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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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Well I live in the Bay Area in California and I've always said "Ont" but I definitely hear people say "Ant" now and then. I seriously cringe when I hear people pronounce it, "Ant."

Cal January 3, 2006, 5:05pm

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I say ahnt because I don't want to confuse my aunt with an ant.

Adam O January 25, 2006, 9:58am

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You're all a bunch of racist morons with too much time on your hands. I know plenty of African-American people that can speak circles around any "white" person. So, your comments of "blacks" saying the word 'ax' instead of 'ask' and the pronunciation of aunt vs. 'ant' being a "black thing" is completely out of line. I would hope that you would re-examine your theories and find true and factual hypotheses based on research and not hearsay!

gimmieabreak July 5, 2006, 5:35pm

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In Virginia (The real one, not West), we say 'ont' because there's a "u" in there. I don't think I have ever heard of a silent "u".

Arfon January 18, 2006, 11:53am

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Hey Stan, why don't you go back to your ukelele? Up here in New England (for geographic illiterates like you, we're also Americans), we pronounce it "ahnt", ok? Nothing wrong with that, and pronouncing it like the insect has always sounded weird to me.

Tim July 14, 2006, 2:27am

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IT'S ONT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO ONE WANTS AN ANT FOR AN AUNT!

kit February 3, 2006, 3:07pm

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I find it strange that it is the only "a u n t" word that is not pronounced phonetically or with emphasis on all of the vowels. Examples:


I do not imagine people say,
“What a pretty afternoon, let’s go for a jant, shall we?”
“Wow, that was a dant ing task.”
“If you’ve got it, flant it!”

A majority usage does not make it a grammatical rule. It just means a lot of people say it incorrectly in my opinion, but whatever. It is not a big deal. I shall simply revel in my correctness and laugh at everyone else as they run through the gantlet of the english language and flant their poor pronunciations. I hope no one is upset by my tanting.

Im regards to “ask,” I know black and white people that drop the “sk” and replace it with an “x.” But, I do not a lot of blacks that say “ax” as opposed to “ask.” On the other hand, I know a lot of white people that replace the “k” with an additional “s.” It makes for some great self entertainment. “Hey, Bobby, let me ass you?” “Yeah, go ahead.”

boardturtle February 1, 2007, 7:08am

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Bert Vaux at U Wisconsin has generated some nice maps of U.S. dialect. The link below will take you to maps showing the distribution of the pronunciation of "aunt."

At the end of the day, about 3/4 of the country pronounces "aunt" the same way they pronounce "ant." The Northeast (where I and most of my aunts live) is the region where "ahnt" is most common, but this amounts to about 10% of the U.S. population. Interestingly, about 7% of the population reports that they say "ant" when refering to a particular person, but "ahnt" when refering to the general concept. In my family, most of my aunts are "ahnts" but I have a couple great "ants" who hail from the same western Massachusetts hill town that is otherwise stocked with "ahnts."

Please do not marry into my family if you are part of the 3% of America that pronounces "aunt" with the same vowel sound as is used in "caught. We could not handle the (additional) confusion.

Here is the link:

Chris Anderson January 3, 2006, 5:18pm

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I have to say that I am a black woman and yes, I pronounce "Aunt as Ont", and no I don't do so because I am black. I don't know why Aunt would be pronounced ant. It doesn't sound right to me. Ant = Ant.

My dictionary states that Aunt can be pronounced two ways:

Aunt (ant or änt)

For everyone that is trying to make it seems as if only black people say "ont" instead of "ant", you need to stop stereotyping and open your eyes to the real world!

Another thing, for the person that said that black people say "ax" - I say ask. Oh, and if a black person has said "ax", in your presence, I am sure he or she wasn't the only race that have done so.

Arch September 20, 2006, 12:43am

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I am from Virginia and our family always has said "ont." My husband's family all say "ant" and they think I am trying to be posh with my pronunciation, but I can't help it. My children have two kinds of female relatives of their parents, "ants" and "onts." One for my husband's side and one for mine. They will grow up confused!

I am a medical transcriptionist so I hear lots of pronunciations and most everyone says "ant," except me and my extended family. This is definitely a regional thing and has nothing to do with your level of education or your race.

Liz September 19, 2006, 9:32am

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Being a German/American who grew up in the midwest I always have said ahnt. My wife, who is an English major says its supposed to be pronounced "ant" as in the dictionary. But according to me, she and the dictionary are wrong. They do not pronounce "automobile" as atomobile.

Klaus September 20, 2006, 4:19pm

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In Southeastern Virginia (Tidewater/Hampton Roads Region) For anyone with class or regional linguistic pride, "Aunt" usually sounds like "caught" and "haunt" because of our connection with the original people from England that came in the 1600's. There is a "u" in there for a reason people, and it should not be ignored.

Jim February 28, 2007, 12:03pm

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Growing up in New England,everyone pronounced aunt "ahnt". Just as in AUGUST,AUTO,AUTHENTIC,. The only time we ever heard "ant" was on tv shows. Like" Leave it to beaver."

Steve B. December 24, 2006, 8:29am

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We say "ant" in Northern Illinois. I think it's common in the midwest/Northern regions to say it that way.

