# How do you pronounce phi?

1. Apr 13, 2005

### eck

As a first year physics student, the Greek alphabet bewilders me. I'm sure everyone here has made the mistake of confusing a nu for a v, and yesterday I found out that I am incapable of writing zeta. However, the worst offender in my book is the letter phi. In the E&M textbook I am using (by Purcell), flux is denoted by $$\Phi$$, and electric potential is denoted by $$\phi$$ -- except when it's denoted by $$\varphi$$. Worst of all, I can't decide whether it rhymes with "lie" or "lee." A Google search shows that there are a lot of people who pronounce it different ways (see this and this.) My question to you, is how do you pronounce it? Have you noticed different pronunciations in different contexts?

2. Apr 13, 2005

### brewnog

Phi rhymes with Pi, Chi, Psi, and perhaps Xi.

3. Apr 13, 2005

Staff Emeritus
And in England they rhyme with pie, but in Greece they rhyme with pee.

4. Apr 13, 2005

### gnome

I usually say "phy", but for the last couple of years, ever since I went through a semester with a physics II professor who always said "phee", it sounds wrong to me no matter which way I say it.

5. Apr 13, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
I say it as "fie." Even if "fee" is the right way to say it, it never sounded right to me. Though, I used to find endless amusement in the tongue-twisting power of the letter Xi when pronounced ksee (sort of), especially in partial derivatives...in P-chem, about all I can remember is that dXi (yeah yeah yeah, one of these days I'll figure out how that LaTex stuff works to write that properly) was used a lot and it amused me endlessly to listen to the prof stumble over saying it when giving lecture. He was a hard-nose with a reputation for failing about half the class, which he lived up to so nobody was going to feel sorry for him if we found things amusing at his expense. (When I sheepishly went in to meet with the dean of academic affairs to request permission to retake the class when I got a D in it...my one and only D, ever!...she asked me what happened that I got a D in a class, and as soon as I said it was P-chem, she stopped me and said there was no need to explain further and signed my form.)

6. Apr 13, 2005

### Hurkyl

Staff Emeritus
Hey, I pronounce ξ as ksee! (lol, of all the ones they could've chosen to actually look right in the default font...) I rather enjoy the strange consonant sounds of foreign languages, though! I've gotten in the habit of pronouncing φ as phee so much that phy sounds wrong... but psee for ψ and even worse pee for π really grate my ears.

7. Apr 13, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
:rofl: It took me long enough to learn how to write that properly! I had never seen the lower case form written before that P-chem class, and it took me a while to figure out it was a real letter and not some lazy scribble. What can I say, I already had previous run-ins with language difficulties. When I took multivariable calc, one of the first lectures started out with the Russian prof talking about a rrrrrrode (that's a rolled r). It took us about three lectures to finally realize he meant a plain, old-fashioned, ordinary rod, as in the cylindrical object, not some Greek character or symbol or special math term. Anyway, it's still fun to say Deeksee, which was how our prof said d? (say it out loud a few times and you'll understand).

Edit: oh well, guess I can't just copy and paste it from your post.

8. Apr 13, 2005

### Hurkyl

Staff Emeritus
Complain to chroot. You should be able to quote my ξ. In fact, I just cut-pasted it from my post to here myself! Well, it could just be your system sucks.

9. Apr 13, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
You're picking on my system! It's funny, because it shows up just fine in the reply box, and then doesn't show up in the post. Let me try pasting one in from Word on my computer. ? <---this one's mine. Yours is in the quote. Since I'm on a Mac, it might see it differently somehow. Though why should that affect how the forum displays it?

Edit: nope...huh, weird. I don't get to use ksee. Maybe the software can tell I'm up to no good with it.

10. Apr 13, 2005

### gnome

Oh, I wish I was in $\partial \xi$, hooray, hooray ...

11. Apr 13, 2005

### Pengwuino

isnt it a greek symbol? if so, think the appropriate would be however its said in greek. My profs say it like it rhymes with pee.

12. Apr 13, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
:rofl: :rofl: Thank you for using tex so I can actually quote you (I hope).

13. Apr 13, 2005

### gnome

You're welcome. It's great fun being a high-tech idiot.

14. Apr 13, 2005

### vsage

"fee" sounds like an american adaptation. I noticed most of my university professors use "phy" thought.

15. Apr 13, 2005

### Pengwuino

16. Apr 14, 2005

### gnome

17. Apr 14, 2005

### Pengwuino

Shouldnt we pronounce it how the original people pronounce it? I thought we're discussing how its suppose ot be said and when i think of "suppose to", i think of how it was originally said.

18. Apr 14, 2005

### ramollari

Yes the Greeks pronounce it "fee" being a letter of the alphabet. But the English pronounce it "fie" not to confuse it with f from their alphabet.

19. Apr 14, 2005

### Monique

Staff Emeritus
Pronounciating can be confusing, fie in european is pronounced the same as fee in english. Most europeans (if not all?) pronounce the letter as the english speaking pronounce fee.

20. Apr 14, 2005

### brewnog

That's rich, coming from an American...