the same for both cities. As far as I can remember, I remember being taught aunt like ant. No one really says aunt like "ahnt" - that sounds very southern to me - though people pronounce aunt like awe, and then -nt (one syllable, of course).

But I hear more or less maybe 20%, half the people say it the first way, the other half say it the third way mentioned.

However, I'd say at least 90% of people who say it the third way also incorporate the word 'auntie', either interchangeably, both meaning the word 'aunt', or distinctively, 'auntie' being like a close family friend (female, of course). I've never heard of a male version of the word 'auntie'.

And so, my theory growing up was always that auntie pronounced the third way was always ok, since it was a different word anyway. However, aunt should be properly pronounced like ant the first way. For me, it was like people who didn't know how to pronounce aunt were people who learned 'auntie', first, and then shortened it. I analogise this with how the word 'spliff' turned into 'splee', and then, in turn, to spleezy, that the origin of the word as spliff could not be traced back if you've never heard spliff before.

However, both cities I'm from are so filled with immigrants and the descendants of them, the pronunciation of words have shifted and/or varies as often as from school to school, or even one school can have teachers that pronounce things so differently.

My other theory while growing up was that the third pronunciation of aunt was wrong, because it was the result of people pronouncing the word before hearing it. Since it was different from the 'ant' spelling, it should be pronounced the third way, and the people around them who said it that way just the more confirmed it. On the other hand, I made sure I always said it the first way, because words shouldn't be pronounced the way it's spelt; you know better! Like, 'nobody' is pronounced differently from 'no body' or 'no bodies', although I know most US Americans say it the same way. Same with 'anybody', 'somebody.

For all the black people and others who were offended by the theories on cultural links. I do understand you, especially in the states, but it doesn't mean everyone's being racist or whatever; I know the feeling of when even when the person is saying it in a non-racist way, you know he's still being racist. Now this can come off as a generalisation, as well as an offence in itself, but I think people in the states don't even know what stereotypes are. There are differences between stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, etc. The stereotype that black people say aunt the third way is simply a stereotype (I've actually never heard of this stereotype before today). However, because it is one it makes it true. That is, because people have this image in their head when they hear aunt the third way or think of a black person saying aunt, they think these two things link together. Of course, it doesn't mean it's in their genes to say 'aunt' the third way; that's preposterous. Both white people and black people, and other people, say it both ways. It just means that for the people that think that, they think most people in a certain group say it that way.. maybe because every single person in that group they've met so far do say it that way.. unlucky individuals that they are! That means it makes it true! It means most people or all people they've met so far do say it that way. Stereotypes are the exact same thing as statistics, except they're not actually statistically proven, if that even makes sense. Because maybe statistically, they're wrong, and it's just the black people in their area that say it that way.

But it by no means makes it discrimination at all, unless they're behaving a certain way because of their preconceived notions! Who cares! Stereotypes is a way to learn! And, for those of you who did think people who had stereotypes about black people are stupid and have preconceived notions, you are also having a preconceived notion about them! (except for those people who made it explicit, such as the users who used "UK wide" and things like that)

dbfreak November 17, 2010, 1:39am

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i'm from new jersey and me and my family all say "ont". usually people with a boston, chicago, or new york accent will say "ant" which is the wrong way of saying it, or atleast it was. nowadays common english has caught on and changed the pronunciation examples in dictionaries. originally it was just "ont", not the two, then people in the chicago, new york, and san francisco areas started talking faster than people in the south and found it easier to say short A fast than short O, which makes no sense to me. now think about it, it's spelled aunt, there aren't any other words with "au" in them pronounced just "a". you say auto, not ato, dinosaur, not dinosar, restaurant, not restarant (though that word raises a whole nother discussion, as well as the phrase "a whole nother"). in english there are many words with silent letters, but aunt isn't one of them. "ant" is an abbreviation, and nothing more. only because so many people use it has it been excepted into modern english. so about 50-100 years ago, "ont". today, both.Current score: 0 (to vote for this comment, please visit the site)

marleen.polinsky November 8, 2010, 9:13am

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I'm from Maine, and the word "aunt" seems to be primarily (as far as I've heard it pronounced in 41 years, as the way you would say "font" There is no "w" at all in the prononciation. I am saddened to see that such a simple question posed by one person could have elicited such nasty replies. In all honesty, the dictionary, whether you use Websters, Merriams, or Dictionary.com, all say that it can be pronounced either way (we could get into a discussion on how to pronounce "either and neither" if it would be profitable, but I'm just not going to go there...). I have a dear friend down in SC that we all affectionately call "Ant" Shirley, as that is how we were introduced by her family and that is perfectly fine with me. She likes the designation, so I'm happy for her.
God Bless

