I was discussing an odd pronunciation of etc. with a friend when he told me that technically the most correct way to pronounce it based off Latin pronunciation rules would be something more like et KEH-tera.

I was wondering what led to the c being pronounced like an s in this Latin phrase but I wasn't able to find a question on here that had already answered this or anywhere else I looked, but if this was already answered in some form on this site I apologize for the redundancy.

Was this just due to modern pronunciation rules being applied to the phrase and eventually everyone was taught the pronunciation as et SEH-tera and it was accepted as such? Or is there a different reason?

  • 4
    Have a look here: "When did “c” before “e” or “i” start to be pronounced as "ts" (in contrast to classical "k")?". And note that your question is better suited for Latin Language SE.
    – tum_
    Apr 2, 2021 at 7:16
  • 4
    There are very, very few English words where Latin c is not pronounced /s/ before a front vowel. Why do you single out et cetera? In (pre-)Classical Latin, <c> always represented /k/, but already by post-Classical times (so still nearly two millennia ago), this had probably changed to some kind of /kʲ ~ c ~ tʃ/ sound before front vowels, which eventually, through gradual change, went all the way to /s/ in French, and hence also in English which borrowed most of its Latin vocabulary through French. Apr 2, 2021 at 8:57
  • 1
    Also see rhinoceros. Apr 2, 2021 at 9:46

2 Answers 2


In Classical Latin, the letter C represented a single phoneme /k/. How exactly this phoneme was pronounced is still debated—there's some evidence that the pronunciation varied a bit depending on the vowel after it—but loans into other languages suggest that it always remained pretty close to the sound in English "cat". So when people use reconstructed Classical pronunciation, they generally pronounce it like that, regardless of the environment.

In Vulgar Latin/early Romance, the pronunciation shifted more dramatically: now, C before I, E, and a few other letters ("front vowels") was pronounced like the sound in English "chat". This is what we still see in modern Italian. And in the variety of Romance that eventually became French, it shifted even further, becoming the sound in English "sip" (consider c'est, pronounced roughly like English "say").

Now, English is generally considered a Germanic language: it descends from the Anglo-Saxon varieties of Germanic spoken in Britain, not from any sort of Vulgar Latin. But around the 11th century, French-speaking Normans invaded and conquered England, and their language had an enormous impact on the development of English.

So most of the Latinate/Romance vocabulary in English came to us through some variety of French, and was thus affected by French sound changes. Even when words were borrowed directly from Latin ("learned borrowings"), we tend to use a vaguely French-esque pronunciation for them (compare "Caesar" to German "Kaiser"); sometimes these learned borrowings actually came via French, but other times it's just a generalization of the idea "this is how we pronounce Latin words now".

  • Germans say Cesar with /ts/ all the same, only few maniacs choose /k/ and then they also choose /k/ for China which is, wait for it, from Sina, akin to Asia. In the same vein, I might argue, what I call Hessen you call Wessex is called German by posh Franks (like ward ~ guard for what would have been spelled with a C; compare as well Salian Franks from the Waal, or IJsel) on the Weser (Wacal in Ceasr's), if not aleman, later also holy roman, or better the salty roman empire. It just doesn't make sense. Question remains what does (proscribed) ˌɛkˈsɛt(ə)ɹə tell us about etc?
    – vectory
    Dec 3, 2021 at 18:22

This pronunciation may be borrowed from French. Note that some Quebec French pronounce et tchetera Italianways.

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