How many syllables are there in the word "world" when pronounced in American English? I know it depends on the speaker but I don't have any specific pronunciation I can show. But generally, most Americans pronounce it as if it is a two syllable word. Like /wə.rəld/. I have heard that the R makes a syllable on its own. Does it happen in the word "world" when pronounced in American English?

Merriam Webster Dictionary gives the transcription \ˈwər(-ə)ld/, it shows two vowels (2 ə) and two vowels often mean two syllables. And if you listen to the pronunciation, it sounds like two syllables.


1 Answer 1


A word can comprise several phonemes yet still only be a single syllable. Pronunciation guides break words down but not necessarily into syllables. A syllable usually contains a vowel. There is only one vowel in "world", and the word has only one syllable.

You're right that different English dialects pronounce words differently, and as a native British English speaker, I agree that US English speakers tend to draw out vowels. There are some British dialects that also roll the R sound which can make the word "world" sound like two 'beats'. But the fact that is can be pronounced as a single syllable kind of proves that is is a single-syllable word, just some people draw it out.

The world of haikus
proves that the word in question
has one syllable.

  • I don't think I'm confusing "syllables" and "phonemes". I know what a phoneme is and I also know what a syllable is. My question is about 'syllables" not phonemes. Consider the word "pot" = /p/ + /ɒ/ + /t/: three phonemes, but one syllable. Now "Astralbee", suppose, AS-TRAL-BEE: three syllables. Of course the number of syllable may vary if you pronounce it differently but generally, it's true.
    – user119042
    Nov 17, 2020 at 10:41
  • @Sphinx Good example. And each of the three syllables of my username has at least one vowel in it. "World" has one vowel in it, and one syllable.
    – Astralbee
    Nov 17, 2020 at 11:16
  • That's exactly what I was saying. But if you hear the pronunciation, most Americans pronounce it as if there are two vowels in it.
    – user119042
    Nov 17, 2020 at 11:19
  • 1
    @Sphinx Your question is "how many syllables" are there in the word, so the answer is one. How many syllables in the word "go"? One. In Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen sang "let me go-o-o-o-o-o-o".... but it's still only got one syllable.
    – Astralbee
    Nov 17, 2020 at 11:30
  • Remember that the OP is asking about 'world' as used in American, not in English. It could easily be two syllables 'woh-ruld', the same way that 'nuclear' can be three syllables 'nu-ku-lahr'
    – PcMan
    Aug 11, 2021 at 1:34

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