Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with passion. Learn More

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.”

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your all wrong, it oint!!! Damn that felt good

ROmo Nov-03-2007

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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 Nov-03-2007

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What are you talking about, Anne? ALL the words you listed DO have a "W" sound. The DICTIONARY lists the pronunciation as tawnt, gawnt, hawnt, flawnt. that's an "aw" sound, as in "awww what a cute baby". That's how it actually sounds, and that's what's in the dictionary, with an actual printed "w". Oh, that's right. I forgot. You don't seem to believe in dictionaries. Well, see ya later, Anne. I'm due back on planet Earth.

PS - The English aristocracy, does NOT pronounce it as AW-NT, rhyming wiht GAUNT. They pronounce it as AH-nt, rhyming with font or want.

anonymous4 Nov-05-2007

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Give it up Porsche, uh I mean "Anonymous." Even after your 1,001st post on this topic, you're not convincing anyone.

Lamborghini_2008 Nov-05-2007

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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.

John4 Nov-05-2007

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I am Black and I say "ASK" and cringe when I hear otherwise. I also pronounce the word aunt as "ANT" and cringe when I hear otherwise. I'm a lawyer -- born, raised, and WHOLLY educated in New York. I went to Catholic school, university, and law school -- all places where grammar and pronunciation are stressed. 99% of the people in all of my schools, no matter race or color, pronounced aunt "ant."

I think it's a matter of education. I say that because many of my poorer and less educated cousins say "awnt." It, like everything thing in this world, is not a "black" and "white" thing. It's an education/money thing.
Also, Caribbean Blacks say "ant" because we call all female elders "ant-y," not "awnt-y." I am half Caribbean so I can attest to that! That's a regional difference as well. So, you can't lump all Blacks into one category -- imagine that!

Black_NY_Lawyer_ Jan-04-2008

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I grew up in Loudoun County in Northern Virginia, and my immediate family always pronounced the word aunt as "aint" like "saint" when referring to a particular person. That comes from my mother's side of the family who are all from Northern Virginia, but I have no idea where they got it from, since no one else around here pronounces it that way. However, if are talking about "aunt" in general, such as "her aunt is coming to dinner," we pronounce it "ant." If we are talking about a particular person in our family, it's "Aint Alice" or "Aint Nancy." I guess we were the local hillbillies.

I believe my father's side of the family, which originated from southwest Virginia and migrated to Northern Virginia, generally say "ant."

Linda2 Jan-11-2008

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I say rnt.
Like R, then nt.
I'm English

Hehe Jan-11-2008

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Seems not too many canadians visit this web sight . I came across it at midnight (couldn't sleep ) and it is now2.30 a.m. Oh so many different explanations of one little word, I have always pronounced aunt ant and truly have not heard ont except from my british friends. Interesting eh!

montgomery8927 Jan-11-2008

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Ok I did my own survey on the words aunt, ask. I wrote down on paper ASK pronounced ASK, ASK pronounced AXE or AXED with 2 rows for blacks and whites. I did the same for the word AUNT pronounced ANT, and AUNT pronounced AWNT or ONT or UNT or AWNTY. Most of this survey was taken from courtroom drame shows such as Peoples Court, Judge Maria Lopez, Judge Hachett. Here are my results:
ASK pronounced ASK: 3 black 10 white.
ASK pronounced AXE, AXED: 20 black 1 white.
AUNT pronounced ANT: 0 blacks 11 whites.
AUNT pronounced AWNT, ONT: 12 black 1 white.
AUNT pronounced AWNTY: 8 black 0 white.

So whoever it was that said "it's just retarded to think that being black has anything to do with how you speak. dialect and pronunciation are regional traits." is wrong according to my survey results.
These courtroom shows are taped in different parts of the country from what I notice. Some CA some NY some Mass. and I saw one that was I think in Atlanta.
Friday night a few of us went out for beers after work. 3 of which are black. I asked them why black people say AXE instead of ASK. I didnt get a real anser except from Josh who replied "you dont hear me saying AXE, I was raised in a Caucasion house."

dan1 Jan-14-2008

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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 Jan-16-2008

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Cincinnati, Ohio. Most of us say "ant" for aunt. I live in a strange area for dialects, though - it's quite a melting pot here. I've heard "aunt as in haunt" frequently, but it always sounds strange to me. Just like when people say "HAIR-assment" for "her-ASSment."

