So I just read "Animal Farm" and there were a lot of words I didnt heard once in my lifetime, as "hitherto" but another word caught my attention.

Why is unanimously beginning with you-like u instead of typical u like in "underrated"? I know there are a lot of words like this and they are also pretty important when it comes to "when to use a or an" because even though an is used for most words with leading vocal, some words, I guess are considered to be different, so we would use a (just like with unanimously, I'd use a instead of an) but does anyone have an explanation for this? Is there a certain rule or just experience and knowledge?


1 Answer 1


The word "unanimous" comes from Latin "unus" (meaning one) and Latin "anima" (meaning "soul"), so this word means "with one soul".

So it is pronounced the same way as the word "unite" ("make one").

Other similar words are "unilateral" ("on one side only"), "unidirectional" ("coming into one direction only).

In the case of "unanimous", since "anima" begins with a vowel, the "i" wasn't inserted the way it was between "un-" (of unus) and the consonant after that. That's how the word "unanimous" was formed.

You need to look into the meaning of the word. If there is not an inherent sense of negation there (which would be signified by a prefix "un-" in such words as "unwise", "unexpected"), then this is not a negating prefix; it's something else. Usually, in the case where it's a negating prefix, you will know the non-negated word before you know the negated one. People usually learn words like "wise", "expected", "install", and "do" before they come to "unwise", "unexpected", "uninstall" and "undo".

Your example of "underrated" is another case still. The prefix there is "under", not just "un". So it is pronounced the same way as the preposition "under" is pronounced.

You need to look at what the constituent parts of the words are and what they mean.


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