Amy A. January 2, 2006, 5:36pm

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What about Appalachian English, which is known to be more conservative than most other dialects? The English spoken in Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas, and surrounding areas retains many of the features of English spoken northern Engliand in the 18th century. And why even have the letter "r" if you can't pronounce it? The English talk like they're from Boston or something ("pahk ya cah in hahvahd yahd"). While I find the Texan insertion of "r" into words where it doesn't belong (i.e., "idear," "drawring") to be annoying, I must point out that American English, in recognizing the existence of the letter "r," has given us one of the world's most unique phonemes: the rotacized r. In England, the word "bird" pronounced "beud," two consonants and a vowel, that's it. How boring. In America, we use the "r" as a vowel ("r," being a liquid, has flexible properites and has close affinities with vocalic sounds. Note also, "L," and semivocalic glides "w," "y"). Did you know that less than one percent of the world's languages have this phoneme, the rotacized r? Ha! It's YOU guys who have bastardized (note the intentional "z") English!

A O April 22, 2006, 7:33pm

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I'm an African American, and yes, I pronounce the word in question as "Ont." However, I have never "axed" anyone for anything in my life.

* FYI; Though I'm from the Midwest, that Midwestern flat "A"/spitting monosyllabic words into two syllables makes me cringe (e.g. pants == pi-ance, slacks == sli-akhs etc...)

opus_125 January 12, 2007, 5:43pm

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I'm from Tennessee/Alabama. Around here we say "ant" as in the animal (rhymes with "can't"). However, the majority of people of African decent say "ah-nt" (I'm assuming that's what you mean with "ont").

Michael January 3, 2006, 12:27am

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R-N-T. The U makes a sound too. AU is pronounced as R. English is English, not American. As a Brit' I think it's time the Americans called their Language something else. It's not English - it's been bastardised too much!

bigbluefeckmonkey April 20, 2006, 9:30am

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I grew up with the "ont" pronunciation in my family (African America from New Jersey not "Jois-see".) But since I moved to CA I've made a lot of friends that are Phillipino and I've noticed myself changing to "ant" and "ant-ee".

Another cute thing I picked up from my Phillipino friends is the term of endearment "Auntie Baby" (ant-ee bay-bee) referring to your youngest Aunt. Almost all my friends have an "Auntie Baby" and I think it's just the cutest phrase.

Penny January 6, 2006, 5:31pm

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A person from Worcester, Mass., once saw a cartoon with a couple on a picnic blanket and a bunch of old ladies walking by and the caption, "What would a picnic be without aunts!" AND DIDN'T GET IT because he pronounced the word aunt as ont. He remembered the cartoon DURING a discussion of the ant/ont pronunciation. My father was English, and both sets of grandparents were from England (Yorkshire), and we pronounced the word ahnt.

The Oxford English notes that Chaucer spelled ask as ax, and that most of England did, too, up until the time of Shakespeare. Post-Shakespeare the word became ask. So the African-American pronunciations of ax and ahnt probably both came from older English pronunciations.

The Brits use autumn rather than fall, but our term fall originated with a Brit phrase "the fall of the leaves" which disappeared there.

bobdrake August 8, 2006, 6:49pm

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I'm from NJ (I don't speak anything like a New Yorker) I say 'ant'
Cal - I cringe when I hear 'ont'
I believe the story goes..'ont' being the New England pronunciation. After the Civil War, women in NE felt it was their obligation to school Southern African Americans. The African Americans picked up this pronunciation and it has spread throughout the country as they moved through out the states. 'ant' is still the most accepted pronunciation. The only other people I've heard say it 'ont' mispronounce many common words. I'm inclined to put that pronunciation in the mispronunciation category because of that.

DM January 22, 2006, 9:22pm

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I pronounce it "ont" not "ant". There's no wrong or right way. Either way is fine. Also, not just African Americans pronounce it "ont". I don't think it has to do with education, SES or race.
The way I see it is: There is a "u" A+U=O aunt= ont and ant (insent) = ant, but if I hear someone say "ant" i don't "cringe" because i know what they are referring to and that's what communication/language is all about.

DL May 10, 2007, 2:50pm

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went thru all the comments and gathered few words with 'au'
audi car

see for yourself how they sound.
so aunt must sound like 'aunt' and not 'ant'

Sukeshini July 7, 2007, 7:09am

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How do you pronounce the following:

See a pattern here? I simply don't see why the 'ant' pronunciation of aunt is the more widely accepted. In fact, I can't think of any other words with the 'au' beginning that are pronounced like 'ant'...can anyone? The 'ont' way to say it seems much more logical. (Then again, when did logic ever rule with American English?...)

John July 9, 2007, 10:32pm

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Everyone take a deep breath, OK? it doesn't matter, tomato, tomahto. WTF, I am from the West Coast orignially and have always pronounced it aunt as in "ont" and everyone can go blow. Everyone mocks each other over the stupidest things, get over yourself. Toodles, I wish I had not ever found this webpage...

Monica June 4, 2007, 7:49pm

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I would probably say ont because if you are referring to you aunt as aunty, then it wouldn't sound right if it was (AN-tee) unless you have a new york accent.

Olivia January 12, 2006, 5:28pm

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I'm an English teacher in Turkey .Here we say and teach it as ont / ahnt plus my American friend whose English I like a lot pronounces it the same.I'm her twins' ahntiee :) (she's from Pennysylvenia)

Burcak September 19, 2006, 1:27pm

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As with practically ALL vowels, it depends on where you are from.
Furthermore, the way we are writing these variations down is also affected by our own vowels - 'ant' for an American probably means a long 'a', but for somebody from the north of England it means a short 'a'. So if we write down 'ant' or 'ont', even when we give examples of things it may rhyme with (forgetting that those vowels also shift), it might be helpful to use the phonetic alphabet where possible (not easy, of course, when posting on a forum).
And you shouldn't refer to that British pronunciation as 'posh'. Many non-'posh' people use similar vowels.

petescully January 3, 2006, 1:11pm

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I looked at the UWisconsin link and was very surprised by the results. I think it must have been a very Caucasian poll. I, too, am Caucasian, but I don't know any African-Americans that pronounce the word "ant". All of my black acquaintances and friends pronounce it "ahnt".