Crow Jan-17-2008

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Listen here Grammer Police. I never said I was superior in any way. You are making that assumption and you are wrong. I just wondered why and came here and asked or should I say axed? You apparently did not read or care to take into consideration my little survey I did. These people are from all over the country not one specific region as you claim is the reason why people pronounce words differently. I work with many different races of people (no pink or purple though). All but one black person I work with says axe or axed. All the white, spanish speaking, and asian say ask. Now I never had the opportunity to hear my co-workers say the word aunt so I cant say one way or another how they pronounce it. Maybe I will do so someday as we all get along just fine and I consider some pretty good friends. That includes black and spanish and asian. They will not be offended if I ask. Now they might be offended if I axed them as that could cause serious damage and I would be in jail. :) Plus I like them and would not want to axe them.

dan1 Jan-21-2008

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You spelled "grammar" wrong in your last post and "caucasian" wrong in the one before that.

Whilst you're going on doing pointless racial surveys about people's mispronunciations and other assorted foolishness, maybe you should muster up an equal amount of gumption to enroll in an English course at your local primary school for a review of elementary spelling.


Alastair_Corbert Jan-28-2008

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Grammar Police,

While you make a few valid points, I have no idea why you're offended by me cringing at improper English. By your rationale, everything in the English language should be pronounced the way it's spelled. And your "reasonably" intelligent tome, I assume you know that that is simply not the case. BTW - My husband, who is black and CANADIAN and also an attorney - also says "ant." So I guess it's the majority of people who have it wrong and the minority of mostly uneducated (regardless of color) people who have it wrong. Right ...

Black_Lawyer Feb-01-2008

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PS, Grammar Police --

I'm a "she." I love how you assume with all of the sexist logic you can muster that a lawyer must be male. Most reasonably intelligent people err on the side of caution and say he/she when they don't know the person.

Black_Lawyer Feb-01-2008

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I did not have time to proof my message as I had to leave for work. I figured there were a few errors as almost every message I write has some. I know this because I use spellcheck in Outlook and there does not appear to be one here. I never claimed to be a perfect speller or as smart as you or anyone else here in the first place. But I do pronounce words correctly. I say ask when I want to ask someone a question, not ax. And the bottom line is that blacks say ax A LOT. And I just wanted to know why that is so. No one can answer that question though without throwing hateful emails back at me and whoever else asks similar questions. People like you try to imply that we are being racist by asking a perfectly legitimate question. The only reason I did my "pointless racial survey", was that someone on here said that it was "retarded" to think that race had anything to do with the way someone pronounces a word. They are wrong. It did not take much gumption at all to muster up a piece of paper and a pen and put a little check in the correct row. And I was watching TV anyway so it took no extra time or effort.
For the record my back is to the TV while I am writing this and The Price Is Right is on. I hear a guy talking who was picked to play, and he was saying hello to his family...I hear him say "hi Aunty so and so". Yes he was black but I knew that before I turned around to see. :)
Cheers back at ya,
PS I ran this through spellcheck and I misspelled 3 words. That is pretty good for someone as stupid as I am. :) It says axe is spelled ax so I left it that way. I looked it up and it appears you can spell it either way

dan1 Feb-01-2008

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Dan, I think people get offended when you say it has to do with them being black -- period -- as opposed to any other reasonable explanation. Can you consider for a moment that it may have something to do with education/region? Do you think that Barack Obama, for instance, says "awnt" or "ax?" (I'm just using him as an example that I hope we all have heard speak in the past few weeks.) This is an academic inquiry, please don't be offended.

Black_Lawyer Feb-01-2008

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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 Feb-02-2008

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(a) I watch the BBC; in fact one of my fave sitcoms is "Coupling." I am fully aware of other pronunciations around the world. Re-read my comments -- never said anything other than about American English and Caribbean pronunciation.

