“Well practiced  wise directions”

Henry  IV Part Two  V,  2, 121

Hamlet  II, 2, 191

All English words in this dictionary, including words absorbed into English from other languages, are listed alphabetically. Latin words and phrases are arranged alphabetically in their own section. We have chosen not to include malaprops or comic blunders. We believe that each actor should be free to develop a pronunciation for these words.

As much as possible, we have made the components of the respelling system reflect the sound that they represent. We have listed the respelled words.

Sometimes a word that is spelled with a lower case letter is also a proper name. If the pronunciation is the same, these words are listed with the lower case first and the proper name second:

bedlam/Bedlam BEHD-luhm

Nouns are listed in their singular form, and verbs are in the present tense, unless the word is used only one time in the plural or past tense form. For example gallowglasses, gasted, sleeded, and smuched are respelled with their  es or ed endings because they appear only one time.

If alternate pronunciations are given, we leave the preference to the individual actor. Alternates are separated by the word  or:

halberd HAAL-berd or HAWL-berd

Pronunciations, altered by scansion, are given along with the act, scene and line reference. If the scanned version of the pronunciation is used more than one time e.g. (for example) precedes the line reference and the @ (at) symbol is placed in front of the act, scene and line:

Antiochus aan-TEYE-uh-kuhs scans to aan-TEYE-kuhs e.g. @ PER I, 3, 19

Multiple entries, including family names, proper names of characters in the cast list and characters who are alluded to or mentioned in a play but are not in the cast list, are organized in the following manner: the first line of the main entry gives the basic pronunciation and any variant pronunciations due to scansion. Indented under the main entry, the characters in the cast are listed with their play abbreviation, the line references of variant pronunciations, and the respellings of any additional  information. If no line reference is given, then the proper name does not alter in that play:

Katherine KAATH-uh-rin scans to KAATH-rin
Katherine (HV)
Katherine (HVIII)
Katherine (SHREW) e.g. scans @ SHREW II, 1, 184, also called “Katherina” KAATH-uh-REE-nuh or KAAT-uh-REE-nuh and “Kate” KAYT


Othello III, 3, 377

In order to assist the speaker, we give the syllable divisions and the levels of stress with as much detail as possible. Because most dictionaries are concerned with orthographic division in order to meet the needs of writers, proof readers, and typesetters, the syllable divisions for speakers are usually ignored and the indications of stress are often unclear. To clarify the spoken word, we place a hyphen between every syllable and include three levels of stress – primary, secondary, and unstressed.

The primary stress is the strongest level of emphasis, and it is indicated in the respelling system with BOLD CAPITAL letters and in the phonetics with an accent mark preceding the syllable with the primary stress:

lambkins LAAM-kinz

In certain multi-syllabic words, a secondary stress is indicated when it clarifies the pronunciation of the word. A secondary stress indicates the syllable that receives an intermediate level of stress and is written in the respelling system in CAPITAL letters without bold face type.

palisadoes PAAL-i-SAY-dohz

An unstressed syllable receives the lightest stress and is written in lower case letters:

supplyant suh-PLEYE-uhnt

Often the verse demands a variant pronunciation. The variant follows the basic pronunciation. If the variant occurs more than once, the abbreviation e.g. precedes a citation:

lamentable luh-MEHN-tuh-b(uh)l scans to LAAM-uhn-tuh-b(uh)l e.g. @ RII V, 1, 44

If the verse always demands a variant pronunciation, the phrase always scans to precedes the respelling and phonetics:

scorpion always scans to SKAWR-pyuhn
Amazonian always scans to AAM-uh-ZOH-nyuhn

If a word occurs only once in Shakespeare and needs to be elided to fulfill the demands of the meter, then just the elided pronunciation is given. Since the word appears only once, no reference is listed:

contumely scans to KAHN-tyoom-lee

The phrase possibly scans to precedes a word that might receive an alternate stress:

gallant GAAL-uhnt possibly scans to guh-LAHNT e.g. @ RII V, 3, 15
“The Dictionary” includes many, though not all, words that require an additional syllable to fulfill the demands of the meter. Other examples of these words are listed in “Afterthoughts.” When an additional syllable is needed to elongate these words, the necessary metrical beat is indicated by the addition of an ee sound. This often combines with sh. The shee or ee syllable is never stressed and should be spoken as lightly as possible:

patrician puh-TRI-shuhn scans to puh-TRI-shee-uhn e.g. @ COR V, 6, 82

marriage MAA-rijnscans to MAA-ree-ij e.g. @ R&J IV, 1, 11

One of the most common means of condensing a word to fulfill the demands of the meter is to remove an unstressed, internal vowel. No other sound is added to the remaining syllables:

stomacher STUHM-uh-ker scans to STUHM-ker e.g. @ CYM III, 4, 84

The other common means of condensing a word is to remove the vowel in the penultimate syllable and replace it with y so that the two final syllables become one:

calumnious kuh-LUHM-nee-uhs scans to kuh-LUHM-nyuhs e.g.@ HML I, 3, 38

perfidious per-FID-ee-uhs scans  to per-FID-yuhs e.g. @ TEMP I, 2, 68

To clarify a pronunciation that changes depending on the word’s usage, the abbreviations (adj) for adjective, (adv) for adverb, (n) for noun, (v) for verb, and (part) for participle an: included when necessary:

consort (n) KAHN-sort scans to kuhn-SAWRT e.g. @ 2GEN  IV, 1, 64

consort (v) kuhn-SAWRT

We offer definitions for apparent homonyms and other select instances:

bow (n) (weapon or collar of a yoke) BOH e.g. @ LLL IV, 1, 24 and AYL III, 3, 69

bow (v) (to bend into a curve or to play a stringed instrument with a bow) BOH e.g. @ PER IV, 2, 80

bow (v) (to incline the body) BOW e.g. @ RII I, 3, 47

covent (n) (a religious community) KUH-vehnt


Macbeth II, 2, 16

In this dictionary when the  consonant r is between vowel sounds, it always indicates the beginning of a syllable. For example orisons is respelled AW-ri-zuhnz and not AWR-i-zuhnz, Verona is respelled vuh-ROH-nuh and not ver-OH-nuh, environ is respelled ehn-VEYE-ruhn and not ehn-VEYER-uhn. This placement of the consonant r at the beginning of a syllable gives a clean-cut definition to that syllable and adds clarity when speaking the text.

Syllabic consonants are those that form a syllable with a preceding consonant without the voicing of a vowel between the two. The syllabic is always an unstressed syllable and is indicated by placing the uh in parentheses (uh) in the respelled version. A small perpendicular mark is placed under the syllabic consonant in the phonetic version:

mettle MEH-t(uh)l

batten BAA-t(uh)n
We give only one pronunciation for words in which the unstressed i and the uh are interchangeable, such as the first syllable in bereft, denay, and requital. Although the uh is more common in American speech, the unstressed i may be preferable because it has a clear, bright quality.