How do you pronounce "Kairos"

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Plot Device

Member
USA - English
Hi,

I'm new. And I'm not really a student of Greek (or any language right now) I'm actually a scriptwriter (but I am NOT a member of the WGA, in case you're wondering, although I wish I was --and if I were, I'd be on the picket lines right now).

I'm here because I am in the process of entering a screenwriting contest (it's a huge prize of $25,000.00 for first place, so this is one of the biggest prizes going in Hollywood) and I have a very very small picky-yoon detail that I kinda need to get the answer to. It's a simple matter of pronunciation. How do you pronounce the Greek word "Kairos?"

If you simply know the answer, then read no further and just kindly give me the answer. But if you really want to know why I'm even asking, then read on .....





Here's the LONG version of the story:

The name of the screenwriting contest is "The Kairos Prize" and "Kairos" is a Greek word that means "at the right time" or "at the ideal time." And I have been pronouncing the word "Kairos" as if it rhymes with "tie - dose." But I have only been pronouncing it that way because I ASSUMED (first time I read it) that THAT was the right way to pronounce it (it sort of looks similar to the spelling for the capital of Egypt, so that is where my justification for the pronunciation comes from).

But then I called a pro scriptwriter acquainatnce of mine in Los Angeles a few weeks ago and told him during the call that I was entering the Kairos [pronounced like it rhymes with "tie - dose"] Prize. And during the phone call, he did NOT correct me in a DIRECT way, he simply chose to pronounce it differently than I was pronouncing it (which is a actually a subtle way of correcting someone else's mis-pronunciation). He prononced it like it might rhyme with "peer - dose"

Now ... I felt VERY self-conscious during the phone call when I realized he was indirectly correcting me. So after the call I went to the internet to try and look up the word in an online Greek dictionary to secure the correct pronunciation. But NONE of the online dictionaries I found gave me the pronunciation. I've made many searches over the past few weeks (a total of about 90 minutes of computer work) and came up empty. And so I am now here asking all of you fine people to enlighten me.

This may seem silly and trivial to some people, but let me assure you that in Hollywood this sort of thing is NOT silly and trivial at all. Hollywood can be a very mean, petty, cruel place --especially when it comes to your apearance, your style of speech, your background, and your perceived level of education-- and this kind of a mistake on my part can be seen as a terrible gaff and not lightly forgiven either by the people who run the contest, or by Hollywood professionals. So I would prefer to just plain KNOW the correct pronuciation from here onward.



So does it rhyme with:

"tie - dose"

or

"peer - dose"




Thanks so much for your help.
 
  • modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    It's a simple matter of pronunciation.
    When it comes to pronunciation of Ancient Greek, it's far from simple :D.

    How do you pronounce the Greek word "Kairos?"
    If I understand you correctly, you're looking for the English pronunciation of the English word "kairos". The Oxford English Dictionary has 'kaɪrɒs, which is basically KYE-ross (first part rhymes with TIE) -- but that matches neither of your options in the second part. That's how I would expect it to be pronounced though -- if the "ai" of the Greek had been Latinized as "ae", I could understand a KEY pronunciation, but otherwise it should be KYE (as in triskaidekaphobia, the only example I can think of), and for the second part, the "o" of "kairos" was originally short, hence the ROSS pronunciation.

    I don't know if this is helpful, so I recommend you also ask about the pronunciation in the English Only forum because I'm sure there are people there who will know.
     

    Plot Device

    Member
    USA - English
    Big thanks to Celine for helping me with the correct syllablic emphasis. :)

    Big thanks to modus.irrealis for helping with the correct vowel sounds. :)



    So ............ If I am in an English-speaking setting, I should pronounce so it rhymes with:


    "TIE - boss" right??

    Kairos.

    KYE - ross. (I almost want to make it slide down a notch into "kye - russ" now.)
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    I just saw Celine's post now. She gave the correct pronunciation of the word in Modern Greek, but if I understand your concerns correctly, that will be fairly different than what you're looking for. Even in terms of the stress, English doesn't necessarily stress the same syllable as Greek and the OED pronunciation puts the stress on the first syllable.