(b) Bostonians have awful diction -- "Go "pahk" the "cah" (translation - park the car) is also something I cringe at. Bad example, hon.

(c) Been around the world and snagged a Canadian husband whilst at it.

(d) Most of the people who say "awnt/ont" as pronounce ask as "ax," caramel as "carmel," engine as "injun," and library as "liberry" to name a few ugly, awful, obvious examples.

(e) Get a life; I'm entitled to my superior, elitist opinion about those who butcher American English.

Black_Lawyer Feb-02-2008

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I went looking for a place to stand on my soapbox and complain about what's happened to the English language (American version, that is) and found this very entertaining thread which has seemed to survive for quite a long time.

For the record, I'm an "ant" person and would feel very odd to start saying "ont". But, I'm also a tomAHto person - just the way I was brought up - and feel like I'm getting very slangy if I join the huge majority saying tomAYto. But those two don't really bother me.

Here are my hot buttons - should they start new threads, go to a different blog, or just stay right here?

FebUary as opposed to FebRUary. I was shocked and dismayed to find one on-line source telling me that the former is acceptable and maybe even becoming "preferred".

NucUlar as opposed to NucLEar. The former is still (fortunately) considered improper, in spite of it having been the choice of most recent US Presidents.

KYEWpon as opposed to KOOpon. Where did anyone ever get the idea that "cou" could or should be pronounced "KEW"?

NYews as opposed to Nooze. I think that goes along with KYEWpon - people think it sounds classier to mispronounce it that way.

Ed1 Feb-03-2008

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In coastal New England there are five ABSOLUTES in pronunciation:

1) Aunt is pronounced "ah-nt"
2) Quahog is pronounced "kwa-hog"
3) Tomato is pronounced "toe MAH toe"
4) Often is pronounced with the "T" SILENT!
5) Caramel is pronounced "Ca-rah-mel" (NOT "CARMEL"!)

Stronzo Feb-03-2008

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OH.. I'm from Cape Cod.

Stronzo Feb-03-2008

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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 Feb-05-2008

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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."

Patricia1 Feb-05-2008

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To all of you who believe the proper pronunciation of aunt is ant (and that anyone who pronounces it as aant or ahnt is uneducated), try opening your mind and stepping out of your "if the majority does it, then it must be right" world. I have pasted information from Roget's dictionary below. I would think those of you who consider yourselves "educated" would do a bit of research on the topic before deciding to lambaste others. I am sure you also use the word "myself" improperly as do most who consider themselves to be amongst the "most educated." But hey, just about everyone says, "John and myself..." or "..both Sue and myself..." or "Contact Richard or myself..." and some of these people graduated from highly-regarded if not "prestigious" universities, so it must be right....right?

Open your mind, open a few books, and travel the world (and picking up a husband from Canada doesn't count).

From Roget's Dictionary:

aunt /ænt, É‘nt/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[ant, ahnt]

—Pronunciation note The usual vowel of aunt in the United States is the /æ/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[a] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation of rant except in New England and eastern Virginia, where it is commonly the “New England broad a,” a vowel similar to French /a/[a] and having a quality between the /æ/[a] of hat and the /É‘/[ah] of car. The vowel /É‘/[ah] itself is also used. In New England and eastern Virginia /É‘/[ah] or the /a/[a]-like sound occur in aunt in the speech of all social groups, even where a “broad a” is not used in words like dance and laugh. Elsewhere, the “broader” a is chiefly an educated pronunciation, fostered by the schools with only partial success (“Your relative isn't an insect, is she?”), and is sometimes regarded as an affectation. Aunt with the vowel of paint is chiefly South Midland United States and is limited to folk speech.
The /æ/[a] pronunciation of aunt was brought to America before British English developed the /É‘/[ah] in such words as aunt, dance, and laugh. In American English, /É‘/[ah] is most common in the areas that maintained the closest cultural ties with England after the /É‘/[ah] pronunciation developed there in these words.

IET Mar-01-2008

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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 Mar-01-2008

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Wow, IET posted all that information to prove himself wrong about the pronunciation of aunt! Perhaps he is trying to pry open his own mind. I wish him all the success in the world with that--it can be a lifelong endeavor, though certainly worthwhile.