Chicmumma October 29, 2010, 2:50pm

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For me it's not "ant" or "ont" or "awnt" but "ahnt". I pronounce the "au" the same as I do in "laugh". I come from the UK but have lived in New Zealand for the past 7 years. Everyone here pronounces it "ahnt" too.

chrisbolton20 September 28, 2010, 8:57pm

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Eastern Pennsylvania
I've always pronounce aunt as "ont" (or as "awnt"). I've realized that many people do say "ant" though. Since I'm always unsure of the pronouciation, I refrain from using the word! I pronounce it "awnt" because of haunt, flaunt, taunt etc. I makes sense to me.

denise September 28, 2010, 5:59pm

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The German is "Tante" and is, in fact, pronounced phoenetically as an "ahn" sound. As for trigger feelings and words that yield specific reaction, the soft pronunciation of "Aunt" i. e. as "ant" reminds me solely of an insect and a region that is far-removed from any sort of European articulation. I am from Boston and we say, exclusively "Aunt" or even "Auntie" as the "Ahn" sound. I guess we acknowledge both the "u", as well as the point of origin. When people say "Ant", I cringe. It is a matter of frame of reference and regional development and acclimation. Just my biased opinion.

maestrosonata August 7, 2010, 12:46pm

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I am creole/multiracial from Michigan. When I hear the word "ant" I think of a big black bug. I have always pronounced it "aunt" because the au in the word is pronounced aw. However, I would understand if someone from the UK (for example) whose particular accent or dialect pronounced it ant. It does annoy me sometimes when I hear ant from a caucasian American. I have had many discussions with some of my caucasian counter parts about the pronunciation.

klkyle10 August 7, 2010, 7:33am

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Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Fifth Edition (1947 printing) lists both \?änt\ and \?ant\ as standard pronunciations. (I have updated the phonetic symbols to reflect their current standards.) Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1991 printing) also lists both pronunciations.

And Webster's Ninth says this in its explanatory notes:

"The presence of variant pronunciations indicates that not all educated speakers pronounce words in the same way. A second-place variant is not to be regarded as less acceptable than the pronunciation that is given first. It may, in fact, be used by as many educated speakers as the first variant, but the requirements of the printed page are such that one much precede the other."

Can we please move on? Lots of English words have more than one pronunciation, and all English-speaking people have accents. My southern friends—some of them—say "earl" for "oil" and "Paypsee" for "Pepsi." We may kid each other about it, but we don't call each other names.

As for "forte," Merriam-Webster Online has this comment on its pronunciation:

"In 'forte' we have a word derived from French that in its “strong point” sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation. Usage writers have denigrated \?f?r-?t?\ and \?f?r-t?\ because they reflect the influence of the Italian-derived 'forte.' Their recommended pronunciation \?f?rt\, however, does not exactly reflect French either: the French would write the word 'le fort' and would rhyme it with English 'for.' So you can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whichever variant you choose. All are standard, however. In British English \?f?-?t?\ and \?f?t\ predominate; \?f?r-?t?\ and \f?r-?t?\ are probably the most frequent pronunciations in American English."

No mention at all of "Dynasty."

douglas.bryant July 19, 2010, 1:43am

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The U in aunt is silent.The correct pronuciation is "ANT".Most people who prefer the "ONT" think it sounds classier.It is actually classier to pronounce something correctly.Even the British agree( watch" Howards End")
Also the French word forte is pronounced in France as "fort",not "fortay".The only reason people believe that "fortay" is the correct way is because that is how it was said on DYNASTY,a popular soap opera.

PM737 July 18, 2010, 11:51am

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Nick, how do you pronounce "laugh"?

porsche July 15, 2010, 4:49pm

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i'm from new jersey and me and my family all say "ont". usually people with a boston, chicago, or new york accent will say "ant" which is the wrong way of saying it, or atleast it was. nowadays common english has caught on and changed the pronunciation examples in dictionaries. originally it was just "ont", not the two, then people in the chicago, new york, and san francisco areas started talking faster than people in the south and found it easier to say short A fast than short O, which makes no sense to me. now think about it, it's spelled aunt, there aren't any other words with "au" in them pronounced just "a". you say auto, not ato, dinosaur, not dinosar, restaurant, not restarant (though that word raises a whole nother discussion, as well as the phrase "a whole nother"). in english there are many words with silent letters, but aunt isn't one of them. "ant" is an abbreviation, and nothing more. only because so many people use it has it been excepted into modern english. so about 50-100 years ago, "ont". today, both.