    About the second syllable, it should have the same vowel as the second syllable of "pathos" or "bathos".

    Yes, the OED pronunciation says rhyming with TIE-boss.
     

    Plot Device

    Member
    USA - English
    I just saw Celine's post now. She gave the correct pronunciation of the word in Modern Greek, but if I understand your concerns correctly, that will be fairly different than what you're looking for. Even in terms of the stress, English doesn't necessarily stress the same syllable as Greek and the OED pronunciation puts the stress on the first syllable.

    About the second syllable, it should have the same vowel as the second syllable of "pathos" or "bathos".

    Yes, the OED pronunciation says rhyming with TIE-boss.
    Okay, so instead of the OED of "ross" (lazily shortened in American English to "russ"), I should maybe go with my original rendering of "ose" with the long "o"?

    So make it rhyme with "tie - dose" afterall?????
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    Okay, so instead of the OED of "ross" (lazily shortened in American English to "russ"), I should maybe go with my original rendering of "ose" with the long "o"?

    So make it rhyme with "tie - dose" afterall?????
    It took me a while to figure out where you're coming from, but now I'm guessing "pathos" for you rhymes with PAY-dose? For me, it rhymes with PAY-ross, and I didn't even know there was an alternate pronunciation until I checked it up on a online dictionary. Maybe both pronunciations are possible for "kairos" as well -- I don't know and I don't want to guess -- but at least you have support for the ROSS pronunciation.
     

    Plot Device

    Member
    USA - English
    It took me a while to figure out where you're coming from, but now I'm guessing "pathos" for you rhymes with PAY-dose? For me, it rhymes with PAY-ross, and I didn't even know there was an alternate pronunciation until I checked it up on a online dictionary. Maybe both pronunciations are possible for "kairos" as well -- I don't know and I don't want to guess -- but at least you have support for the ROSS pronunciation.
    Well, the REAL stickler for me in this whole conundrum was my Hollywood scriptwriter friend ON THE PHONE giving me the oh-so-subtle hint that the FIRST syllable was where I was blowing it. He was pronouncing the FIRST syllable as "keer", not "kye" and THAT is where I feel I need the most guidance.


    You're quite certain that "kye" (my original preference) is the way to go???

    With an American dialect, the second syllable (since it's the weaker syllable) can easily be slurred away into a who-cares realm of imperceptible vague-er-y and not fussed over at all. But that first syllable is where I will look like a complete idiot if I mess it up. So the first syllable is DEFINITELY "kye"?????
     

    anthodocheio

    Senior Member
    which is basically KYE-ross (first part rhymes with TIE)
    :eek:
    Isn't "tie" pronunced "tai"? :confused:

    With an American dialect, the second syllable (since it's the weaker syllable) can easily be slurred away into a who-cares realm of imperceptible vague-er-y and not fussed over at all. But that first syllable is where I will look like a complete idiot if I mess it up. So the first syllable is DEFINITELY "kye"?????
    I think "Who cares" has it. Use this for "καιρ-".
    I don't know how you should write it though.. "Kye" seem OK to me (but I don't know).

    "-ρος" does rhyme with "boss", as far as I know..


    OK. Let's start from the beginning.

    In Greek the combination of “a” and “i” gives the same sound like “e”, which is a clear “e”, like in Spanish.

    “K” + “e” in Greek is pronounced like “k-i-e”. So does "κε" and the same happens with "και".

    “R” has to be clear like in Spanish, the “o” very clear too, and the “s” very clear too (NOT like in Spanish :D).


    I will see if I can find a way for you to hear it. (But the way we Greeks pronounce it, if you are interested..)
     

    Plot Device

    Member
    USA - English
    Well, my REAL concern is how Americans pronounce it while speaking American English to each other here in America. (Read the entire OP to see what my true goal is here.)

