Recently, I found "2x4" as a weapon in a game I played.

I found that it's a common standard for lumber board.

I tried to pronounce it as "two multiplies four" but it feels really weird.

How should I pronounce this word?

  • 2
    Great answers from everyone here - I agree with 2x4 being correct for this context. Just for reference, though, I would like to point out that the standard usage of 'x' as in multiplication (e.g. 5x3=15) would be as 'multiplied by', not simply 'multiplies' - i.e. 5x3 would in most common dialects be pronounced as 'five multiplied by three', not 'five multiplies three'. May 29, 2020 at 16:29
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    @Geza: I think "Five times three" is much more likely. May 29, 2020 at 18:26
  • @NickMatteo Also true; I was just looking to correct the inherently non-conventional usage in the post, not necessarily prescribe the standard usage. May 29, 2020 at 19:53
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    A 2-by-4 is not a board. It is too thick, especially in comparison with its width. See dictionary.com/browse/board -- Yes, I see the caption "A common 2x4 board" in Wikipedia, but the opportunity to edit a Wikipedia article does not guarantee one will write it correctly. You can distinguish your 2x4 from other things that might be written 2x4 by writing "2x4 (lumber)" or even "2x4 (piece of wood)".
    – David K
    May 30, 2020 at 3:06
  • @DavidK I agree that it'd be a stretch to call a length of lumber 2" thick and 4" wide on its own a "board." By the way, the term 2″ × 4″ refers to the cross-section dimensions of 2 by 4 inches, thought that might be worth pointing out because metric. And as I type this, I think adding the double prime notation for inches does a fairly good job at disambiguation. But anyway, as you may already be aware, it's only a historical, nominal size. The actual aspect isn't 1:2, it's 3:7... Okay not too much of a difference but for longer cuts it definitely feels like a board. No lie :( May 31, 2020 at 3:46

5 Answers 5


2x4 would be said: "Two by Four"


  • 6
    Which if it's not rough sawn lumber of that actual measurement, it's really dimensional lumber, measuring 1.5" x 3.5" - the former being pronounced, a real two by four, the latter just two by four even though it isn't.
    – Mazura
    May 28, 2020 at 14:24
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    @Mazura Why am I not surprised that not only do Americans use their own weird measurement units that nobody else understands, but they also don't even use them accurately? :)
    – alephzero
    May 28, 2020 at 14:39
  • 5
    I think the pronunciation would often closer to "tuba four", as distinct from e.g. an eight-square rectangle on a chessboard which would be "two by four", with roughly equal stress on all three words.
    – supercat
    May 28, 2020 at 15:11
  • 14
    @supercat That's dialectal; the reduced /tuːbəfoɹ/ pronunciation is common but so is the full /tuːbaifoɹ/.
    – Hearth
    May 28, 2020 at 15:23
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    @DarrelHoffman I'm not sure that's the real reason. My understanding is that they used to be actually 2" by 4" before they started planing them. I used to live in an old house where the studs were very rough and measured a full 2" x 4". Also, plenty of drywall around here is not 1/2". May 28, 2020 at 19:49

To add to bhundven's excellent and correct answer, the word "by" is spoken in English in other contexts when the "x" is written. For instance, you may hear of a 6x6 maze ("six by six maze"), or a 4x4 magic square ("four by four magic square"), or a room measuring 12 feet x 10 feet ("twelve feet by ten feet").

(There's also a class of sport utility vehicle called a 4x4 ["four by four"] because it has four wheels and four-wheel drive.)

  • 2
    I wouldn't exactly call one sentence and an unexplained link, excellent. Yours is much better.
    – ColleenV
    May 29, 2020 at 16:01
  • 4
    Specifically, it's pronounced "by" when discussing dimensions (and occasionally for combinations, as in 4x4 vehicles and crossbar circuits). May 29, 2020 at 21:56
  • @ColleenV I'm new to this specific stackexchange. Thank you for the feedback. I'll try to do better in the future.
    – bhundven
    May 31, 2020 at 22:07

x, Symbol.

5: (used between figures indicating dimensions) by:

3″ × 4″ (read: “three by four inches”);

3″ × 4″ × 5″ (read: “three by four by five inches”).