Clearly, Roget says that aunt is pronounced like ant. My dictionary has the 'ant' pronunciation first, and the second pronunciation has an umlaut over the a. That means, I presume, that they are both correct but that the 'ant' pronunciation is preferred. So Roget and Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (Second Edition) agree that AUNT (your mom or dad's sister) is preferably pronounced like ANT (the six-legged guest you didn't invite to your picnic.)

And, contrary to what some would believe, if the vast majority of people say the word--any word--in a way that is now considered "incorrect," the "incorrect" one may very well become the "correct" pronunciation in the future. Lexicographers are not supposed to invent, but only report.

Patricia1 Apr-04-2008

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"And, contrary to what some would believe, if the vast majority of people say the word--any word--in a way that is now considered "incorrect," the "incorrect" one may very well become the "correct" pronunciation in the future."

Many grammar "authorities" just can't accept that popular majority determines usage in language. It's the grammatical equivalent of "look at my Johnny, he's the only one in step in the whole parade."

"Lexicographers are not supposed to invent, but only report."

Unfortunately, lexicographers, like the rest of us, are all too human. They bring their pet notions and causes to the task at hand. There's a long history of obscure and made-up words being advocated by lexicographers. Indeed, some dictionaries deliberately invent fake words for copyright purposes.

As an example, google the word "esquivalience."

JJMBallantyne Apr-05-2008

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I'm African American and have always pronounced "aunt" as "ont". Most of my friends do as well. I have noticed that my white co-workers pronouce aunt as "ant" and on every TV show or movie I've ever seen aunt is pronounced "ant".

It wasn't until I was watching The View last fall when I noticed Sherri Sheppard said "ont" when she was talking then a few minutes later she said it again but this time she said "ant". It got me to wondering why she changed the way she pronounced it so quickly. I mean it was literally within seconds. Ever since then I've wanted to know what is the correct way to say it... I mean Austin, Texas is "Awstin" not "Astin".

I will say that after reading what everyone had to say that you can really say it the way you want. I really wish someone would clear it up either way. This has been on my mind so much that is why I decided to do a search for it on MSN and this website came up. Proof that you can find anything on the web.

Take care.

Aliciaispretty May-12-2008

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Dear Black Lawyer:

As a reasonably well educated Bostonian (Swarthmore undergrade, Yale grad) and one who pronounces all the "r"s that are in words and none of the ones that are not. I find your arrogance towards the "ahnt" pronunciation shocking. Your examples of the other mispronunciations used by "ahnt" speakers seems overtly racist and ignorant. I too cringe when I hear the word mispronunced. "Ant" should never be used for that word. It is not only incorrect, it sounds offensive. However, I do not lord my superiority over those who speak differently than I do, I simply go about my life thinking "wow that undereducated, offensive word - 'ant' - came out of the mouth of a lawyer."

If you disagree with me in any way feel free to base your issues on my statements and not on any misspellings or mistaken grammar you may find. I weakens your case not to deal with issues.

educated_Bostonian May-12-2008

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To all who try to use the spelling of "aunt" to justify the "ahnt" pronunciation, please be aware that present spelling of English words often has nothing to do with their original pronunciations. Nor should anyone assume that Americans have "bastardized" the English language, and that anyone from the English aristocracy speaks "pure English." The truth is that "posh" English has been heavily influenced by French. Much, but not all, of this shift in British English took place after the colonists had left for America, causing Americans to continue using the older forms, while many of the English shifted to the more "French" forms. Since there were no radios or recordings at the time, the English soon forgot the older words and pronunciations, causing quite a bit of shock when they once again heard them, generations later, from the Americans.

Also, I'm not sure what IET was trying to prove a few posts earlier, as his/her quotation clearly states that "the /æ/[a] pronunciation of aunt was brought to America before British English developed the /É‘/[ah] in such words as aunt, dance, and laugh."