Megan G January 7, 2006, 11:18am

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Yes, but Klaus, it's not pronounced ahtomobile either. It's awtomobile, and aunt isn't pronounced awnt. Regardless, comparing similarly spelled words in English is almost meaningless. There are so many different word origins that the same spelling can have many different pronunciations. The same pronunciation can also have a dozen different spellings.

PS - The dictionary is supposed to represent a consensus and be a final arbiter to allow some common method of communication. Ahnt is also listed in the dictionary (albeit after ant), so ahnt isn't wrong. According to the dictionary, ant may be preferred, or perhaps more common. To say the dictionary is wrong seems an odd point of view. The dictionary is simply a rule book that we as an English speaking society agree to abide by so that we can all have a common ground for communication. You're certainly free to say aunt any way you like, but it seems a bit self-centered to think that the rest of society is wrong.

porsche September 20, 2006, 10:37pm

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We pronounce aunt as "ant" in the Philippines where we use the American English standard.

jayred7 January 4, 2006, 8:14am

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Hey CHIMP, I think it is YOU who needs to check the dictionary, you IGNORAMUS. What exactly is your objection to the previous post? It seemed to me to be a lighthearted attempt to make some interesting points. It was relevant, and no less valid than anything else in this thread. And "Merry Mary..." happens to be commonly used in the formal study of accents and dialects to exemplify Anonymouses point exactly. You are extremely rude and should make your attacks somewhere else. they're not appreciated here. You might want to rethink your pseudonym, too. Comparing you the them is an insult to primates everywhere.

Chuck EEE June 16, 2007, 11:09pm

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August; autumn; autonomy; aunt; automotive; etc., ant does not "work". aunt = (au)nt sounding like the "au" sound not (an) sound

Yes, I'm from New England which was settled by the English

Pauline Perry June 26, 2007, 5:00pm

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It's discussions like this that bring me to understand what God was thinking when he destroyed the Tower of Babel and gave the people of the world different langauges (or however the story goes). This issue--is it ant or ahnt--has been pounded for about a year and a half, fostering an environment for absolute assertions, insults, immense pride, and all the things that make the world a nasty place. Thankfully, we are all nerds and nerds do not wield guns. Our equivalents in government, unfortunately, do. Personally, I say ahnt. I am white. I am American. I feel no connection with the British heritage that I lack (my parents immigrants from somewhere that isn't Britain). I will continue to say ahnt forever and nothing will stop me. Furthermore, if you say ant (or awnt or oint or aint or ownt or whatever), that's terrific.

AO June 26, 2007, 5:31pm

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We in India normally say 'Ont.'

deepakm_rao July 20, 2006, 5:19am

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"aren't"/aaah-nt for me, as a southeastern Brit

Kris January 3, 2006, 7:13pm

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"ah-nt"for me, when I heard this word for the first time in my life from a nun from Ireland in 60's in Japan

kitanohuji January 5, 2006, 5:38am

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Ok, I'm really going to throw a wrench in the works. The argument so far as been between ant and ahnt. Well, for those who say ant, how many say it with the same assonance as hat, cat, at... and how many say it with the same vowel sound as care, air, etc.? And for those who say ahnt, how many say it like font, con, ponder, and do any say it like awnt, as in fawn, pawn, launder? There, that's four different ways to say it now! Of course, some of it is regional. Many of you may recognize this: "Merry Mary Married Hairy Harry." Some people (and I've met some) will pronounce every vowel in that sentence exactly the same (all like "air").

Anonymous June 12, 2007, 10:38am

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Using that logic, Arfon, shouln't you say "awnt", rhyming with haunt or taunt?

porsche January 18, 2006, 5:21pm

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I'm from Salt Lake City, Utah, and I say "ant."

My wife is from the San Francisco Bay area, and she says "ant."

I have never heard a Westerner say "ont." We live in Virginia now, and once in a while I hear someone say "ont." People don't typically talk about aunts in Virginia--they talk about property values, which is far more annoying than "ont."

I lived in Rhode Island for a few months, not long enough that I remember anyone saying "ont" instead of "ant," but long enough that I remember a few people saying "con't" instead of can't.

Merriam-Webster lists "ant" before "ont" but does list both pronunciations. For can't, it lists three: can't, "con't," and "cain't" ("especially Southern" it says).

Finally, I find "ont" mildly annoying but not worth complaining about (except when anonymous on the Internet). :-)

shepshep September 5, 2006, 8:48am

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I say "awnt" ... "ant" sounds harsh and tacky.

gosbeas August 30, 2009, 5:16am

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I'm Irish and I say 'ant'. I don't usually hear the 'ont' pronunciation but I could imagine someone with a posh British accent saying it.

grasshopper January 3, 2006, 5:35am

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"BigJock Jan-18-06 6:26PM

UK wide, we pronounce it 'ant'."

Not so. In London people say pronounce it to rhyme with 'aren't'. When I've been in the north of England I've heard 'ant'.

