I have been looking at Lancelot Hogben's Mathematics for the Million (first published in 1936).

In the chapter on calculus he says that the second derivative $\displaystyle \frac{d^2y}{dx^2}$ is

pronounced dee-two-wy-by-dee-eks-two.

The final "two" surprised me as I was taught to say "squared" and I have never heard it pronounced differently.

Assuming that it's not a typo and that Prof Hogben wasn't mistaken, did people really say "two" in those days and does anyone say "two" these days?

I suppose that for higher derivatives just saying the number rather than the power it represents may be easier.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Well, maybe he meant that $\dfrac{d^2y}{dx^2}$ is $\dfrac{d^2y}{dx}$ too. ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 10:27
  • $\begingroup$ i've heard a lot of people saying it this way $\endgroup$
    – Aang
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 10:31
  • $\begingroup$ I usually say "the second derivative of $y$ with respect to $x$" ... $\endgroup$
    – Neal
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 11:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I say "squared" in the place of the first "two" too: "dee-squared-wy-by-dee-eks-squared". If we can find someone who says "dee-squared-wy-by-dee-eks-two", all $2^2$ possibilities will have been covered. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 11:53

1 Answer 1


According to this post there are several ways to pronounce $\frac {d^2y}{dx^2}$, including:

1.) "dee squared wai over dee eks squared"

2.) "the second derivative of y with respect to x"

3.) "dee two wy by dee eks two"

  • $\begingroup$ I did see that post, but I can't see "dee two wy by dee eks two" on there. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 14:05

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