The Proper Pronunciation of Certiorari

Tue Jun 24 20:18:24 UTC 2014

Thanks to all for the posts.  Note that, contrary to Benjamin's suggestion, "certiorari" is used with some frequency in law, and particularly at the Supreme Court, so it isn't really the case that it isn't said often enough for a standard pronunciation to emerge.  

The whole discussion has made clear to me what I suspected in the past:  I'm not sure how to pronounce the word.  From now on, I'm going to use "ser-shee-or-RAHR-ee" when I absolutely have to settle on a pronunciation, but "cert" or "review" whenever possible.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Benjamin Barrett
Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 1:35 PM
Subject: Re: The Proper Pronunciation of Certiorari

Black's gives


but I have never really trusted that for pronunciation.

I think this word falls into a group of a large number of Latin- and Greek-derived words for which there is no standard pronunciation because they're not said often enough. Clade names are often impossible to figure out.

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA

Learn Ainu!

On Jun 24, 2014, at 8:58 AM, Baker, John <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM> wrote:

>                "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:
> ser-shee-or-RAHR-ee
> sert-zee-or-RAHR-ee
> ser-shee-or-RARE-eye
> ser-shee-or-RARE-ee
> ser-shee-or-ARR-eye
> ser-shee-ARR-ee
>                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
> les_duane.pdf.

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