I just discovered that each major English-speaking region has its own way of pronouncing this word, and apparently (to judge by this WordOrigins thread, where I discovered the situation) each is unaware of the others. I had always assumed everyone pronounced it SODD-er, as we do in the US (short o, no l). Now I find that Australians say SOHL-der (long o, with l), while the OED says “(ˈsɒldə(r), ˈsəʊdə(r)),” which means Brits use a long o (SO) when they omit the l but a short one when they pronounce it (SOL). So what I want to know is, what do Canadians say? Other variants and anecdotes are, of course, welcome.

Update (Dec. 2021). The OED hasn’t revised the entry, but they’ve revised the pronunciation; they now have /ˈsɒldə/, /ˈsəʊldə/, /ˈsəʊdə/ — i.e., they’ve added a version with both long o and l.


  1. I, with my Montreal English dialect, pronounce just like you do, and don’t know anyone who pronounces it otherwise. This isn’t as small a sample size as one might assume, because I had to buy solder and soldering irons and stuff while I was doing stained glass, and I discussed my really bad soldering technique with various people.
    Every single francophone initially pronounces it like soldier but without the affrication on the d (the change the i makes), and everyone corrects them to the l-less variant.

  2. Just to keep the thread going (unless maybe New Zealand or South Africa bails us out, we seem to be in trouble) I’ll paraphrase a Jack Handy joke:
    “People laughed when the new cowboy rode into town, because instead of a pistol, he had a soldering iron in his holster. But they were wrong to laugh, because it was no ordinary soldering iron. It was the Soldering Iron of Justice.”

  3. … the OED says “(‘sQld@(r), ‘s@Ud@(r)),” …
    That’s rather surprising. I don’t have a complete OED here, but both the Concise Oxford Dictionary (tenth edition, 1999) and the New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) give /’s@Uld@, ‘sQld@/. My own pronunciation (southern England, mostly) is the former. As the Australians, apparently, although I imagine the phonetic realization is somewhat different there.

  4. aldiboronti says

    Interesting piece on Quinion related to this:
    It concerns the phrase “soft sawder”, meaning the same as “soft soap” and coined in the 19th century by Judge Haliburton of Nova Scotia.
    Quinion says, “Sawder is just a variant way of writing the usual North American pronunciation of solder (it looks odd to modern British English speakers, who pronounce the l—we didn’t at one time, but the “speak as you spell” movement has triumphed)……………It seems from the evidence that soft sawder very quickly caught on in North America, and soon enough across the Atlantic in Britain, too. It was common right down to Agatha Christie’s time, turning up in works by Galsworthy and E M Forster among others. However, soft soap and other phrases have displaced it permanently. Few people now know what soft solder is, nor what connection it might have with flattery.”

  5. I use the long O and the l and sometimes in rapid speech it may transform into soldier. I’m from central Canada.

  6. Interesting. So the 2nd ed. of the OED is well out of date.

  7. I haven’t encountered any pronounciation besides /’s@Ud@r/ in Ireland.

  8. Long O and I do pronounce the L, and I’m around the Toronto area. Basically, the same way I pronounce the first part of “soldier”.
    In fact, I have never heard a different pronunciation — and I took a couple electronics courses in high school, so I came across the word often.

  9. I’m from Sydney, although I grew up in Brisbane. I’d say SOHL-der is standard in Australia although I am aware of people occasionally shortening the ‘o’. Pronouncing the ‘l’ is invariable.

  10. wacky. I say it both ways, and always assumed they were synonyms spelt respectively solder (SOHL-der) and saughter (SODD-er).
    US born and raised, mostly. Parents from Washington state, Mom from a depression migration out of Missouri. She says “boosh” for bush and “Warshington” and “warsh.” Her family probably has more recent non-American native English speakers in’t.

