I found the word "ice-free" is pronounced /ˈˌaɪsˈˌfri/ in Oxford English Dictionary, but what kind of stress is this? Should it be called 'there are two primary stresses and two secondary stresses?'

Thank you in advance! :)

1 Answer 1


It means it is pronounced either /ˈaɪsˌfri/ or /ˌaɪsˈfri/. This notation of "¦" standing for "primary or secondary stress" was devised in Webster's Third (1961) by its pronunciation editor, Edward Artin (according to Windsor Lewis).

  • It’s not actually true, though, is it? I mean, does anyone have primary stress on free in ice-free? Sounds completely alien to me. Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 7:41
  • @JanusBahsJacquet What about in e.g. The sea is ice-free today?
    – TKR
    Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 8:07
  • @TKR Unquestionably primary stress on ice and secondary stress on free to me. There are cases where there’s actual variation, free or otherwise, like the -teen numbers; but I’ve never heard anyone pronounce any -free compound with primary stress on free. (Not counting contrastive stress, obviously, because anything can be stressed anywhere for contrast.) Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 8:11
  • 1
    Just going off my own intuition, I think that if I say "the sea is ice-free today," I put the primary stress on "free," but if I say "the Arctic saw its first ice-free summer," I put the primary stress on "ice." Saying "ice-free" in isolation, I'd put the primary stress on "free," unless "ice" is contrastive. Would anyone like me to see if I can record an audio file of me speaking all this? Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 17:34
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet Well, for me, ice-free has two stresses, where the second is likely to appear more prominent if it has the tonic syllable. But like champagne, such words undergo 'stress shift' if next to a following syllable that's stressed. So we'd normally perceive "champagne", but if the following syllable's also stressed the first is perceived as more prominent: "'champagne 'cocktail"" Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 22:33

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