IDgaf February 7, 2006, 10:29am

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I say both "aunt" and "ant".....I drive myself crazy with it.....When I say "ant" I feel like a total hillbilly and so correct myself by saying "aunt" even though I don't really know which is actually right...So I probably end up sounding like even more of idiot by saying both ways than if I were to just pick one already! THANKS JUSTIN for pointing this out to me! -punk!

Tara from Ohio August 6, 2006, 10:21am

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It's a shame that some people are so thinned skinned and self-righteous that they find "racism" in such an innocuous discussion. If it is truth, why are you so weak and insecure that you would scream racism? There are racial differences, culturally, linguistically, physiologically, etc. Anyone that claims otherwise is either a liar or a fool. And if acknowledging that there are racial differences is racism, then science is racist. Grow up.

Jim October 30, 2006, 9:49pm

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The pronounciation of ‘aunt’ as ‘ant’ or ‘ahnt’ is not a function of accent. We can see from the comments posted here that there are regional, cultural, and even ethnic factors involved. Each version may be accented, but the distinct underlying phonemes remain recognizable.

The fact that there are two pronunciations of the word may be traced back to the “Great Vowel Shift” of Middle English. During this change ‘a’ as in ‘fame’ would become ‘a’ as in ‘farm.’ The shift was not universal; it was primarily a southern phenomenon in medieval England – the very region that would later provide the basis for Standard English. Thus ‘ant’ would have become ‘ahnt,’ but not in all parts of England.

Both pronunciations later entered American English in different places and at different times, according to the patterns of immigration. The persistence of the two forms probably has much to do with the word’s intimate tie to family. Nobody has both an ‘ant’ and a ‘great-ahnt.’

douglas.bryant September 30, 2009, 8:38pm

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In response to the above comments:

There are many words in the Queen's English that are similar in spelling but pronounced differently. Just because "au" is a part of "jaunt" or whatever examples someone gave, doesn't mean it's pronounced the same. Speaking of Cananda, "Newfoundland" , is not pronounced "new-found-land"....right?! It's pronounced "new-fin-lind". I'm not saying that ant or ont is either correct or incorrect,....but you can't give the above examples as fact. That would surely show your ignorrance and the good Queen shall have your head.

Good day.

JoeMama May 18, 2007, 1:03pm

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Sukeshini, I suggest you scroll up and look at the previous posts. None of the words you listed are pronounced like "aunt". While I seem to be repeating myself, some pronounce aunt as "ant" and some pronounce it as "ahnt", but all of the words you list are pronounced with an "aw-" sound, not an "ah-" sound, so your list really doesn't prove anything. Very few (I suppose I can't say none) pronounce it as "awnt". Besides, such a list is meaningless. "au" has many different pronunciations depending on the word. "Laugh" uses the short "a" sound like "ant". "Gauge" sounds like "ay". "Faux" sounds like "oh". None of this has anything to do with how to pronounce "aunt". Unfortunately, neither does your list (which isn't pronounced like ANY version of aunt, anyway).

porsche July 9, 2007, 12:30pm

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I was raised in IL and now live in NE. These people up here think they have their own little country going on. When I hear them say sounds like some pretentious blueblood Redcoat pronunciation to me. The New Englanders actually make things harder to say, in Illinois, things are flattened out so people can talk faster. For instance, although grammatically incorrect, "where are you" is translated into the lightning fast "where you at"...try saying both as fast as you can and you can clearly see one is tuned for speed.

In NE, I actually saw a furniture commercial on TV the other day touting a leathuh sofer. For some reason, they translate words that should end with "a" to "er", and words that should end with "er" to "uh". I've also heard people say "con't" instead of "can't". "Get yaw butt off the sofer and come outside and help me pahk the cah!" "I con't, I'm on the phone with my ont" . "Hi, do you have any Ont Jemima syrup?"

But I'd rather hear the ridiculous NE stuff than listen to Al Michaels on MNF talk about the ref making the "cawl"..and the player catching the "bawl". What dopes those New Yorkers are.

Shawn February 12, 2009, 1:13pm

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As a Southerner who had the unfortunate experience of living in New England for 7 long years, let me agree w/the lady from Illinois: indeed, they DO think the universe revolves around them (especially my mother-in-law). I never heard the pronunciation "ahnt" or "awnt" (except from the African-American community) till I moved to this cold and snooty place. Then I had to laugh because my mother-in-law couldn't understand why my daughter didn't know who her "Awnt So-and-So" was. I explained that it was just because she had never heard the word "awnt" in her life.

Another funny. MIL was setting the table w/my daughter at a "Baaa-buh-que" one day, when she said to her "He-ah, huney, I'll do the knives, and you do the fox." This brought my daughter to a complete standstill till I translated, "Forks, sweetheart, she means FORKS." Hahahahaha!

Or how about this one: we were helping MIL prepare for an impromptu trip to FL one X-mas (yes, this woman is just that organized) when she was running around the house panicked because she couldn't find her "khakis." "Oh whey-ah aah my khakis??" Took us quite awhile to figure out that she was looking for the CAR KEYS. Hahahahaha!

I'm happy to say that we are now contentedly living in the South, which, for all its flaws, at least has the advantage of being 800 miles away from my MIL!!!

blissworks February 15, 2010, 8:22am

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To Black NY Lawyer:

WOW! Did you say you were a lawyer who was "born, raised, and WHOLLY educated in New York"? Not even partially educated elsewhere? You must be a genius.

Is Pompous Arrogance 101 still a universally required first-year law school course?