  11. tickingclock says

    Hello. I’ve been following your blog ever since I found it via MeFI, but I never commented because I didn’t know if it would be appropriate for a random stranger to suddenly blurt out something and then disappear. I hope you don’t mind me commenting with some anecdotes.
    Upon reading your post, I took the liberty of asking a few of my friends:
    Two people, both born and raised in Vancouver, say SOUL-der. One of them has taken several electronics course in high school before. My brother, who learned most of his English here, says SOUL-der. My friend who lives in Ottawa prefers SOUL-der (but has heard SOD-der before).
    Two say SOD-der. One has lived in Vancouver all his life; the other spent a fair bit of her childhood in Northern Ireland, but has since lost her ‘accent.’
    As for myself, I say “SOD-der,” and I’ve never known any other way until tonight. Curiously enough, my brother and I have lived in Vancouver for the same amount of time (7~8 years), and both learned most of our English here. I would claim that it’s because I’ve taken electronics before, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
    Sorry for the lengthy comment. I hope you found this to be somewhat informative and interesting!

  12. I am British and pronounce it to rhyme with shoulder (so how do I pronounce that?!)
    My reference is the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary – I really must get the 2nd ed., it’s a wonderful book, written by J.C. Wells, a professor of phonetics. It gives one main BE and one main AmE pronunciation, plus one alternative and two obsolete BE ones.
    Main BE is with L and short o, secondary BE is mine, with L and long o (excuse abbreviated sound descriptions), obsolete BE in both cases, as LH says, without the L. Main AmE is with long o and without the L. The OED is not going to be the best source on this.

  13. Yes, it’s got soul for me to, in the south of England. Never heard it any other way.

  14. hippietrail says

    I’m Australian and I’ve never heard it prononced without the “l”.
    As for the “o”, to me an “o” before an “l” always seems short. I can’t actually imagine the sound of a long “o” before an “l” though even Australian dictionaries indicate it for most words. I can say that I also pronounce “soldier” and “solder” alike except for /dZ/ becoming /d/.

  15. OED1 has /’sold@/, /’soud@/, /’sod@/, but I think the L-less ones are just historical and American. Professor Wells’s lists are often based on current surveys, though this word isn’t in his 1998 one.
    I can’t think of a word that unequivocally has the sequence /old/, so it’s natural for /ould/ to develop for that spelling. This is an odd omission, since /olt/ is now the usual SBr pronunciation in ‘salt’, ‘alternate’ etc., replacing /o:lt/. Voiced/voiceless pairs usually give sub-phonemic length alternations but not phoneme differences.
    It’s complicated by the fact that in SBr now for many speakers, as in Australia, /ol/ and /oul/ are not or are barely distinguished. The /ou/ is realized as [QU] or [Q:] before /l/. (And of course the /l/ is [w] for many speakers, muddying it further.)

  16. I’m from Alberta and never heard it pronounced any other way than ‘sodder’ until I moved out east here (or, as they say, central Canada). Here it seems to be pronounced both ways.

  17. Kiwis accord with Aussies on this one. I say it “soulduh”, rhymes with boulder. (No final r’s down here mate, unless you’re from Southland).
    (Consternation this week when the New Zealand Listener noted that among the young folk here, “beer”, “bear”, “here” and “hair” all have the same vowels, a trend that started with my generation but has since become universal. I’ve been trying to train my daughter out of this but I think I’m just going to have to give in.)

  18. tickingclock: Thanks for a most informative comment (I appreciate people doing that kind of legwork!) and I assure you that it’s most appropriate for a random stranger to suddenly blurt out something. No need to disappear, though; next time you comment, you won’t be a random stranger but good old tickingclock! I should really put something on the sidebar about all and sundry being welcome; some people seem to think there’s a LH cabal or something. Commenters drift in and out (*remembers past pals who have disappeared, sighs a bit*); the important thing is that somebody comment on the damn posts, or else I feel like I’m talking to myself.
    MM, entangledbank: You too have been most enlightening. I’ll have to get a copy of that Longman.
    This really is a fascinating word; the US and Australia/NZ seem to have set pronunciations, but Canada is obviously a mix. South Africa, anyone?

