In The Free Dictionary you usually see definitions extracted from several sources.

Usually the first one uses a phonetic notation which is unknown to me.

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What's the name of that phonetic notation system?

  • 1
    BTW is there a comprehensive list of all the known phonetic notations available?
    – Ivan
    Aug 11, 2016 at 20:37

1 Answer 1


Apparently it's called the "American Heritage Dictionary representation" (AHD), essentially identical to the one used on Wiktionary, called the "English Phonemic Representation"(enPR). It has a Wikipedia page, which shows the AHD/enPR symbols matched up with words containing that sound, and with the equivalent IPA characters: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:American_Heritage_Dictionary_representation

Transcription systems in English-language dictionaries are generally similar, but each one seems to have its own variant! This Wikipedia page provides comparison of several such systems with each other and with the IPA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pronunciation_respelling_for_English

The American Heritage Dictionary's website (https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/howtouse.html) links to this pdf chart of the comparison between AHD and IPA: https://www.ahdictionary.com/application/resources/misc/pronkey.pdf

  • IPA is more widely used, isn't it? Aug 11, 2016 at 19:32
  • 1
    @Tulains Córdova: You think an American cares an ounce for that fact? Aug 12, 2016 at 5:14
  • 1
    @AntonSherwood If only we could have a standard notation that the world could follow for phonetics... IPA I suppose isn't sufficient. Alas, obligatory XKCD. I've worked with many lexicons, and nobody seems to conform to IPA. They all invent their own bizarre notation to make it "easier for users to understand the pronunciation". I get that to an extent, not everybody wants to take the time to learn IPA, but it should at least be an option for online dictionaries (i.e. they have IPA and whatever else they have custom-made). Aug 12, 2016 at 5:21
  • this answer helps a lot
    – zzzgoo
    Nov 16, 2018 at 3:20
  • The problem with IPA is that it's not intuitive for native English speakers, whereas these various dictionary systems are designed for native English speakers to be able to look at and understand without much effort. There's no reason for a monolingual dictionary to use a system designed to be used across languages, especially if that makes it more difficult for the people who will read it!
    – user9600
    Feb 10, 2021 at 17:51

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