    And the spelling is "Kairos." No doubt whatsoever that THAT is the correct spelling --at least here in America. (Again, read the OP to see why I know for fact how it is spelled.)
     

    anthodocheio

    Senior Member
    Hello,
    I've read everything you wrote, don't worry. The spelling in English is like that because of the Greek, where it's "καιρός".
    I hope you can understand better my previous post now.

    All the best,
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    You're quite certain that "kye" (my original preference) is the way to go???
    Yes -- it's the pronunciation one would expect from the spelling and it's the pronunciation found in the dictionary (or in a dictionary at least), so there's no doubt it's correct. I even found this web page, where the word is pronounced with the kye sound. And you're right about the second syllable not being as important since it's unstressed.

    :eek:
    Isn't "tie" pronunced "tai"? :confused:
    Yes -- but I think you see now that I was talking about the English pronunciation not the Greek :D. So in English you'd say κάιρας or κάιρος (well, the exact vowel I use for the second syllable doesn't exist in Greek but it's between those :)).
     

    Kevman

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hello Plot Device,

    I'd say you have a choice. I for one don't think I have ever heard another American pronounce it--only Greeks. :D I didn't even realize there was an accepted English pronunciation until I saw modus.irrealis' OED post. But if Hollywooders truly are so petty about your style of speech and level of education, you might want to lay the authentic Greek pronunciation on 'em, and then look at them askance when they use the English derivation! :D
    Anyway, whichever you choose, now you know both, and knowledge is power. :)

    Of course, if you ever come in contact with anyone actually involved with the prize or the organization that awards it, you might pay heed to whichever way they themselves pronounce it, regardless of whatever we here might demonstrate as 'correct.' If you consider it as a sort of 'brand name' or proper noun the best authority would be those to whom it belongs.


    P.S.
    I went to the internet to try and look up the word in an online Greek dictionary to secure the correct pronunciation. But NONE of the online dictionaries I found gave me the pronunciation.
    That's because the Greek alphabet is extremely unabiguous and the stressed syllable is always marked. If you know the sounds of the letters you usually don't need any other indication of how to pronounce a given printed word. In the resources section of this forum you ought to be able to find websites which explain the alphabet (this one is quite detailed and good), and from there, if you like, you should be able to learn more about the Greek pronunciation of καιρός.
     

    wonderment

    Senior Member
    English
    So ............ If I am in an English-speaking setting, I should pronounce so it rhymes with:
    "TIE - boss" right??

    Kairos.

    KYE - ross. (I almost want to make it slide down a notch into "kye - russ" now.)
    Hey there,

    If you want to know how an American studying Ancient Greek (think ancient Greek drama and the tragedians) is taught to pronounce 'kairos' it is definitely KYE (rhymes with sky) -ross, and yes, the actual pronunciation is closer to KYE-russ.

    In the States, when we say Greek (without any modifier before it), we mean Ancient Greek. Modern Greek is referred to as, well, Modern Greek (and not just Greek). So the dictionary pronunciation gives you the ancient reconstructed pronunciation.

    The pronunciation that anthodocheio gives is the pronunciation of Modern Greek. And no, Modern and Ancient Greek do not sound alike. Perhaps the person you were speaking with is more familiar with Modern Greek.
     

    YWAB7

    New Member
    English
    When it comes to pronunciation of Ancient Greek, it's far from simple :D.

    If I understand you correctly, you're looking for the English pronunciation of the English word "kairos". The Oxford English Dictionary has 'kaɪrɒs, which is basically KYE-ross (first part rhymes with TIE) -- but that matches neither of your options in the second part. That's how I would expect it to be pronounced though -- if the "ai" of the Greek had been Latinized as "ae", I could understand a KEY pronunciation, but otherwise it should be KYE (as in triskaidekaphobia, the only example I can think of), and for the second part, the "o" of "kairos" was originally short, hence the ROSS pronunciation.

    I don't know if this is helpful, so I recommend you also ask about the pronunciation in the English Only forum because I'm sure there are people there who will know.
    Thanks
     
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