In phonology, words can be classified according to the position of the stressed syllable:

  • An oxytone word is a word stressed in the last syllable.
  • A paroxytone word is a word stressed in the second last syllable.
  • A proparoxytone word is a word stressed in the third last syllable.

In Spanish, this classification affects only to those words with more than one syllable. According to that classification, we speak about words than can be agudas, llanas or esdrújulas, respectively. Nonetheless, there are a few words in Spanish that have two stressed syllables: the adverbs ending with "-mente", the Spanish version of the English "-ly" adverbs. So "quickly" (from quick) becomes "rápidamente" (from rápido, "quick").

The origin of these words is the latin word mens, "mind". So doing something "rápidamente" etymologically means to do it "with a quick mind". Originally those adverbs were written as two words: "rápida mente" ("quick mind" indeed). And that is the reason why today we pronounce rápidamente as RApidaMENte, with two stressed syllables as if the two words were still present.

The problem is that the Royal Spanish Academy does not recognise these adverb words as classifiable within the aforementioned classification, as this classification system only affects words with one stressed syllable. So is there a proposed classification for multi-stressed words? Do any language where words with two stressed syllables happen more often exist?

  • Related question in Spanish Language (in Spanish).
    – Charlie
    Nov 21, 2017 at 11:49
  • Yes, and you have just classified them: Words with two or more stressed syllables.
    – Greg Lee
    Nov 23, 2017 at 14:20
  • In Portuguese, adverbs ending in -mente are considered paroxítonas, as they are stressed in the second to last syllable. There are other words like that, such as paralelepípedo (PAraLElePIpedo), for instance; but they are always classified concerning the last, and main, stress (so paralelepípedo is a proparoxítona (PROparoXItona). Jan 23, 2018 at 16:12

2 Answers 2


I don't know of any terms used for this.

English words where the primary stress falls on the third syllable or later always, or at least almost always, have a secondary stress on either the first or second syllable ("GIGO", John Wells's Phonetic Blog). I think the placement of secondary stress is just ignored when terms like oxytone, paroxytone, proparoxytone are applied to English words (which is uncommon in my experience).


Well, the Royal Spanish Academy does actually have an accepted term for words in Spanish whose stress falls before the antepenult: sobreesdrújulo (also sometimes spelled sobresdrújulo) -- you can look it up in the RAE. If I understand correctly, this would even apply to words whose primary stress falls on the fifth-to-last syllable, such as automáticamente.

Though personally I'm not sure why you are so concerned with the existence or absence of officially-sanctioned terms to describe these things. Independently of whether the Royal Academy had deigned to list a term for these words in their dictionary, they would nevertheless exist, and reading the Academy's publications is one of the last methods I would recommend to anyone wishing to really study the grammar or phonology of the Spanish language.

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