  19. My Chambers dictionary has even more UK variants: it lists “sodder” as the primary pronunciation and “soulder” the secondary, along with “sawder”, “soder” (like soda with an r) and “sohlder” (soh as in doh, re, mi). I think it’s getting into regional and class variations: “sohlder” would be extreme RP, “sawder” quite plausible in a strong rural Devon accent. But I agree with other UK posters: for middle-of-the-road English within the areas I know (southern and Midlands UK, over some 40 years) I’ve never heard it pronounced as anything but “soulder”.

  20. Southwestern Ontario (about 100 km SW of Toronto).
    “SODD-er,” same as you.

  21. Am I reading you guys correctly that you pronounce it “sodder”, with the dental consonant in the middle voiced? I definitely say “sawter”, with a hard “t” sound in the middle, and I thought that was what everybody else said too.

  22. BTW how about “soldering”? You say “soddering”? — I say “sawtering”.

  23. SODder and SODdering for me just outside of Toronto. Mind you, I am not taken aback by many of the other variations as I have heard a few of them.

  24. Nope, it’s a voiced d with me. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say “sawter,” but it’s a subtle difference and I haven’t been listening for it. (Not that the subject comes up very often.)

  25. Jeremy:
    I do say ‘soddering’ when using that version. But as noted I always thought it was spelled ‘saughter,’ as I also say ‘slodder.’ it’s a middle sound b/t the tee of ‘ticking’ and the dee of ‘dog.’

  26. er, ‘slodder’ is for the word ‘slaughter,’ sorry.

  27. Matthew G says

    “SODD-er” on Vancouver Island, BC.

  28. Imagine the chaos if phonetic spelling were to be adopted in English!

  29. Thank you. This is one of the things spelling reformists tend to forget.

  30. I’m (south-eastern) English and always said soul-der. I had no idea that there was any alternative, in fact, until I came across an late-eighteenth-century court case (in Wales) in which an unfortunate soul was fatally beaten about the head with a ‘soddering iron’. I was a bit puzzled for a while…

  31. dungbeattle says

    Many moons ago in NY, I asked for solder and got a blank stare[could be they thought I wanted to find the recruiting office, they be needing fodder for the Asian wars], after a while I sed it rite, then in LA I asked again got more blank stares then got it rite, then went to Quebeck, told to leave town, then back to London and got more blank stairs. So when ye asked the question, the grey matter was now leaded down,I know the spelling but my tung is tyed and twisted. So thanks for the above explanation. My ears and my eyes are no longer in sink[sync].

  32. hippietrail says

    A surprise today when I checked Australia’s native dictionary, the Macquarie (Federation Edition):
    solder is pronounced /”sQld@/ – with a short “o” only. Meanwhile, the expected minimal pairs soldier and shoulder are pronounced /”soUldZ@/ and /”SoUld@/ – both with long “o”.
    In fact I couldn’t find another word where an “o” in a similar environment was given a short pronunciation. Generally only longer words with a stressed “ol” followed by an unstressed vowel get the short “o” in MQD. I do hear this distinction but not in “solder”.
    So apparently “solder” is a very special case in Australian English and I am a special case in my pronunciation of the word!

  33. DamonKelly says

    I would dispute the Macquarie’s pronunciation guide — I’ve only ever heard the long O version (same as soldier, shoulder) here on Oz.
    I can’t think how they arrived at a short O. Any difference in “length” between “solder” and “soldier” must be minimal, in Australian pronunciation.

  34. I’m a English Montrealer living in Toronto who says SODD-er. So does my father (pronounced FODD-er) who lives in Winnipeg, but is originally from Montreal.
    Now, how does everyone pronounce “caulking?”

