For example:

See definition in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary
Syllabification: pa·ram·e·ter

merriam-webster Dictionary
noun ther·mom·e·ter

thermometer See definition in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary 移行: therm|om¦eter

parameter See definition in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary 移行: par|am¦eter

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
parameter noun


3 Answers 3



The entries that look like this:

  • therm|om¦eter

are not about pronunciation. They don't give information about syllables. They tell us what to do if the word doesn't fit completely into the end of a line of writing. So, if you can't fit the word thermometer onto the line, you can break it into sections using a hyphen [ - ]. Like this:

  • blah blah blah blah the therm-


  • blah blah blah blah the thermom-

If you look at the end of the word, you will see that the last part of the word is -eter. Nobody thinks this is one syllable!


The other entries that look like this:

  • ther·mom·e·ter

are about syllables. The entry above shows that thermometer has four syllables. They tell us what the different syllables are. Sometimes dictionaries might disagree about where one syllable starts and another one finishes. But this is not what is happening in the Original Poster's examples!


Note that these entries are intended for breaking words at the ends of lines, and not for pronunciation. As another answer says, hyphenations for line-breaking don't always reflect the way that words are broken into syllables for pronunciation, although in many cases these two different syllabifications are related.

In this case, the difference between dictionaries is simply the difference between American and British English. Take a look at these two links; the Oxford Dictionaries Online have different hyphenations for American and British English. And in this case, the root cause of the difference is the different way that /r/ works after vowels in US and UK English.

  • Hmm... Erm, there is no difference between any of the pronunciation syllabification given. In terms of the links, as opposed to the examples here, one page gives a syllabification, the other doesn't ... I don't understand what you're trying to explain the difference between? (or are you being tripped up by the same thing as OP?) I don't think /r/ comes into play in terms of differences between rhotic and non-rhotic Englishes Oct 29, 2015 at 0:31
  • @Araucaria: In AmE, the hyphenation (for line-breaking) par-am-e-ter would imply the first vowel was pronounced pair or par and not . Oct 29, 2015 at 0:32
  • I don't think any Am dictionary would give /r/ in the first syllable of parameter. Sorry about my comment shifting, I was too late on an edit... Oct 29, 2015 at 0:32
  • The line breaking is about legibility, not pronunciation or syllabification. That's why there's two syllables in the last break. I don't think it's because there's meant to be only one syllable there. In terms of line-breaking, I think the convention is always to split the consonants if poss, if there are two, and if there's only one, to put the consonant at the end of the first line and the vowel at the beginning of the other (all other things, like digraphs, being equal). But that's orthography - and it's the same for Am and UK Eng. Oct 29, 2015 at 0:52
  • Far more importantly, nice to see you on our lovely site over here! Oct 29, 2015 at 0:58

A syllable is made up of an optional onset (initial consonant or consonant cluster), a vowel (diphthongs count as single vowels here), and an optional coda consonant (or cluster).

Dictionaries do not agree if the coda of one syllable is actually the onset of another syllable. Thus you get different syllable divisions from different sources.

  • That's not what's confusing the OP though. Oct 28, 2015 at 13:43
  • 2
    Will hide the answer if it turns out to be the case. I had never run into the word-wrap notation before. Oct 28, 2015 at 13:45

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