The National Library Service has a very useful page called The ABC Book, A Pronunciation Guide; the symbols used are idiosyncratic (á = able, rate, é = evil, reel, ð = schwa), but the pronunciations I happen to know are spot-on, even the obscure ones:
Hippocrene (hip-ð-KRÉN-é) Publishers, foreign reference works
Rao’s (RÁ-óz) N.Y. restaurant
So I’m willing to trust them on ones I didn’t know, like:
Boni & Liveright (BÓ-ní and LIV-rít) Publishers (I said BOH-nee, not -nigh)
Brearley (BRÂR-lé) NYC East side private school
CMEA (SMÉ-ð) Council on Economic Assistance
Djer Kiss (DÉR KIS) Cosmetics mfr. (how’d they make Djer = deer?)

As always happens, there are typos, but the ones I’ve found so far are easily remedied by the pronunciations:
Mujiheddin (moo-JÄ-he-DÉN) Afghan resistance [s/b Mujaheddin]
Pichaco Plaza (pð-KÄCH-ó) Hotel [s/b Picacho]
If anybody finds other mistakes, please put them in the comments, and hopefully someone at the NLS will see them and correct the list. (Via Semantic Compositions, where I learned that Rokeach is ROH-keech, not—as anyone who knows any Hebrew is tempted to say—roh-KAY-akh.)


  1. I’m spoiled by knowing the IPA and living in Europe. Whenever I come across a dictionary that doesn’t use it, I can afford to say “eh, no thanks, I’ll go use another dictionary.” Rather than spending half an hours’ worth of my concentration learning a notation I’ll never use outside of one book.
    Which is to say, eth for schwa? What were they thinking? 🙂 .

  2. That’s all well and good, but you’re not going to find this stuff in any other dictionary, so you can suck it up and learn their system or resign yourself to never knowing how to pronounce Brearley.

  3. Another crafty approach would be to write a Javascript bookmarklet that would convert the transliteration to IPA… a quick once-over suggests that the conversion would be close to a one-to-one relationship, and thus not too hard to code up. I’ll give it a go and if I can get it to work. If I do, I’ll post the bookmarklet on my site and leave a link here.

  4. I just assumed that Brearley rhymes with nearly. Wonder if that’s why they didn’t hire me after my on-campus interview a few years back.

  5. You and me both (well, minus the interview). We’re clearly Not Their Sort.

  6. heroes are awesome
    can you please tell me about ABC books?
    I wrote one myself and am now getting it published 🙂

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