R1 May-14-2008

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After scratching my head for a while, trying to figure out why IET would post his/her opinion with such an air of superiority, and then follow it up with proof that s/he's wrong, I've come to the conclusion that s/he must have misunderstood the meaning of an "educated pronunciation." This does not mean that "ahnt" is the pronunciation used by educated people, but rather that it is the pronunciation "fostered by the schools" in those areas, under the mistaken opinion that no two words in English can have different spellings and yet be pronounced the same way.

The fact is that the original pronunciation of "aunt" is the same as "ant." Anyone who says that the "ant" pronunciation is incorrect is simply wrong, as this was the pronunciation used before the introduction of "ahnt" in order to try to sound more French.

R1 May-14-2008

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Maybe they should just change the spelling to "ant" and we can end this whole ridiculous and obtuse argument.

I'll pronounce it "properly" but I'll never tell..........

P.S.- Some of you guys are real assholes, maybe think about changing your professions.... that, or just find a way to stay off the internet

Some_guy May-14-2008

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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 Jun-01-2008

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Some say AHNT and some say ANT.

There you have it.

Next question, please.

JJMBallantyne Jun-01-2008

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John, WHAT are you talking about with "...The /w/ sound is a rounded velar approximant..."??

You don't actually think that the letter W has only one sound, do you?

What about the word awning, or tawny? They do have the same vowel sound as taunt, don't they? DON'T THEY??

Most dictionaries actually USE "aw" as the phonetic representation of "au" in words like taunt, etc.!! RIGHT??

The "aw" sound in taunt has NOTHING to do with the "w" sound in "we" or "well", and, yes, "aw", um, has a DOUBLE-U IN IT!!!!

anonymous4 Jun-02-2008

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And Lamborghini, I shouldn't even dignify your snide post with a reply, but not convincing anyone? What I've said is consistent with most of the other posters' comments. I'd love to hear from you regarding exactly what comments of mine you disagree with:

The same combination of letters can have different pronunciations in different words.

-au- has several different pronuncations depending on the particular word.

You can't use the pronunciation of one word to justify how a different word is pronounced.

Most people in this post are discussing ant vs. ah-nt, not aw-nt.

So Lamborghini, how about it? Specifically, which of the above do you disagree with and why? I'd be happy to support anything I've mentioned with facts. Please, if you're still monitoring this post, respond to the questions and leave the snide comments at home. Oh, and you think I'm porsche? I'm not. There are a lot of anonymous posters on this topic. I only commented on the topics I mentioned above.

anonymous4 Jun-03-2008

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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.

R1 Jun-09-2008

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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 Jun-12-2008

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Uncle Ben, I must disagree with some of your points. Aunt is not the only 'au' word that has an 'a' sound. What about 'laugh'? And how about 'draught,' variation of draft' and pronounced the same, or 'launce', variation of 'lance'?

Also, if aunt were the only word pronounced that way (which it isn't), that still wouldn't really prove anything. I'm pretty sure that 'gauge' is the only word pronounced g-ay-ge, with an 'ay' sound. No other word uses the 'ay' sound for 'au', but no one at all would claim that it's pronounced g-ah-ge or g-aw-ge, right?

Of course, I do agree with your main points: both a-nt and ah-nt are correct pronunciations with a-nt perhaps being somewhat more common, depending on geography. Why something so simple has become such a battle out here is really beyond me.

porsche Jun-13-2008

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I'm from Maine, and we've said "ont". But I moved to Florida and everyone here says "ant" unless they're from up north.

Azzy Jul-30-2008

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I don't think it's beyond you Porsche. I just think you're very stubborn and unreasonable to accept a valid point with which you disagree. "Ant" is more common in the U.S., but not in the rest of the world.

The examples you've given in your latest spittle are fairly absurd, given that "launce" and "draught" are hardly ever used in American English and "laugh" does NOT have a short "a" sound when spoken in England, the country that invented English.

Well said Uncle Ben.

Brian3 Aug-16-2008

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I personally say "ont" and my girlfriend makes fun of me because apparently "ant" is the "normal" way to say it (according to her).

I've always said ONT. She's always said ANT.

I've grown up at Southern California and so has she.

The only thing that's different about us is that my parents are from Taiwan and I basically learned English on my own and she was born in West Virginia, her parents are from the east coast and midwest.