Obviously this pales in comparison, but I am Black and I say "ASK" and don't cringe when I hear otherwise. I pronounce the word aunt as "aunt" and don't cringe when I hear it pronounced "ant". I'm an architect--born, raised, and PARTIALLY educated in Buffalo, New York. I went to a Lutheran school, public schools, a prestigious university for my undergraduate degree, and a prestigious Ivy League university for my graduate degree. I now work in a prestigious architecture firm in Chicago.

Does this background mean anything? Yes - it means that that I have been fortunate to have these opportunities and the ability to take advantage of them. It does not mean that I am superior to people who are less fortunate, and it definitely doesn't mean that level of education or intelligence is linked to the pronunciation of the word "aunt".

On a lighter note:

Why did New York get all the lawyers and New Jersey get all the toxic waste dumps?
Because New Jersey got to pick first.

What do you call 10 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?
A good start.

What's the difference between God and a lawyer?
God doesn't think he's a lawyer.

rktek March 1, 2008, 10:45am

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I am from Sweden, and sadly enough my english is a mish-mash of british english and american english, therefore the pronounciation depends upon the accent of the person whom I'm talking to. My br. english teacher hear me saying "ah-nt" and talking with friends in class I use the long vowel.

Ylva January 8, 2006, 4:08pm

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i am from arkansas and i say ont but i am 1 out of a million but i have never said ant


heather June 10, 2007, 3:33pm

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In southern Britain one says 'arnt' ~ long 'a' ~ 'ont' rhymes with 'want' and is therefore wrong.

JC January 19, 2006, 11:04am

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Wow, I stumbled upon this Web site out of curiosity concerning the pronunciation of the word aunt in different places. Anyone who has a logical brain and a teaspoon of sense would have read Neilbert Blaicher's post of February 1, 2007 and realized that his post settled this matter once and for all, but somehow the debate rages on! How truly bizarre.

Just because the majority of people think that something is right and it finds its way into the dictionary doesn't mean it's right or the original pronunciation. I also have no idea what this porsche character is talking about throwing magical Ws around everywhere. There is no W in aunt or taunt or haunt, neither in spelling nor pronouncing the words!

Aunt is pronounced like taunt, gaunt, haunt, flaunt, and every other word in the English language that ends in "a-u-n-t." The Upper class in England pronounce it this way for a logical reason.....because they have been taught and groomed to do so over generations. Why? Because it is the way the word is pronounced correctly in the English language!

Lots of words in English get changed and bastardized when people move across land and oceans. So what? We deal and accept and adapt. But creating a new nonsensical pronunciation ("ant") and then spreading it around the world through mass media and claiming it to be an alternative pronunciation or (laugh) the "correct" pronunciation while belittling or disparaging those who actually pronounce the word correctly (aunt), is the epitome of absurdity and stupidity.

Anne Hyde November 3, 2007, 8:10pm

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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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regardless of how you pronounce anything, it's just retarded to think that being black has anything to do with how you speak. dialect and pronunciation are regional traits. so, yes, it often happens that a lot of people from an area are of the same race and speak the same way, but the connection between race and speech is superificial; it's proximity that matters.

on another note, i have always associated "ont" with the new england accent. my mom's family, who are all from Boston say "ont" and used to yell at me for saying "ant." on the other hand, my dad (who's black!) is from the west coast and is the one who taught me to say "ant."

finally, people speak in different registers depending on the situation they are in...i, for example, call my mom's sisters "onts" and my dad's sisters "ants." it's impossible to talk to people without subtly adopting the vernacular of the group you're in!

Anonymous August 30, 2007, 11:11am

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"Black Lawyer, "Dan," "Dr. Jekyll," or "Mr Hyde," whichever you prefer:

I'm not clear as to why you feel so strongly that the AHNT pronunciation is wrong and worthy of "exposing" people in surveys or "cringing," and the way you pronounce it ("ANT") is correct. This makes you seem a bit delusional. American English dictionaries list both pronunciations as acceptable and even have notes about the different pronunciations.

Although it is true that if one took a survey within the United States and Canada, one would probably find that the majority of Americans/Canadians pronounce this word the same way they pronounce an insect ("ANT"), this fact does not exclude other pronunciations as viable or correct. The AHNT pronunciation is MUCH more common and acceptable than you think. Why? Maybe because it was the original way the word was pronounced?

The majority of people in Australia pronounce this word as AHNT.

The majority of people in New Zealand pronounce this word as AHNT.

Regardless of what anyone else on this blog has said, most people from the U.K. pronounce this word as "AHNT" or "ARNT" particularly older people, whose diction and grammar are usually more refined. Just watch the BBC sometime. Their nickname used to be "Auntie" in fact and in TV specials about it one would always hear the announcer pronounce the word with a long vowel "AHNTIE," and certainly never "ANTIE" or any such short vowel sound.

And even in the U.S......The majority of people in New England, regardless of what color they are, pronounce this word as AHNT, including the whole of the city of Boston (natives, that is).

Of course, don't take my word for it. Just go to these places and hear it for yourself.

If you traveled the world a bit, you'd find that not everything you think you know is true. It is not "improper" to pronounce aunt with a long vowel sound, as you state.
As a "lawyer," what you should be cringing about is that you're not more knowledgeable about such things. I thought lawyers were supposed to be detail oriented, perceptive, and open to facts?

Rebecca Rogers February 2, 2008, 4:11pm

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I am A crack Whore and have no life.....

Evlien Phillips July 4, 2007, 5:45pm

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Dan B. July 21, 2006, 4:44pm

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"You say po-tay-tow, and I say po-taw-tow...

Let's call the whole thing off."

