Phonetic notation of the American Heritage Dictionary

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The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (abbreviated AHD) uses a phonetic notation based on the Latin alphabet to transcribe the pronunciation of spoken English. It and similar respelling systems, such as those used by the Merriam-Webster and Random House dictionaries, are familiar to US schoolchildren.

The following tables show the AHD representations of English phonemes,[1] along with the IPA equivalents as used on Wikipedia.


In general, long vowels are marked with a macron, and short vowels with a breve. A circumflex may also be used to indicate a pre-rhotic vowel. Usage of other symbols vary.

AHD IPA Example
ă æ bat
ā bait
âr ɛər bear
ä ɑː father
ĕ ɛ bet
ē beat
ĭ ɪ bit
ī bite
îr ɪər beer
ŏ ɒ bot
ō boat
ô ɔː bought
ôr ɔːr north
oi ɔɪ boy
o͝o ʊ book
o͞o boot
ou bout
ŭ ʌ butt
ûr ɜːr bird
ə ə about
ər ər butter
œ ø French feu, German schön
œ French œuf, German zwölf
ü y French tu, German über
N ◌̃ French bon


AHD IPA Example
b b buy
ch China
d d dye
f f fight
g ɡ guy
h h high
hw hw why
j jive
k k kite
l l lie
əl bottle
m m my
n n nigh
ən button
ng ŋ sing
p p pie
r r rye
s s sigh
sh ʃ shy
t t tie
th θ thigh
th ð thy
v v vie
w w wide
y j yacht
z z zoo
zh ʒ vision
əm əm rhythm
KH ç German ich
x German ach, Scottish loch


Stress is indicated by a prime character following stressed syllables. The character is in boldface when it indicates primary stress.

AHD IPA Description
ˈ◌ Primary stress
◌′ ˌ◌ Secondary stress
- . Syllable division (omitted after stressed syllables)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Houghton Mifflin, American Heritage Dictionary pronunciation key (PDF), retrieved 2016-01-21. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)