So there...toe-MAY-toe, toe-MA-toe lol...

larry_Tsuei Sep-01-2008

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Just do to this link.

It shows it is correct to pronounce it either way and also explains the origins of each pronunciation.


Sam4 Sep-08-2008

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I'm an army brat and have lived in many places. The majority of the folks I know say "ant" as I do and a few of my relatives say "aint". The pronunciation that always makes me cringe is whenever I hear "police" pronounced as "poe-lease".
Jo - Versailles, MO USA (pronounced as "ver sales")

Jo1 Sep-12-2008

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i say them both! i'm from the DC area... i'll say "im going to see my ont" but if i actually say the aunt's name, i'll say their ant "i'm going to see ant margie" ... i cant figure out if its regional or not either

Patrick1 Oct-10-2008

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I pronounce it aunt like ont & i'm from India

Axe Oct-16-2008

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i'm from connecticut and i've always said "ont" and i only ever hear people say "ont" i recently found out that pretty much only people in new england pronounce it like that.

DiDi1 Oct-26-2008

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I'm black the word is pronounced "ANT". Blacks butcher the languag no matter what the word.

Brian3 Nov-02-2008

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well I'm an Irish Indian African who lives in Western Canada and I say you're all crazy for continuing to add to this post two and a half years later.

Turd_Furgeson Nov-04-2008

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Personally I like to pronounce it like it's spelled. NOT like the bug... maybe the bug should be spelled "aunt" if it sounds like "ant" anyway, right.....
You grow up with pronouncing it one way or another, I guess I just grew up pronouncing it the right way!

p.s. - that was meant to be ironic

Scaryfunhouse Nov-13-2008

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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 Nov-13-2008

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Scaryfunhouse, audio is pronounced like AW-dio by most people, not AH-dio. So do you pronounce it AW-nt or AH-nt? Also, as posted above, "au" has many different pronunciations depending on the word, so what exactly do you mean by "Personally I like to pronounce it like it's spelled"? And why should we all accept that your pronunciation is the "right" one just because you say so?

anonymous4 Nov-14-2008

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Auntie Mame
Aunt Polly
Aunt Jemima

These are American phrases that have been around for a few decades or more and all were universally pronounced "ant". That does not make "ant" correct or preferred but it does prove one thing, which is that the growing prevalence of "ont" in the past few years is simply more political correctness influence - a "here's one we can give the black folks" gesture if you will. Oh, and scarynotsofunorsmarthouse, I suppose that when you are amused you "loff" out loud?

Mick Nov-18-2008

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Good one, Mick. Hey, Scaryfunhouse, did you run out of gas because your ch-AH-ffeur forgot to check the fuel g-AH-ge?

anonymous4 Nov-19-2008

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I am from the bay area and now live in south florida. When I was younger I always use to say "ant" and as I progressed in school the teachers told us we were pronouncing it incorrectly and ever since I say "ont." It just sounds more educated to me when I hear people say "ont" instead of "ant," because, if not, I literally think of an ant, the insect, walking around in a picnic basket.

dancedance Nov-25-2008

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Seeing as how we speak English which was originally from "England", a lot of Brits say it "Ont", and not Ant. It should rhyme with Flaunt, Aunt. Ant is Ant. The Dictionary lists both pronunciations, but I believe if you were to speak it in the purist sense, it would be Aunt. Ant is just been tolerated for so long that no one has really questioned it. It's the same as Caribbean "Care i bee in" or "Ka rib ee' in". The last pronunciation is probably more accurate as it was named after the Carib Indians. (That's "Kairib"). Accents and Inflections has slowly changed how the word was perceived in the first place.

webraider Jan-03-2009

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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.

Shawn1 Feb-12-2009

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Well, we in New England pronounce it "on't" because if was meant to be pronounced "ant" it would be spelled a-n-t, no? It's spelled aunt as in "restaurant" which, I hope, is universally pronounced "rest-aw-ront".

swardie Feb-12-2009

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Actually, Al Michaels is closer to "the bool belongs to Boolamore, biggiz they recovered the fumble." And John says, "Right, bit it was close."

realdeadwoodpodcast Feb-12-2009

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I am white, older and recently corrected for using awnt instead of ant. My friend thought it sounded a bit snobby. Looking it up I was surprised to see ant as preferred over awnt. My father was French and my mother was an English major - - so I used the form spoken at home. I also put the R in wash, washington which is commonly used by natives from DC. Wrong? Of course.

