In American English, COITUS is properly pronounced ________.

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This poll has ended. 79% got this one wrong.

The question was: In American English, COITUS is properly pronounced ________.

The answer is KOH-i-tus.

COITUS has three syllables, not two. The C and O create the first syllable, just like they do in words like COINCIDENTAL, COINCIDE, COOPERATE, COHABITATE, and COED.

Like most everyone else, I grew up hearing KOY-tus, which is incorrect. But why do so many of us get this one wrong? There are several reasons:


1. COITUS is not an everyday word, and uncommon or infrequent words can challenge our pronunciation skills if they are unusual in any way.

2. We are unsure if the OI should be pronounced as a single vowel or diphthong, or if they should be pronounced separately on different syllables, and so we make a guess.

3. We’re too lazy to consult the dictionary.


4. We are a monkey-see-monkey-do species and we learn through mimesis. That is to say we mimic people’s behaviors, attitudes, mores, opinions, eating habits, social rituals, taboos, speaking style, and pronunciation. Mimicry is an efficient way of learning, but when people behave, believe, act, eat, or pronounce things incorrectly, those mistakes get repeated and propagated. If we hear KOY-tus, we say KOY-tus.


COITUS comes to us straight from Latin and its use in English has been traced as far back as the 15th c.

The entire entry at Etymonline is worth reading. There you can learn about Coitus interruptus and Coitus reservatus.


@The_Whore_of_Blahbylon OTOH, koy-tous is the Latin pronunciation, so maybe it's good to go back to that and clean up English of all the mispronunciations of words taken from other languages ;-)

@oblomov Well, I wasn't alive back then, but that seems unlikely, especially considering the word's morphology. That's also not what my reference book indicates.

Also, we're not obligated to pronounce words the way they pronounced them, though sometimes we do for various reasons.

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