  35. Late in from Melbourne, Australia, definitely solder as in rhymes with shoulder. Why is this odd? that’s the way it’s spelt!!!
    I guess the regionalism comes from being a fairly technical word that one tends to use with the people around you. It gets written down in books but doesn’t usually make it into the movies. I must confess to never having heard an American say the word (which is pretty remarkable given how much American programming there is on Australian television) and even if I had I doubt I would have even recognised it.

  36. I was born with a soldering iron in my mouth (got the bit between my teeth early) in Birmingham in the UK Midlands. Most of my linguistic development took place in Lowestoft on the East Coast, and my school years were in Plymouth, Devon. My accent is… well, nobody can tell what region I’m from, apart from Southern Middle Class. My father is Northumbrian, my mother a Cockney, but both picked up proper speaking at Cambridge.
    I spent school holidays in a Devon TV repair shop, soldering with the locals, when I wasn’t soldering in my bedroom. I subsequently spent some time in the defence industry, soldering alongside engineers from all over the UK and some second-generation Asians, and then in Cambridge, Essex and London, still wreathed in flux smoke (flux is the resin or rosin – either is used – at the core of solder, which deoxidises the metals you’re soldering).
    Despite being a creature of text these days, I still own three soldering irons and occasionally solder for fun with friends and alone.
    In all that time, I’ve only pronounced it and heard it pronounced as soulder – with two exceptions. A rather ancient Cornishman who worked in the Devonian TV repair shop called the tool a ‘soddering iron’, and an American friend from Boston — I don’t know his family history –calls it sodder.
    (The Cornishman also called the cathode-ray oscilloscope a ‘crow’ – from CRO – and the spectrum analyser a rectum paralyser. I shall leave it there.)

  37. i’m from Yorkshire. For me it rhymes with ‘older’ and ‘shoulder’. But what confuses me about all these comments is that there is no mention of the dark ‘l’. Clearly it has some effect on the preceding vowel. The IPA symbol for the vowel on the first consonant for me would be an upside-down ‘a’ (or more like a smaller upside-down ‘Q’). In other words, pretty near cardinal vowel no 5 (but in a northern English kind of way!). Followed by a dark ‘l’. Followed by schwa.
    A form such as ‘soldering’ might follow the same pattern or, if it was something I found myself saying regular, I can imagine that it would start to sound like ‘soldiering’ more regularly. But I don’t think I’d ever pronounce ‘solder’ as ‘soldier’. Who knows without a real study, though?

  38. so it wasn’t just my imagination, solder IS sollder IS sawder.
    welsh person in canada

  39. It’s sohl-der in India.

  40. SOLDER (sold-her) in Italy.

  41. In Italy? Are you talking about the British expat community?

  42. In Australia sod is a piece of mud. It is also what you cally someone who does something to annoy you (you sod of a man). So sodding metal sounds a little ridiculous out here.

  43. Someone mentioned that they pronounce it “soulder” because that’s how it’s spelled, but that wasn’t always the case: in Middle English it was “souder,” “soudere,” or “soudur”; the l was (re)introduced into the spelling to match its Latin ancestor “solidare.”

  44. Yes, as aldiboronti said (June 6, 2004 at 6:35 pm), quoting Quinion:

    “Sawder is just a variant way of writing the usual North American pronunciation of solder (it looks odd to modern British English speakers, who pronounce the l—we didn’t at one time, but the “speak as you spell” movement has triumphed)

  45. David Marjanović says

    Imagine my surprise when I just read this thread and stumbled over a pronunciation with “t” in the middle. Then I saw our esteemed host saying that’s “a subtle difference”, and it dawned on me: it’s all the same flap, and some people imagine it as t, others as dd

  46. I was a little surprised by “sawder” when my US pronunciation is “sodder”. Maybe some of the “sawder” writers have the cot-caught merger. But I see that Merriam-Webster gives both vowels.

  47. Does anyone pronounce soldier without a distinct [l], with [ɔɒ̜] or such?

  48. PlasticPaddy says

    This may be something like what you are looking for:

  49. Does anyone pronounce soldier without a distinct [l], with [ɔɒ̜] or such?

    Sure, in fact “sojer” is a standard respelling to indicate that.