Ontario, Canada lad. "Ant". Awnt sounds snobby. And if you spell it correctlt, and people understand you either way, who cares?

karnstein May 14, 2009, 10:46am

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Ha, I misspelled "correctly" LOL!

karnstein May 14, 2009, 10:48am

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I hear both on the West Coast of the United States.

Anonymous January 2, 2006, 7:48pm

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I was so amazed to learn that the word "aunt" has caused such controversy in our world. I was really bothered about the pronunciation, so I decided to look up the word on the internet and clicked on this site. I am glad to find out that I am not alone. My family says "ant" and "ont." I think "ont" sounds better.

CynthiaAnn July 12, 2007, 10:52pm

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My wife, from the Midwest says 'ant'. I am from New England, and I say 'aunt'. I'd like to think because of my higher SAT scores, I am smarter. However, as I did my research (loser) on this issue, I realized what a dope I am. Does it really matter? Certainly not. I have always however, taken great pride in pronouncing words correctly, and typically words frequently used in America but more foreign in their origins pose the greatest challenge. Filet Mignon for example, is pronounced Fill-et min yone (rhyming with moan and accented at the end of the word.) However, when an American tries to sound too French pronouncing it, he/she sounds snooty. Aunt/Ant doesn't have the same implications I think at least, because it's a much more commonly used expression, and therefore local dialect is acceptable...and by the way, I was therefore, wrong in my disagreement with my wife. I'll tell her on our 70th anniversary which is still half a century away...

ydoesitmatter July 16, 2007, 7:30am

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they beat it out of them in journalism school. same with broadcasting school. announcers are supposed to sound "generic", which one could also call boring or even robotic. but that might be a character judgment as well....

amazed July 26, 2007, 11:51am

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In the Northwest part of the states, it's "ant" 99% of the time. In the Midwest I'ts "ont" 99% of the time. In my research on the origins of the word "aunt", many sources say that the "ant" pronunciation is the original one, but "ont" has and is becoming a more widely accepted pronunciation. The dictionary also uses the pronunciation "ant". I wish I knew.

Anonymous January 6, 2006, 12:44pm

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for me
Im south african, indian

Many of the black population say ant, since they have learnt alot of the english language from American movies,

The white population(influnced by Dutch settlers and English colanisation) say ont.

It definately is dependant on background

Meya October 20, 2006, 6:36am

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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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I think you would be hard pressed to find a black person who pronounces AUNT as AWNT. You might be able to find a purple or pink person who does so, but then again, purple and pink people don't really exist.

Sure, a lot of (not all) black Americans do have their own dialect and mispronounce words, such as "ask." But many white Americans routinely mispronounce and misspell common words as well, depending on where they're from or how they grew up. It's just not harped on like it is with black people. One thing that the majority of black Americans have going for them when compared to the majority of white Americans, however, is the correct pronunciation of the word AUNT.

Many black Americans pronounce AUNT as AUNT, which is the way it is pronounced properly. As someone above mentioned, there is no "W" sound in the word and I have rarely heard anyone insert a W sound into the word when pronouncing it unless they are exaggerating it, or they are from New York, where syllables and things tend to get stretched out and exaggerated.

None of the ANT people here can seem to come up with any good reason why they pronounce HAUNT, GAUNT, FLAUNT, DAUNT, JAUNT all the same, yet mysteriously change their pronunciation when the first letter of any of these words is removed. There is no rule of grammar in English that says you must do this. Really, this is the death of common sense in my opinion. These people pronounce AUNT as ANT most likely because "everyone else around me pronounces it like that," without thinking logically about how it makes not even a modicum of sense. Lemmings.

I've heard MANY MANY white British people pronounce the word AUNT in the exact same way as they would say HAUNT, exactly as most black Americans pronounce it. I've also heard many other British people say it as ARNT, but this is obviously a regional thing, similar to AINT in America.

To the black lawyer who "cringes" when he hears the word AUNT pronounced correctly. do you also cringe when someone tells you that 1+1=2? I wouldn't be surprised.

An ant is an insect. That's all it is. If you enjoy calling your AUNT such a thing, that is your right and you are free to do so, but don't go around insinuating that other people are wrong in their pronunciation when you have no logical basis or rationale to back up your supposed grammar superiority.

Grammar Police January 16, 2008, 9:55am

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So how do you say AUDI.. I belive its owdee..

BA May 2, 2006, 6:29pm

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I be from Detroit. I gots 13 aunts. I calls 6 bitch and I calls 7 ho. Now let me ax you sumpin. Hows come in England they says fag when they means cigaret and here we says fag and means Neilbert or ChuckEEE?

Tyrone August 23, 2007, 7:37pm

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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."


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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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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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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Wow, Black Lawyer you are embarrassing yourself. I'm blushing for you. I feel sorry for you. Get over it. People are going to pronounce words however they want and there really is nothing you can do about it. There are so many different dialects and accents across the world that it is completely mindless to go around criticizing and looking down on people who pronounce words differently from you. You need a serious hug, or a Zoloft or something. Good gracious.

By the way, I love the Boston accent, and the Cape Cod accent. AHNT all the way every day baby!

Huggie Bear February 5, 2008, 10:58am

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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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"Auhnt" from new england

peter April 6, 2009, 3:48pm

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John, why does the 'ont' way seem more logical to you? none of the words you listed have the same vowel sound as 'ont'. NOT ONE!!! They all have an 'aw' sound, which would be 'awnt' not ont. This info has been posted three times already. Most (NOT ALL!!!) 'au' words are pronounced 'aw', but so what? Didn't you read the post immediately before yours??

