# What is the generally accepted pronunciation of “topoi”?

Apologies if this annoys proponents of “toposes “.

It appears to me that there are three main candidates for pronunciation, all focusing on the last syllable:

1. Top-oy (rhyming with “toy” in British English)
2. Top-wa
3. Top-oh-ee (less likely, I feel)

So which, if any, is most commonly used? I do see this as an objective question, in the same way that there is a correct answer to “what is the commonly accepted pronunciation of ‘Lie’?”.

• Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Pedro Tamaroff Mar 10 at 21:19
• 'Top-wa' would be French, and it isn't French. 'Top-oh-ee' would be Italian, and it isn't Italian. – user207421 Mar 11 at 0:38

The only pronunciation I have ever heard (American) English-speaking mathematicians use is "toe-poy" /ˈtoʊpɔɪ/ (with stress on the first syllable). That is consistent with the pronunciation of the singular as "toe-poce" /ˈtoʊpoʊs/ and the usual English pronunciation of "oi" /ɔɪ/ (except in words that come from French, which topoi does not).

For what it's worth, Wikipedia seems to agree with this pronunciation in American English but gives "top-oy" /ˈtɒpɔɪ/ instead as the pronunciation in British English. (To be precise, it gives the corresponding pronunciations for the singulars in American and British English and then mentions both plural pronunciations without saying which dialect they correspond to.)

Topoi is the Greek word "$$\tau \acute o \pi oi$$", see wikipedia, i.e. the plural of $$\tau \acute o\pi o\varsigma$$. So the pronunciation is accordingly (I have only heard "toe-poy" so far in English, and we said it this way in school, where the teacher in Greek said it was the original pronunciation in ancient Greece.).

• It is τόποι and not $\tau o \pi oi$. – Rebellos Mar 10 at 12:27
• I was searching for the accent already, but the backslash accent does not work here (in latex is does). – Dietrich Burde Mar 10 at 12:27
• Haha sorry, Greek guy here ! – Rebellos Mar 10 at 12:28
• By the way, we use a different $\sigma$ when it's on the end. For that instance, it's τόπος. – Rebellos Mar 10 at 12:30
• The pronunciation is accordingly what? I don't know how to pronounce Greek vowel clusters. – Rahul Mar 10 at 13:58

It is the plural of the word topos which stems from Greek (τόπος in Greek) which is indeed topoi (τόποι). In that case, it's pronounced like to-pee /ˈto.pi/. You give emphasis on the o (that's what the tonos ΄ symbol means over the o). Check here.

• That certainly seems authoritative to me - but I do have some slight hesitancy to accept this answer because the Greek pronunciation of a word does not always align with the most common used pronunciation - so English speakers tend to say “pie” rather than “pee” for $\pi$. Do you know that this is the way the word is commonly said in a mathematical context? – Nethesis Mar 10 at 12:34
• Well, I have studied only in Greece for the time being, so of course here it is pronounced the right way. Now, regarding the common pronounciation internationally, I can only guess. – Rebellos Mar 10 at 12:44
• But that's modern Greek pronunciation. Topos was probably taken from classical Greek. Shouldn't it be pronounced with classical Greek phonetics? – enedil Mar 10 at 13:34
• @Rebellos I have never heard the word topoi pronounced to-pee as one would pronounce τόποι in Modern Greek, other than by Greeks of course. It has always been to-poy, similar to Attic Greek τόποι but closer to τώποι, except for the very rare French pronunciation to-pwa, only heard from a few French undergraduates. – Servaes Mar 10 at 16:01
• @EricWofsey "Beta", for example! – David Richerby Mar 10 at 19:51