  50. Gone for a Sojer Boy: The Revealing Letters and Diaries of Union Soldiers in the Civil War as They Endure the Siege of Charleston S.C., the Virginia Campaigns of Petersburg and Richmond, and Captivity in Andersonville Prison

  51. Stu Clayton says

    Ordered !

  52. When small children in England clamor for Marmite soldiers, they definitely says sojers.

  53. David Eddyshaw says

    Hence Hausa soja, whence also Kusaal sɔgia.

    Beside sowldiwr, Welsh also has sawdiwr, which was loaned from Middle English if GPC is to be believed.

  54. The speak-as-you-spell tendency is relentless. I didn’t realise that my pronunciation of “soldier”, “solder”, and “clothes” were all a result of this tendency. I’ve also noticed that “forehead” seems to have become the norm in the 40-odd years I was away. When I left I’d never heard anything but “forrid”.

    The real culprit, of course, is English spelling.

    Incidentally, I’ve never noticed a long o in “solder”, but then again, the distinction between long and short o in Australian English is pretty much obscured before an /l/, as entangledbank pointed out.

  55. The “new” pronunciation of forehead has driven the little girl who had a little curl to near extinction.

  56. Separated by a Common Language covered solder and calm in 2020, with some explorations of old pronouncing dictionaries. There seems to have been some controversy over pronouncing the L in the 18th-19th centuries; from an 1824 dictionary: “Mr. Smith says that Mr. Walker pronounces the l in this word, but every workman pronounces it as rhyming with fodder: to which it may be answered, that workmen ought to take their pronunciation from scholars, and not scholars from workmen.” Apparently the scholars won that one, at least in England!

    The OED … added a version with both long o and l. (to British pronunciations)

    So that’s a 20th-century change? I looked through editions of the Jones Pronouncing Dictionary on, and that option didn’t appear until the 13th edition, in 1969.

  57. Wells’ LPD (which in general has the most variants) has [‘sɒldə] and [‘səʊldə] for RP/GB, [‘sɒdə] and [‘sɔːdə] as common non-RP (i.e. local) variants and [‘sɑːdᵊr] for GA.

  58. The variants in Wells’s LPD were described above by MM (June 7, 2004 at 3:20 am). MM said the L-less variants are “obsolete BE”, but I suspect that was a misreading of the symbol Wells uses for “non-RP” — it’s a synchronic dictionary, he doesn’t include obsolete pronunciations (such as middle-syllable stress on contemplate).

  59. I’m surprised that a spelling pronunciation could replace the pronunciation historically used by “every workman”, considering that soldering is not something you can learn from a book, you need hands-on instruction. But you never know.

    Apropos of the newness of the long-o-with-L (/ˈsəʊldə/) pronunciation, in case anyone else is as confused as I was by this comment from entangledbank (June 7, 2004):

    OED1 has /’sold@/, /’soud@/, /’sod@/

    No, it didn’t. The pronunciations given by OED1 in 1913 were the same two quoted by languagehat in the original post, (ˈsɒldə(r), ˈsəʊdə(r)); the 1989 edition didn’t revise them, just converted them to IPA. Maybe entangledbank was looking at some more recent Oxford dictionary such as the ones quoted by Tim May.

    I was also puzzled by this claim:

    /olt/ is now the usual SBr pronunciation in ‘salt’, ‘alternate’ etc., replacing /o:lt/.

    Not according to any British dictionary, it isn’t (can any BrE speakers confirm?). I think entangledbank must have been trying to use X-SAMPA symbols, and getting them wrong (o has the same meaning in X-SAMPA as IPA). According to the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, the pronunciation favored by older BrE speakers is IPA /sɔ:lt/, by younger speakers /sɒlt/.

