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How To Pronounce Theravada

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How to Pronounce Theravāda

Have you ever wondered if you were pronouncing Theravāda correctly? Read this article to find out how to properly pronounce Theravāda.

Most of the resources out on the web mispronounce the word Theravāda, and Google has failed me when I did a search too. However, it was a good excuse to write this small article. The “Th” sound in Theravāda is not the English “Th” like “Them” or “Think.” It is a “T” sound with a puff of air. It is phonetically called an “Aspirated-T”. Sometimes the word that is given as an example is “Tough.” If it sounds, complicated, don’t worry, because most Americans actually aspirate their T’s anyway. Just make the beginning of the word with a single “T” and you will fake it better than most.

To confuse you even more, the “V” sound sometimes gets a German sounding “W”. That means it is somewhere in between.  Many Southeastern countries also transliterate it into a “W”

You might notice that I spelled Theravāda with a diacritical mark on the last vowel. That means it is just a little bit stronger and longer. It gets two beats when set in meter and all vowels in Pāḷi are pronounced with a Latin sounding vowels. So “A” will sound like “Ah” and “E” gets the same sound as “Hey.” The “E” also gets two beats as well.

According to meter syntax, it will look like this:

−⏑−⏑

So you would pronounce it like this “Te-Rah-Waah-Dah”
In the Sri Lanka, they would have “uh” sound for the final “a.” It is pronounced like “Duh” when you feel like some is not up to par in intelligence. Therefore, “Te-Rah-Waah-Duh”

If you want to be really cool, you can add a puff of air on the first syllable starting with “T”.  Try to sound like an attractive lady and you’ll get the sound right.

 “T-he-Rah-Waah-Duh”

Below is a recording by Venerable Anandajoti who prefers a stronger sounding “V” than myself, but that is because I have spent more than 10 years in Myanmar..

 

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About Bhikkhu Subhuti

Bhikkhu Subhuti is an American Buddhist Monk with roots in both Sri Lanka and Myanmar Forest Traditions. He currently resides in Myanmar but his heart sometimes floats back to Kauai, HI where he spent six months in 2015.
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