A site for spellers, teachers of spelling and reading, and students of english words
cummings, spell, spelling, english, words, spellers, teachers, reading, read, reader cummings, spell, spelling, english, words, spellers, teachers, reading, read, reader cummings, spell, spelling, english, words, spellers, teachers, reading, read, reader
cummings, spell, spelling, english, words, spellers, teachers, reading, read, reader cummings, spell, spelling, english, words, spellers, teachers, reading, read, reader
 
cummings, spell, spelling, english, words, spellers, teachers, reading, read, reader cummings, spell, spelling, english, words, spellers, teachers, reading, read, reader

Questions and Answers

>> Search questions and answers

Keyword or phrase:   
Topic: 
     or view all answers

Why is it spelled...?

Why is there a <p> in psychology?

The initial string <ps> is quite common, especially in technical and scientific words — for instance, pseudo, psalm, psalter, psilate, psoas, psychiatry, psychic, psychosis. All but one come from Greek, where the <ps> was pronounced [ps]. In fact, the sound [ps] was so common in Greek that there was a separate letter in the Greek alphabet for it — psi, or Ø (somewhat the way our <x> usually spells [ks]). Psi is one of the few words in which the <ps> still spells [ps], either [psi] or [ps e], though it is most often pronounced with plain [s]: [si], [s e]. The only other Greek word still pronounced with a [ps] is the rare pschent "pharaoh's headdress"—sometimes [skent], sometimes [pskent]. The one word in which <ps> always spells [ps] is not Greek at all: the native interjection psst.

The editors of the OED felt that the pronunciation with [p] should be retained in technical terms: "As the <p> is now pronounced in French, German, and other languages, as well as by Englishmen in reading Greek, and by many scholars in English also (there being no organic defect in the English mouth to prevent it), it is here marked, except in the psalm, psalter group, as an optional pronunciation which is recommended especially in all words that retain their Greek form (e.g. psora, psyche), and in scientific terms generally, which have not been irretrievably mutilated by popular use" (at Ps-). This is one of the few times the OED prescribed lexical engineering, and they were quite unsuccessful, at least in American English. If they had succeeded, today it would be [|ps i |kol·schwa·je], and there would be no question why there is a <p> in its spelling (AES, 29.2.2.2).

  cummings, spell, spelling, english, words, spellers, teachers, reading, read, reader
cummings, spell, spelling, english, words, spellers, teachers, reading, read, reader