How is the Roman name Cicero pronounced?

As in the statesman and philosopher? I’m reading a novel surrounding his life. Wikipedia gives the answer, but it is in some form of symbolic language that I’m not schooled in (IPA?).


I always thought it was pronounced siss-er-row.

We have a Cicero Avenue here in Chicago and it is always pronounced by reporters and everyone else I hear it from as Rayne Man suggested.

That does not make it the correct pronunciation I suppose but certainly is the common usage.

The "c"s are pronounced as "s"s in English, but the traditional Latin pronunciation is with "k"s.

It would have been pronounced more like kikero, I think, much the way caesar would have been pronounced more like kaiser.

My guess is that the Latin pronunciation would be something like KEEK-eh-row. Everything else (towns, streets, little pigs) would be SISS-eh-row.

The Wikipedia entry for Cicero says that the classical Latin pronunciation is ['kikeroː]. Doesn’t seem that difficult to read to me.

Is the book you’re reading called Imperium, by any chance? I read that a while back, and I really enjoyed it.

Yes, but to be fair it is a coincidence that it is more or less read as someone who doesn’t know IPA would read it.

Generally, it’s believed that those c’s were pronounced like k’s, thus “kikero” or “keekero”.

But that’s really just a guess by Classical Scholars. We have various Roman texts, but only in a written form. No real ‘pronunciation guide’ to go by. (And it probably changed over the 1200-1500 years of Roman history.)

Now the scholars do have some reasonable indications to support their conclusions. Like the pronunciations of words in the modern languages descended from Latin, knowledge of how pronunciation tends to change over time, and some clues from Roman poetry indicating which words rhymed.

And also common misspellings, I believe. Which means scholars studying this era should have plenty to go on.

The “hard” K sound was represented in Latin by the letter C. That this is so may be demonstrated by a couple of factors:

  • The names Caius and Gaius were used almost interchangeably, indicating that the initial sounds were similar enough to be confused.
  • Words containing the “hard” K sound that entered Latin from other languages were typically spelled using the letter C. Thus, Corinth, Cerberus, Calliope, etc.

A Latin speaker from the classical era, would likely have pronounced Cicero as “KICK-eh-roe”

The first syllable is long, so it would have been keek, not kick.

Oddly the same rule holds for Tolkien’s elvish- there are no soft C’s.

This has been argued over by scholars for centuries. Witness these lines from Alexander Pope’s Dunciad (1742). (‘Aristarchus’ is speaking, a satirical portrait of Richard Bentley, 18th century classical scholar).

“Tis true on words is still our whole debate
Disputes on me and te, or aut and at,
To sound or sink in cano o or a
Or give up Cicero to c or k