nickreaper July 14, 2010, 9:04pm

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asdfg June 27, 2010, 4:55pm

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I grew up in Colorado, I say it as "ont," however people (Coloradans) often bother me about it and say that I should be pronouncing it "ant," not sure how much this helps.

dlvargas2005 May 19, 2010, 3:37pm

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though it can be pronounced anyway really, the true correct pronunciation is "aunt" though most people say ant because.....i have no fucking idea, i say aunt...

nickreaper April 27, 2010, 6:56pm

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down in south Carolina whites say ant and black people say ontie or ont but i think the correct way is ant

sgvoiselle April 12, 2010, 9:24am

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The link in my last post doesn't work because of the parentheses. Here it is again:

http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?dat...

douglas.bryant April 3, 2010, 6:23pm

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The pronunciation of "ask" as "aks" is sometimes seen as a sign of ignorance, but it should not be. I found the following explanation online:

"While the pronunciation /aks/ for ask is not considered standard, it is a very common regional pronunciation with a long history. The Old English verb áscian underwent a normal linguistic process called metathesis sometime in the 14th century. Metathesis is what occurs when two sounds or syllables switch places in a word. This happens all the time in spoken language (think nuclear pronounced as /nukular/ and asterisk pronounced as /asteriks/).

Metathesis is usually a slip of the tongue, but (as in the cases of /asteriks/ and /nukular/) it can become a variant of the original word. This alternative version in Old English was axian or acsian, as in Chaucer's: "I axe, why the fyfte man Was nought housband to the Samaritan?" (Wife's Prologue 1386). Ascian and axian co-existed and evolved separately in various regions of England. The ascian version gives us the modern standard English ask, but the axian variant ax can still be found in England's Midland and Southern dialects.

In American English, the /aks/ pronunciation was originally dominant in New England. The popularity of this pronunciation faded in the North early in the 19th century as it became more common in the South. Today the pronunciation is perceived in the US as either Southern or African-American. Both of these perceptions underestimate the popularity of the form.

/aks/ is still found frequently in the South, and is a characteristic of some speech communities as far North as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Iowa. It is one of the shared characteristics between African-American English and Southern dialects of American English. The wide distribution of speakers from these two groups accounts for the presence of the /aks/ pronunciation in Northern urban communities.

So in fact, your colleague is correct in calling /aks/ a regional pronunciation, one with a distribution that covers nearly half of the territory in the United States and England."

(Source: http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?dat...)

The pronunciation is common enough to have engendered a very old joke:

Somebody asked Miss Lizzie the time of day. Said she: "I don't know, but I'll go and ax Father."

That was current humor in 1892. Still not funny, really.

douglas.bryant April 3, 2010, 6:13pm

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I can't understand all of the racism and bigotry that came out of this. If you honestly think all black people pronounce ask as "ax", you are a moron. You obviously haven't watched enough gangster movies. Pronouncing it "aks" is a part of the old fashion New York accent. It's not nearly as common anymore as it was.

Concering aunt, I've always pronounced it ahnt/ont. I have a bit of a New York accent so it's sometimes even "awnt". Oh, and I'm 100% white.

d-rubin April 3, 2010, 2:44pm

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I hate to hear ONT or Ahnt. I'm in Nebraska. But my husband only says Ahnt because that is what he thinks it is in German. His mom says ant.
Ahnt sounds stuffy and not American.

mdaberk March 26, 2010, 8:20pm

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Okay, I am an African-American from the south, but was raised all over Europe as my father was in the Air Force. My parents grew up in the South and taught me to say "Ahnt/Ont". I do not say Auntie and neither do any of my relatives who grew up in the South. Please STOP making such blanket statements about ethnic groups; They will be invariably disproved by someone...probably on this board. :-)

I think the difference in pronunciation is regional and based cultural differences. You guys have some great points, but I just cannot call my mother's or father's sister an insect. This is just my preference. Btw, New England and the South have way more in common than not.

One final thought: race is a social construction and is meaningless. Please do not refer to blacks as Negros. You wont offend me, but you may offend someone else. Try to climb into the 21st century and refer to us as African- Americans. You know, like Irish-Americans or Italian-Americans. :-) Nice discussion.

kmeadows February 25, 2010, 10:34am

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The word for the bug is pissant. The word for my Mothers sister is ant with a silent U

ibdpi February 24, 2010, 12:29pm

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Staunton, Va is is pronounced STAN-ton. African-American is not a race. It is Negro or Negroid. I suppose black is also correct as negro or negra means black in the latin based languages

0h10ec February 24, 2010, 7:05am

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Yes     No