Pronouncing Primer

Learn why it's pronounced the way it is

How do you pronounce primer?

If you have watched any of the Sudoku Primer videos you’ve probably noticed that the word primer is pronounced with a short i. Some have questioned whether this is the correct pronunciation. Should it be a short i (like in swimmer) or should it be a long i (like in timer)?

There are two uses of primer with different meanings and different pronunciations.

  1. The word is used for a base coat of paint, or a small container of percussion powder which ignites an explosive. That usage is pronounced with a long i (like timer).
  2. The word is also used to describe an introductory text or small book for teaching children. This use of the word is pronounced with a short i (like swimmer).

If you pronounce the second meaning of the word with a long i you’re not alone. There is a difference between the British and American pronunciation. In the late 1800s there was a movement in the U.K. to make pronunciation consistent among words. At that time the pronunciation for the second meaning of primer was changed from the short i to a long i. Since then the British have pronounced both words the same. In the United States we have kept the old pronunciation, so saying it with the short i is the original way of saying it.

Now you know why primer is pronounced the way it is on these videos.

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