Is the pronunciation of 'biopic' shifting?

I’ve always read and said ‘biopic’ as BI-oh-pik. On the news just now, the talking head pronounced it ