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In linguistics, diaeresis, or dieresis, is the pronunciation of two adjacent vowels in two separate syllables rather than as a diphthong or vowel digraph, and also the name of the diacritic mark ( ¨ ) used to prompt the reader to pronounce adjacent vowels in this manner.

For example the first two vowels in the word cooperate can be spelt co-operate or, using the diæresis, coöperate.

The word diæresis itself comes from the Greek noun διαίρεσις (diaíresis: ‘taking apart’ or ’division’), which derives from the verb διαιρεῖν (diaireîn). The spelling is now normally simplified by replacing the grapheme æ with the digraph ae (in British English), or with the letter e in North American English.

The opposite phenomenon is known as synæresis.



The diæresis is a diacritic mark ( ¨ ) used in English to indicate that two adjacent vowels are to be pronounced separately[1] as in Boötes, Noël and naïve, the names Zoë and Chloë and words like reënter and coöperate. An identical diacritic is used in German and several related languages to represent the umlaut, and this name is sometimes used to refer to the diæresis mark as well.

Despite its long history in English, the diæresis is now increasingly rarely used, with The New Yorker[2] and MIT's Technology Review being prominent exceptions.

Use in other languages

Dutch uses the same mark in a similar way, (for example coëfficiënt), but for compound words there is now a preference for hyphenation - so zeeëend (seaduck) is now spelled zee-eend.[3]

In French the diæresis is still in common usage, where it is called tréma, and the English examples Noël and naïve in fact derive from the French. It is usually written on the second of the two adjacent vowels – although since a spelling reform in 1990, it may been written on the u in -güe- and -güi-, as in Spanish. Additionally, in some French words, the diæresis indicates that an otherwise unpronounced syllable is pronounced: aigüe or aiguë; cigüe or ciguë.

In German, it is called an umlaut and is used over a, o or u to indicate fronting of the affected vowel. In direct German-English translations, it is represented by an e after the vowel with the umlaut. For instance, Berlin Schönefeld Flughafen is spelt in its English translation as Berlin Schoenefeld Aiport

In Welsh, where the diæresis appears, it is usually on the stressed vowel, and this is most often on the first of the two adjacent vowels; a typical example is copïo [kɔ.'pi.ɔ] (to copy), cf. mopio ['mɔ.pjɔ] (to mop).

Other languages indicate phonological diæresis with different diacritics, such as the acute accent in Spanish and Portuguese. For example, the Portuguese words saia [ˈsai̯ɐ] "skirt" and saía [saˈiɐ] "I used to leave" (Brazilian pronunciation) differ in that the sequence /ai/ forms a diphthong in the former (synæresis), but is a hiatus in the latter (diæresis).


In prosody, diæresis means the division made in a line or a verse when the end of a foot coincides with the end of a word.

See also


  1. ^ Bringhurst, p 306.
  2. ^ Diaeresis at the Word of Day
  3. ^ Translation Services USA


  • Bringhurst, Robert (1992 [2004]). The elements of typographic style, version 3.0. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks. ISBN 0-88179-133-4.


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