  60. It struck me that entangledbank is probably Australian. A short o seems to be entangledbank’s interpretation of the sound represented by /ɒ/. /ɒ/ is definitely the Australian pronunciation, and would intuitively (but incorrectly) be understood by a naive Australian speaker as /o/.

  61. entangledbank is English and speaks South-East England English (profile information on; see link from Snuffing a Candle), and in 2004 was finishing a thesis in linguistics (the comment here links to a livejournal), certainly not a naive speaker. I think the /o/ in that comment was just a mistake.

    Since OED1 didn’t use IPA, I should have said its second pronunciation was given as (sōᵘ·dəɹ), where according to the pronunciation key, ōᵘ is the vowel of “so”, “sow” (presumably the verb, not the noun!), and “soul”. That was converted to /əʊ/ in OED2 (1989), but was it pronounced that way yet in the OED1’s time? Was it still /oʊ/ in 19th-century BrE?

  62. Excellent sleuthing!

  63. An answer to my question from John Wells, Accents of English 4.1.7:

    The vowel of GOAT furnishes a well-known example of chronological variation in RP, as the older back [o̞+ʊ] type gave way to one with a central and usually unrounded starting-point, [ɜʊ ~ ɵʊ]. One may hazard a guess that the dividing date was the First World War: those who grew up before 1914 had the back type, those who came to adulthood since have the central type.

    And this change was first recognized in Gimson’s 1962 Introduction to the Pronunciation of English, and filtered into UK dictionaries over the next few decades; it was changed in the Jones Pronouncing Dictionary between the 12th edition (1963) and the 13th (1969).

    That makes me wonder, are there sound recordings of people old enough to have the [oʊ] pronunciation? And did they complain about young people’s weird trendy vowels?

  64. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    This really makes it clear how old fashioned the RP approximation taught in Danish schools still was around 1970; I’m pretty sure that’s where I have the back version of GOAT from.

  65. David Marjanović says

    are there sound recordings of people old enough to have the [oʊ] pronunciation?

    Long, long ago someone posted a recording of a WWI veteran saying “rows ‘n’ rows” like that right here on LH. If anyone has a suggestion for how to tweak the Google machine…

  66. Daniel Jones’s The Pronunciation of English, published in 1914, already describes variants of the GOAT vowel with a centralised/unrounded starting point (§153). So this pronunciation already existed before WWI. Btw, Jones at that point did not use the term RP (instead he used StP for “Standard Pronunciation”); popular London pronunciations (i.e. Cockney) are simply labeled L. Although the book is intended to be a description of StP, it is much richer in dialectal and local variants than, say, Alan Cruttenden’s modern editions of “Gimson’s Pronunciation of English”.

  67. Aha:

    I’ve now heard most of the audio above. What strikes me about Russell is his consistent use of /oʊ/ for the GOAT vowel

    Lots of old recordings linked in that thread.

  68. ulr, thanks for the reference to Jones 1914; “first recognized” was poorly phrased. It would be more accurate to say that Gimson 1962 was the authority who declared that GOAT as /əʊ/ was no longer a variant, it was now the standard. His words: “A number of variants of this narrow diphthong are to be found within RP. The type described above is that which has in recent years become general.” According to a commenter on Dialect Blog, “As UCL Chair of Phonetics, his word was like an order from the Pope.”

  69. I was taught /əʊ/ in Bulgaria in 1991 (with IPA). It was supposed to be RP, I think.

  70. Just ran across a set of pages by Sidney Woods on 19th-century RP, with sound recordings of several RP speakers born in the 19th century and analyses of their vowel formants. His conclusion from the page on FACE and GOAT:

    All the examples had the new [əʊ]-like GOAT. This means that the change from [ou] to [əʊ] was already in progress by 1850 and few, if any, were still acquiring the earlier form.

    These results for both diphthongs are surprising. Not one of these five had the [ou] for GOAT, that Jones always described, while [əʊ] had just been recognized as new in the 1960s.

    One of the speakers is Jones himself!

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