The Proper Pronunciation of Certiorari

David Barnhart dbarnhart at HIGHLANDS.COM
Tue Jun 24 17:17:35 UTC 2014

I hope this is not too garbled...

_certiorari_ ...

shėr’’shē ə rār’ē  OR -ī			World Book Dictionary
sûr’’shē ə râr’ē  OR -rä’rē			American Heritage College D.
sər”sh(ē)ə rer’ē	OR -rär’ē  OR -ra’rē	Merriam-Webster Collegiate D.
sɄr”shē ə rer’ē					Webster’s New World D.
ser”sh(ē)ə rär’ē  OR -re(ə)’rī		New Oxford American D.

I have standardized the stress marks and adjusted the syllabication in order to reduce confusion.


Barnhart at

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Baker, John
Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 11:59 AM
Subject: The Proper Pronunciation of Certiorari

---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       "Baker, John" <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM>
Subject:      The Proper Pronunciation of Certiorari

                "Certiorari" refers to the Supreme Court's writ of certiora= ri, a key step in the consideration of the large majority of cases that the=  court considers.  It is central to Supreme Court practice and part of the = vocabulary of every American lawyer.  But how should the word be pronounced= ?  It is Law Latin and was never used in classical periods, and there is ge= neral agreement that an anglicized pronunciation is appropriate, but the ag= reement stops there.

                It turns out that the Supreme Court Justices themselves hav= e no agreement on this point.  A recent article in The Green Bag, which cal= ls itself "an entertaining journal of law," counts a variety of pronunciati= ons used by Justices in formal settings, where they presumably had time to = think about the pronunciation they wanted to use:


                On its face, this might seem to suggest that common pronunc= iations are superfluous, if a word's pronunciation can be as variable as sp= ellings were five centuries ago.  But there is another approach taken by tw= o Justices, who always pronounce it "cert" (i.e., "sert") in informal conte= xts and "review" in more formal settings.  Apparently they, at least, feel = discomfort with a word that does not have a standard pronunciation.

                The article is at

John Baker

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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