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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, and it is also the name of the diacritic mark ( ¨ ) used to prompt the reader to pronounce adjacent vowels in this manner.

The word dieresis comes from the Greek noun διαίρεσις (diaíresis, "division," or literally, "choice between"), which derives from the verb διαιρεῖν (diaireîn). An example is the first two vowels in the word cooperate. This word might also be spelled co-operate or, using the diaeresis, coöperate.

The opposite phenomenon is known as synaeresis.



The dieresis is a diacritic mark ( ¨ ) used in English to indicate that two adjacent vowels are to be pronounced separately[1] as in Noël and naïve, the names Zoë and Chloë and words like reënter and coöperate. Despite its long history in English, the dieresis is decreasingly common in modern usage, though The New Yorker magazine[2] is a prominent exception. Dutch uses the same mark in a similar way, (for example coëfficiënt), but as with English there is now a preference for hyphenation - so zeeëend (seaduck) is now spelled zee-eend[1].

Other languages indicate phonological diaeresis 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 (synaeresis), but is a hiatus in the latter (diaeresis).

The dieresis diacritic mark is unrelated to the often identical-looking umlaut in German, and the decorative "heavy metal umlaut" of bands such as Blue Öyster Cult and Motörhead.


In prosody, diaeresis 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


  • Bringhurst, Robert (1992 [2004]). The Elements of Typographic Style, version 3.0. Vancouver, Hartley & Marks. ISBN 0-88179-133-4.



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Alternative spellings


From Ancient Greek διαίρεσις (division, split), from διά (dia), apart) + αἱρέω (aireō), I take).





diaeresis (plural diaereses)

  1. (orthography) A diacritic placed over a vowel letter indicating that it is sounded separately, usually forming a distinct syllable, as in naïve, Noël, Brontë.
  2. (linguistics) The separation of a vowel, often a diphthong, into two distinct syllables.
  3. (prosody) A natural break in rhythm when a word ends at the end of a metrical foot, in a line of verse.

Usage notes

  • The umlaut is a usually identical diacritic which alters the sound of a single vowel (as in German Schön). Properly speaking, the terms diaeresis and umlaut are not interchangeable, though speakers frequently use the term umlaut to refer to a diaeresis.



See also


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