Pronunciation of Mathematical Vocabulary

Michal Ryszard Wojcik   Sunday, January 04, 2004, 21:01 GMT
Does anybody know of an online resource which lists mathematical vocabulary with phonetic transcription?

Or perhaps is there an eager native speaker of English who is a mathematician and who would be willing to supply pronunciation information for math words?

For example, how to pronounce the names of the following mathematicians (these names frequently figure in math books):
Jacob   Sunday, January 04, 2004, 22:41 GMT
I happen to be a mathematician. Of course, none of the names you've listed are English names, but here goes:

Brouwer rhymes with sour.
Cauchy rhymes with "So she."
Euler is "OIL-er" (and most definitely NOT YOOL-er)
Fubini is "foo - BEE - nee"
Haar rhymes with star and bar.
Jordan -- properly, it's pronounced "zhor-DON" (French), but lots of English speakers prefer "JOR-dun"
Lebesgue - Luh BAYG.
Mazur - MAY zer, rhymes with razor.
RA-don NIK-o-deem (I also hear ra DON).
VY - er - shtross. (But you hear LOTS of weird variations among English speakers).

Sorry I haven't ever gotten comfortable with IPA -- it's on my list of things to do.

Almost all of these names are associated with classical real & complex analysis -- except the only Mazur I know is a contemporary topologist, working in the theory of manifolds. Are you thinking of a different Mazur?
Jacob   Sunday, January 04, 2004, 22:46 GMT
The two names most commonly mangled by American undergrads, I'd say, are Euler and Riemann (pronounced in the German fashion: REE-mann).

If you're working on measure theory (which is what it sounds like), you'll soon run across Egoroff's Theorem. I first learned this when I was taking classes in Budapest and the teacher pronounced it with an initial y-glide (which matches what I expect from the Russian spelling of it). But when I pronounce it that way here [America] nobody knows who the hell I'm talking about -- you have to go with EGG - or - off to be understood, unfortunately.
Michal Ryszard Wojcik   Monday, January 05, 2004, 18:20 GMT
Thanks, Jacob.

Your feedback is very useful.

I have some questions.
Which syllable is stressed in "Cauchy" ?
How should I understand the "RA" in "RA-don" ?
Is it RAY-duhn, RAY-don, RAH-duhn, RAH-don?

I am going to collect math words and publish a page on the Internet giving their pronunciation. This is quite a big project. Perhaps you will be interested in supplying more information. In that case, please contact me by email. We shouldn't bother the forum readers with more stuff like this.

My email address can be found at
as a graphical image -- precaution against spammers.
Jacob   Monday, January 05, 2004, 19:31 GMT
What I usually here in American speakers is RAY-don. Those who pronounce the stress on the last syllable swallow the first vowel, so it becomes "ruh DON."

For Cauchy, the first syllable is stressed.

The pronounciation guide for mathematical terminology might be a very good thing. I would be suprised if there doesn't already exist a compilation of pronunciations of names, though. I'll look into that & let you know.

There is a real inconsistency problem with names; the pronunciation that is "right" according to the persons country of origin may be so awkward for English speakers that an "anglicized" version becomes standard & preferrable. Which one is correct? It depends on where you are.

I encountered this problem when I worked with classical music DJ's to help them with the pronunciation of composers' names. Forcing a "correct" but awkward pronunciation into a stream of spoken English just sounds terrible, so I always advised them to use an anglicized version for particularly difficult names. I do the same for mathematicians' names when I'm lecturing.
Michal Ryszard Wojcik   Thursday, January 08, 2004, 08:45 GMT
One step toward my goal has been already made:

It's a list of math words with phonetic transcription of a kind.
Apparently, the list doesn't contain names of mathematicians, it rather focuses on words which can be found in normal dictionaries if they are large enough.