Michele_-_MD Feb-15-2009

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I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area and say it "ant". gives both pronunciations, but "ant" is first.

ELISHA Feb-23-2009

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Personaly I looked this up to get the correct way of saying Aunt because of a diagreement at work today. Guess what I still don't know so for me it will be Ant

Marc_Arens Feb-24-2009

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Swardie - While I pronounce aunt as "awnt" I would not compare aunt with restaurant since its etymology is French and I am not sure where the word "aunt" comes from.

To Michele in MD - since when do we change our pronunciation over what people deem snobbish? I for one do not! I was taught English by North Eastern Mennonites(U.S) and will stick with my "awnt."

And by the way Mick - I am not black nor do I have any desire to change my pronunciation out of political correctness . . .what a crock!

I accept that both pronunciations are right and try to leave any assumptions at the door. The use of aunt as "awnt" in the minority does not make it incorrect - just under used.

Zai Feb-24-2009

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jesus this has a buncha posts. i say "aunt" as ANT. im from atlanta GA though and a lot of suthnas say aunt but black people say auntie

jack2 Feb-25-2009

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I prononce Aunt ant like the small bug and my friend says ont and i think that people who say ont need help inprononcing in if they are form America.

black0kitten Mar-12-2009

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the u makes the "a" a short a

Sue1 Mar-19-2009

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According to Webster's New World Dictionary, both pronunciations are acceptable. The problem, in my experience, wasn't in how people said it but how people spelled it. A-U-N-T and not A-N-T.

crbrimer89 Mar-19-2009

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Oh, sorry, lol. I'm from Arkansas and we say "ant".

crbrimer89 Mar-19-2009

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I (african-american born in northern NJ) believe ant comes from the sound, long a + ont or a-unt pronounced casually sounding like ant. Somewhere along the line some pronounced it ant with no obvious connection to aunt. In the south or southern decendents it's many times pronounced aint like the improper contraction. Which puts me in mind of my late aunt whom I referred to as Aint Thelma. It's more due to accent than preferred pronunciation.

showillbe Mar-22-2009

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That this discussion has been running nigh on to 3 years is amazing. And, for the most part, those who express their opinions, while disagreeing with others, have been tolerant.
Pronunciations will vary with many English words. The English language is dynamic; pronunciation and spelling of many words used in Chaucer's time are today barely recognizable, much less, used. So, may we all continue to agree to disagree, but always in good humor, bearing in mind that "ant", "ahnt" "ont", "ownt", "arnt" and other pronunciations of the word, when used in context, will be understood by those who understand English as meaning one's relative - mother's or father's sister.

Pedant Mar-22-2009

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I pronounce aunt in my family as "Diane". We're from the west coast. :)

I also say ahnt, to answer the real question.

Ekskalibur Mar-22-2009

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Education and good sense are two different things.

showillbe Mar-25-2009

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"Auhnt" from new england

peter3 Apr-06-2009

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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?

Brian3 May-14-2009

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Ha, I misspelled "correctly" LOL!

Brian3 May-14-2009

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I say "ont". Grew up in New York and California.

I personally think it's always a little confusing to hear "ant", but I don't really mind or anything. On a side note, I say "add-dult" not "uh-dult".

allthemountains Aug-06-2009

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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 Aug-06-2009

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

gosbeas Aug-30-2009

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Oh, I from the Northeastern part of the US.

gosbeas Aug-30-2009

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We (born and brought up in Boston area, more specifically A"h"lington) were just discusssing this very subject. We pronounce it ahnt, as in laughter. Where did "ont" come from? I've never heard that. We were also discussing the path vs pahth, along with bath, etc. We pronounce all of these the same as ahnt.
Funny story. When we moved one town over, I went to the library with my sons and asked where the books on sharks (shahks) were located. I might as well have been speaking a foreign language. The librarian finally asked, "Do you meal small houses?" (shacks). My kids grew up here and my son came home from basketball practice on day and was using the term "pom" the ball! (palm) I had no clue what he was talking about because of course I would pronounce it pahm.
They have all moved to different areas of MA and now my grand-children pick me up on my pronunciations. They are all starting to have a generic accent like tv news anchors! Takes the fun out of it!

