How to pronounce bury and buried

The verb to bury generally means to hide or put something in the ground. It is of course often used in the context of funerals, and less frequently in the context of hidden treasures.

The pronunciation of the words bury and buried (the simple past of bury) is less straight-froward than expected. The standard (British and American) pronunciations are [ˈberi] and [ˈberid], listen here. Hence, bury is pronounced exactly like berry!

An alternative but much less common pronunciation is [ˈbɜːri] (listed here), with the letter u pronounced as in the American pronunciation of words such as hurry, curry (see also here), or current. This variant seems to be restricted to local dialects. For a brief historical discussion of see here.

Since a number of readers have difficulty believing this to be true, let me remind you that pronunciation is far from logical or systematic. Just think about the words iron and irony! If you listen closely to the people around you and in the media, you will soon notice what the commonly used pronunciation of bury is.

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2 thoughts on “How to pronounce bury and buried

  1. I’m calling bullshit. The word “burrow” which has do to with digging in the ground (at least metaphorically) which is absolutely associated with burying something in the ground (at least metaphorically) and “burrow” is certainly not pronounced “berrow” nor “barrow”. It’s pronounced exactly as it looks and therefore, because of their association (and because of common sense) so should “bury”, “buried”, and “burial”. It’s utter nonsense to pronounce those three the same as the little fruits growing on vines, when the verb (though I suppose it could be a noun as well) most closely associated with those words itself has its vowel pronounced in the actual way it was intended to be pronounced. I’m sticking to my guns (not my gens or gans). And I’m allowing someone who pronounces “library” as “li-bree” to tell me I’m mispronouncing something so patently and obviously right.

    • Thanks for your input. While your are right in saying that the u in bury can indeed by pronounced like burrow, that is [bɜːri], this appears to be a quite rare. The standard pronunciation according to the dictionaries and most native speakers is identical to berry. I have updated the post: there is now a link to Miriam-Webster that includes the alternative pronunciation, and a discussion of most people pronounce bury different than you would expect. Finally, the standard dictionaries suggest that strictly speaking li-bree is not a correct pronunciation either, although it is in use.

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