After I verified the pronunciation of 'antipode' (/ˈantɪpəʊd/ ), I inexplicably decided to verify separately the pronunciation of 'antipodes ' (/anˈtɪpədiːz/ )

This twofold verification emerged necessary, because it revealed that though a back-formation of trisyllabic 'antipodes', 'antipode' was instead disyllabic. Without any verification, I would've guessed that 'antipode' would have been pronounced as (//anˈtɪpədi/ ). So what explains this unpredictable, surprising phonetic difference?

I ask here because I see from Etymonline that 'antipodes' originates from Latin, after Greek, after a possible PIE root. So I don't know which language(s) affected the pronunciation.

[EDIT to clarify] My question is why antipodes is pronounced the way it is.

  • I think it has to do with open and closed syllables. – Anixx Aug 2 '15 at 9:25
  • That's why antipodes (trisyllabic plural form) is usually used, even to refer to the the (singular) point directly opposed on the earth from somewhere. I've never heard anyone pronounce the singular; indeed, I've never even read antipode. – jlawler Aug 2 '15 at 14:11
  • What is your question? Are you asking why there exists a word "antipode"; are you asking why "antipodes" is pronounced the way it is? Are you assuming that the words are generatively related and are asking about the irregular phonological relationship. Please edit the question. – user6726 Aug 2 '15 at 16:24
  • @user6726 Yes, I meant to ask 'why "antipodes" is pronounced the way it is'. Yes, I am Are you assuming that the words are generatively related and a[m] asking about the irregular phonological relationship. Since you kindly clarified, would you like to edit to claim the credit? – NNOX Apps Aug 2 '15 at 18:37
  • I'll add a snippet, and you can roll it back if the snippet doesn't express your intent. – user6726 Aug 2 '15 at 21:38

I know of no evidence that individuals use both [ˈæntɪpɔʊd] and [ænˈtɪpədijz], though I also can't say that I've even ever heard anyone use "antipode". I don't control the meaning / use of "antipode", but the words are not in a regular singular / plural semantic relationship, as "cat / cats", or "mouse / mice" are. You expect a regular pronunciation relationship between regularly derived inflectional singular / plural pairs. However, there are also word pairs that stand in an etymological singular / plural relationship that don't have a synchronic singular / plural inflectional relationship, such as opus, opera. We treat these as separate words (and the Romans are responsible for the changes in pronunciation).

The two words are thus unrelated in Modern English. Antipode simply follows the regular rules for orthography-to-pronunciation. Perhaps the first person who coined the singular didn't know how to pronounce "antipodes", and followed the regular rule. The pronunciation of "antipodes" follows alternative rules of pronunciation that are relevant to words from classical languages. In the present case, Latin is a conduit for Greek ἀντίπους, underlyingly /anti-pod-s/ but even in Ancient Greek, the inflection of "foot" was irregular.

As you will observe in indices, theses, vortices, there is a special rule for pronouncing es in Latinate plurals. I expect that many people pronounce "antipodes" as [ˈæntɪpɔʊdz], if they are unaware of that rule (they probably don't teach it in school anymore), and the history of the word. (Similarly, hammamelidanthemum is mis-stressed with alternating stress starting with the first syllable in a certain famous stress dissertation, since the author was at the time unaware of the etymological makeup of the word).


It seems that the classical words with "es" plurals either derive from Greek is-stem nouns, e.g. thesis, analysis, synapsis, crisis, which had the plural -ɛις, or were Latin third declension nouns with the ending -ēs in the relevant words. Either source would yield the plural [ijS].

  • I thought "indices" was from Latin, rather than analogy. Like matrices, vortices, appendices... in fact, I don't really see any indication that most of these words in English actually come from Greek. There are two main classes I can see: Greek -is/-es words, and latin -ex/-ices words (with some -ix/-ices words as well). – brass tacks Aug 3 '15 at 1:47
  • Yes, you are right. I miscomputed the regularity of the Latin source. – user6726 Aug 3 '15 at 4:50

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