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Throughout Wikipedia, the pronunciation of words is indicated by means of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). The following tables list the IPA symbols used for English words and pronunciations.
If the IPA symbols are not displayed properly by your browser, see the links below.
If the words illustrating two symbols sound the same to you (say, if you pronounce cot and caught the same, or do and dew, or marry and merry), you can ignore the difference between those symbols. Footnotes explain some of these mergers. (See also #Dialect variation below.)
This key represents diaphonemes, abstractions of speech sounds that accommodate General American, Received Pronunciation, Canadian English, South African, Australian, and New Zealand pronunciations. Therefore, not all of the distinctions shown here are relevant to a particular dialect:
On the other hand, there are some distinctions which you might make but which this key does not encode, as they are seldom reflected in the dictionaries used as sources for Wikipedia articles:
Other words may have different vowels depending on the speaker. Bath, for example, originally had the /æ/ vowel (as in cat), but for many speakers, it now has the /ɑː/ vowel (as in father). Such words are transcribed twice, once for each pronunciation: /ˈbæθ, ˈbɑːθ/.
The pronunciation of the /æ/ vowel in Scotland, Wales and northern England has always been closer to [a], even amongst educated speakers. BBC English is moving away from the older RP [æ] towards the more open vowel [a], and the Oxford English Dictionary transcribes the "lad", "bad", "cat", "trap" vowel as /a/ in its updated entries.
For more extensive information on dialect variations, you may wish to see the IPA chart for English dialects.
If you feel it is necessary to add a pronunciation respelling using another convention, then please use the conventions of Wikipedia's pronunciation respelling key.