Mary3 Sep-03-2009

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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 Sep-06-2009

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Im from both the South and New England. I was taught to pronounce Aunt like 'Ahnt'. Most people I have discussed this with dissagree and think it should be pronounced as 'Ant'. I don't know about your Aunt, but mine only had 2 legs. Also I have never heard of the 'silent u'. I think people learned to pronounce it as 'ant' because they didn't know how pronounce it with the short 'a' sound as in 'anht'. Accents are part of our culture, but they don't make it right. There is a right way to pronounce it, but I don't know what it is.

bubbha Sep-30-2009

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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 Sep-30-2009

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Gosh - am I the only Brit here?

It is very difficult to describe how we pronounce 'aunt', because I'll write it my way and then you'll pronounce it your way and it still won't make sense! For example, I was confused by Michael saying it rhymed with 'flaunt', because it certainly doesn't when I say it, but I say 'flaunt' with an American accent it does! Genius, Michael!

So when I say 'aunt', it sounds like "aren't", but you have to do the Brit accent, too!

And if things like this entertain you, come on over to and have a look (in the next few weeks I'll be adding articles on how to talk like a Brit, including how to apologise like a Brit and how to swear like a Brit!


Anna_ Oct-01-2009

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Anna says:
October 1, 2009 at 8:25 am

Gosh – am I the only Brit here?

No, you aren't.

Nigel1 Oct-03-2009

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well universally americans say ANT but we came from england and the english language was born there and they say AUNT....but in the american english dictionary it goes both ways

mikhailasharii Jan-01-2010

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Born and raised in Florida, and lived in Scotland for 20 years before
moving back to Florida. Something happened over those 20 years
because we definitely pronounced it like the insect way back then.
BTW, my Scottish wife also pronounces it like the bug.

shetc Jan-02-2010

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Awhant is just an ugly word. it sounds awful. I would never refer to my parents sisters in such an ugly way. My aunts are able to distingish thier titles from an ant. Because we say aunt and not ant.

ibdpi Jan-09-2010

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It's "Aunt" we don't say "Agust", we say "AUGUST" so we shouldn't say "Ant" instead of "Aunt

jbny90 Jan-15-2010

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That last comment fills me with LAUghter!

shetc Jan-15-2010

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Growing up in the south, we always pronounced the word "ant" but the older generation used the pronunciation "aint." Since we learned to call our aunts by name from the older generation, we ended up calling our aunts by name as such: "Aint Bertha" but if we talked about them without a name, is was "my ant." The only people we ever heard say "Ahnt" were on television. The blacks in our area usually used the term "ahntee."

acuteteacher Jan-16-2010

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Zai says:
February 24, 2009 at 7:51 pm
"Swardie – While I pronounce aunt as "awnt" I would not compare aunt with restaurant since its etymology is French and I am not sure where the word "aunt" comes from."

Aunt is indeed from french too.
appearently it's etymologically related to (and means) "tante", which, since it's french uses yet another "a", closer to the english "far" for example, though more nasal.

I'm from sweden, so my personal pronounciation, which happens to be "awnt" doesn't mean so much, other than that I've tried to embrace brittish english more conciously to balance out my otherwise unproportional exposure to american english. Though in this particular case it seems obvious that "ant" isn't "the american variant, period", simply the choice of the majority. Jan-30-2010

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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 Feb-15-2010

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These words aren't Homophones!!! How does the sentence my ant stepped on an ant sound?!?! Makes no sense right?! So personally I think it's ont.

Ken3 Feb-20-2010

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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 Feb-24-2010

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

ibdpi Feb-24-2010

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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 Feb-25-2010

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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.

michelle1 Mar-26-2010

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