See also, display resolution (e.g. 1920 × 1080)

Geometric dimension of an object, such as noting that a room is 10 feet × 12 feet in area, where it is usually read as "by" (for example: "10 feet by 12 feet")

The lower-case Latin letter x is sometimes used in place of the multiplication sign. This is considered incorrect in mathematical writing {because you're supposed to use a Unicode glyph}.

Multiplication sign

  • 1
    Do not also see, How is “X” pronounced in English? because even though I'm also guilty of using the "lower-case Latin letter", /ˈɛks/ is not how you pronounce it.
    – Mazura
    May 28, 2020 at 14:55
  • For Windows and EN-US keyboards at least, ALT+0215 gets you that glyph: × ...Knowing that off the top of my head may indicate I use it a lot. I suspect Mac OSX has a slightly more intuitive and/or easier way.
    – T.J.L.
    May 28, 2020 at 15:04
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    en dash (as used in the answer) is the one I know by heart. ALT+0150
    – Mazura
    May 28, 2020 at 15:06
  • 1
    @T.J.L. Just learned a thing: Ctrl-CMD-space brings up a popup version of the symbol/emoji viewer with search box in which you can type the name of the symbol. As you type the search shows symbols found and narrows it down as you type more chars. Just typing "mul" is enough to be just left with the multiplication symbols. Ctrl-CMD-space-arr gives you all the arrow symbols, etc. Works surprisingly well actually. You don't have to use the mouse at all, as you can select a symbol from the shortened list by cursors and insert with enter.
    – Tonny
    May 28, 2020 at 18:57
  • 1
    @Tonny macOS also comes with an input source called "Unicode Hex Input" which is essentially identical to a US QWERTY keyboard, except the option key now supports entering Unicode values by (hexadecimal) number rather than acting as a more traditional dead-key for entering digraphs.
    – chepner
    May 29, 2020 at 19:35

I am a carpenter by trade and you would say 2 by 4 - in the old days the 2x4 would actually be 2" x 4" because they did not plane anything - now they plane the wood to 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 so basically they still hang onto the original size


It is pronounced "two by four" or "tuba four" as supercat suggested; I think I say it both ways myself. @Mazura is correct about the actual size which probably results from the line upon which the saw blade centers, two inches in one direction and four inches in the other. The blade obviously is wider than the line, which means the actual dimension is less than what is stated. I agree that is somewhat annoying. Also, we Americans still surprisingly cling to the English system of measurement, which they have abandoned. Personally, I prefer metric.

  • 1
    As explained elsewhere, 2 x 4 is theoretically the dimensions before planing (to smooth the board). But since about 1970 they lie, and the dimension is probably about 1.75" by 3.75" before planing.
    – Hot Licks
    May 29, 2020 at 2:30
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    Give us time! Post Brexit we'll be reviving chains, cubits, stones, pecks, fathoms, pipkins and nipperkins. May 29, 2020 at 13:36
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    @Old Brixtonian: You don't use stones now? I think every sailor uses fathoms, pecks aren't all that uncommon.
    – jamesqf
    May 29, 2020 at 16:16
  • 1
    Boards don't need to lose 1/2" during planing. So-called "nominal lumber" has those dimensions so they can be "finished" to be 4" thick walls - 1/4" of material on each side, plus 3 1/2" of lumber. In English, the adjective "nominal" is found on many measurements. For example, with voltage. A 1.5 volt battery may not be precisely 1.5 volts. The same with "mains voltage" -- "nominal 120 volt mains voltage" may vary between about 114 and 126 volts. May 29, 2020 at 21:44
  • 1
    I know everybody is bemoaning the "English" system of measurement still in use in the US, but I love it. I love the way units are tied to things that a person can kind of gauge by themselves. Feet, yards, inches, a pint's a pound the world around, a ton is the weight of a big tank of water, etc etc. What I'd like to see is to revive the measurements which were formerly used in other countries, too. Now that would be a lot of good clean fun. While we're at it, let's adopt the French revolutionary calendar. Slippy, Drippy, Nippy, Flowery, Bowery, Showery, Heaty, Wheaty, Sweaty? or Sweety? Hmm. May 29, 2020 at 21:57

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