Anonymous July 10, 2007, 12:11pm

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Response to Anonymous (previous post): vowels are always ambiguous. Consonants vary minimally from one dialect to the next but mainly it's vowels that distinguish speech forms. The vowels in the words John gives, along with that in the word "aunt," can be rendered in a staggering variety of ways depending on where youre from So maybe, for some people, o and aw are the same.

Anonymous II July 11, 2007, 10:19pm

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I have always pronounced "aunt" with an ignored "u". I would, if convinced I
was in error, make a concerted effort
to change. I had given the word "aunt"
a picnic pests name "ant" If I pronounce it aunt, giving recognitian
to the "u", I would sound like a goose.....
"auunt-auunt auunt"
Or I could give it a Opie translation and call it "Aint"

marionballe October 2, 2006, 8:32am

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Chris that's a great link, nice one!

petescully January 4, 2006, 1:14am

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Anonymous II, I agree with most of what you said, except for one thing. It's pretty much irrelevant to what I said. I'm sure that there exists a relatively small group whose regionalisms would make them unable to say or hear an "ah-" sound and hear/say it as "aw-", but so what? the majority say aunt like "ant", and most others say it as "ah-nt". the vast majority say either ant or ah-nt. Using a small minority's inability to distinguish between two commonly recognized differences in vowel sounds ah- and aw- (just look at every single dictionary) surely cannot be used to justify rejecting the more common pronunciation. I stand by what I said before. the point has already been made several times. Listing a bunch of words that have the vowel sound "aw-" cannot be used to support the pronunciation "ah-" over the the slightly more common "a". It doesn't matter if a few people can't hear the difference between "ah-" and "aw-". The fact is, most people can. And, regardless, there are plenty of words spelled "au", that ARE pronounced "ah-" and "a", and, while we're at it, "ow" (rhymes with how, cow, etc.), "owe", etc. So should I claim that aunt should have the same vowel sound as cow? How one word or a list of words is pronounced just doesn't have anything to do with how any other particular word should be pronounced. English is filled with many words of different origins where the same spelling has many different pronunciations. Perhaps you're familiar with "ghoti"?

Anonymous July 21, 2007, 10:25pm

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I live in the south-west of england and we pronounce it ant. None of my 'ants' think I am being in the least bit demeaning or that, in any way, I am likening them to the insect. It is accepted as the way we pronounce it here.
More often than not we say auntie but pronounced the same way as 'anti'. Either way we get sweeties and cakes from our favourite ANTI!!! Ha ha!

Clive Hutchings February 9, 2006, 9:24am

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Also in response to IDgaf - I think Londoners pronounce it to rhyme with 'aren't' because they are trying to sound a little posh!!!

Clive Hutchings February 9, 2006, 9:26am

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It's interesting to see how passionate some get over the pronunciation of this one word. For the record, I pronounce it like want, though I can't be certain how anyone pronounces that word, either.

I am seeing three distinct pronunciations represented: Ant (like the bug), Awnt, and Ahnt. I have never felt any of these to be superior to the others; they are simply regional and cultural differences. Why not enjoy the salad?

You say tomato, I say tomato, but don't you be dissin' my Auntie!

douglas.bryant September 6, 2009, 7:54pm

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"Clive Hutchings Feb-9-06 9:26AM
Also in response to IDgaf - I think Londoners pronounce it to rhyme with 'aren't' because they are trying to sound a little posh!!!"

what a strange theory... it seems to me that the aren't-rhyming pronunciation is a corruption of the original, which sounded more like "awnt", i believe. it has been further corrupted over the years by regional idiosyncracies, which is fine, it happens all the time. if (or rather *when*) Londoners pronounce it "aren't", they are doing so because they are in London, in the south of England! "ant" is northern only.

here's a challenge - who can find another word in which the "au" is pronounced as "ar"?

Huck March 13, 2006, 10:16am

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R, your post is complete and utter nonsense. The word is pronounced AHNT. An ant is an insect. period. Deal with it. You can argue in circles till you're blue in the face and at the end of the day you'll still be pronouncing aunt incorrectly. Good Lord, reminds me of a Hillary Clinton "popular vote" fanatic in denial.

Aint Bee June 1, 2008, 1:48pm

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Oh, and I love coming back to this thread.

I moved to Pittsburgh, PA about 5 years ago from New England and was hit with a TON of new vocabulary that the locals consider to be "correct" or acceptable. ie: a vacuum cleaner is called a "sweeper".

When you're raised pronouncing something, or even describing something a certain way, you become "proud" and refuse to accept what the real definition is.... as is proof with the whole "sweeper" thing....

Go ahead and dispute this anyone, it's really just a matter of ignorance...

Let's hear if for AHNT..... that or let's just change the pronounciation of audio to "adio", cause that's right, right?

Scaryfunhouse November 13, 2008, 7:48pm

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People let's use nationalities when we refer to ourselves verses the misnomer of skin color like the two gentlemen who wrote earlier. There is no country called white or black, ignorance is a killer.

I'm African-Asian American living in Atlanta, GA and perfer to use "awnt" verses "ant." It seems a bit improper to me to use "ant." However, I realize according to the dictionary both "ant" and "awnt" are acceptable. I totally agree with earlier's not incorrect because it is used less.

byen_99 August 6, 2009, 8:24am

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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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Aint Bee, the "ahnt" pronunciation is a newer invention. It seems a little strange to insist that those who use the older pronunciation are wrong.

Just because "ant" is pronounced the same as "aunt" does not make an "aunt" an insect. I suppose you'd also consider a "dear" to be a four-legged animal.

In your opinion, should the "oo" in "book" and "soon" sound the same? Are you among those who consider "its" and "it's" interchangeable?

Why do we pronounce "through" the same as "threw" instead of "throw?" According to your logic, the pronunciation of "though" would prove the latter correct.

The problem with the argument I've seen here in favor of the "ahnt" pronuciation is that it grossly over-simplifies English pronunciation.

R June 9, 2008, 8:37am

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In all the pronunciation examples you've given, there are several words within each pronunciation group that are pronounced the same (ie...even though the "oo" has several sounds depending on the word, there are many words in the group that are pronounced like "book"---some examples are nook, look, crook, etc. There are also many words pronounced like "soon" --- noon, loon, boon, etc.)

Even with homophones (dear, deer) there are normally several examples of other words with the same spelling that match these in pronunciation (tear, beer)

There is a METHOD to the madness that is English.

The problem with your argument is that your pronunciation of "aunt" as "ant" is COMPLETELY UNLIKE all of the words you've mentioned. According to you and the majority of the people on this board who stubbornly cling to a pronunciation that isn't logical (just because they were raised pronouncing it that way), "aunt" is the ONLY word of its spelling that is pronounced like "ant," whereas ALL THE OTHER WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE that end in "-aunt" belong to another pronunciation group. To a rational person, this doesn't make sense. Unfortunately, as we have seen time and time again, many people are not rational.

As a side note, other than random dictionary notes in North American dictionaries, there really is very little empirical evidence that the "ant" pronunciation preceded the AHNT pronunciation. And common sense would tell you otherwise if you were just to take a hot second to THINK about the fact that this is the ONLY "-aunt" word that has a popular pronunciation that is different from ALL the other -aunt words. Obviously the pronunciation was changed from AHNT to "ant" and NOT vice versa.

The fact is that the "ant" pronunciation has become accepted and is the mainstream pronunciation in English speaking North America. I don't think anyone disputes that. How this came about is only a scholar's GUESS.

It's only when very ignorant people proclaim that the "AHNT" pronunciation is wrong that problems arise. It isn't wrong, as is evidenced by the fact that the majority of the non North American English speaking world (as well as a large minority of Americans) pronounces it as such AND that the AHNT pronunciation is in line with all of the other -aunt words in the English language. To argue against it, as many people on this board have done, shows a kind of ignorant and foolish arrogance that defies explanation.

Uncle Ben June 12, 2008, 10:20pm

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Neilbert, you make an interesting observation, but the debate is between "a"nt and "ah"nt. NEITHER one rhymes with any of the -aunt words you list. They are all pronounced "-aw"nt. So if the majority of the population says "ant" and according to you they're incorrect, the remaining minority who say "ahnt" must also be incorrect according to you, so, er, um, I guess EVERYBODY is incorrect?? The entire English speaking world?? Even you?? (I can only assume you say "ahnt" since you have only criticized the majority-spoken "ant")

porsche February 28, 2007, 3:01pm

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The /w/ sound is a rounded velar approximant. This is the sound found it words such as "we", "well", "win". This sound is not found in words such as "taunt", "gaunt", "flaunt" in US and Canadian English. The vowel sound in these words is a low back vowel.

John November 5, 2007, 12:29pm

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I have no family, I am gay.

nick skewes March 24, 2006, 10:08am

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Does no one pronounce it the way they do on The Andy Griffith Show, like Ain't. Remember Aint Bea? I'm from Texas and a lot of central Texas folks say it "aint". For myself, sometimes I say ahnt and sometimes I say ant. And I think ahnt sounds the most sophisticated and aint sounds the least sophisticated. But what do I know?

Jo Ann June 29, 2007, 9:47am

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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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I've found an excellent way to amuse myself for hours--reading the ant-ont debate (which has now become the ant--ont-aint-awnt debate!)

I love accents of all sorts and have great fun guessing where people grew up based on how they speak. If you actually cringe when you hear someone say a word a certain way, it is definitely your problem (look it up--it's called "projection," and it has to do with what you are afraid you are. In this case, apparently, ignorant!)

I now have white friends who imitate the black 'ax' and black friends who never say 'ax.' Some say ant and some ont, but my rural southern family members say aint. I gave that up when I lived in Indiana and got laughed yes, it is normal to speak the way those around you speak. Duh. Humans are social creatures. How else do you learn language? Apparently, some people think it was piped into their heads in its pure, "correct" form.

The joke about language is that there is no right and wrong (yes, I know that's heresy on this board), but only whether people understand you or not. I have many language-loving friends who adore deliberately distorting words for their own and others' amusement.

Of course, when you write or speak to many people, you also have to concern yourself with the judgments readers make about your intelligence and education, so you try not to trip up--that means you use what doesn't upset the most people. It's just like American choose the least offensive action. That's why newspeople have bland, unaccented voices. They are one of the reasons I love Holly Hunter--no one has managed to beat the accent out of her.

Finally, as a science writer, well, what can I say to the guy who commented on racial differences being science-based? The big secret is that the different 'races' are pretty darned similar, and getting more homogenized every day. You can call a person black who is 75% white, and no one will argue with you if his skin is even slightly mocha. Does that mean he is significantly genetically different from a white person? Um, no. I'm looking forward to the browning of America.
Melanin is far too unevenly distributed here! And just for fun, I'm gonna start saying "awnt."

Patricia February 5, 2008, 5:05pm

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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.

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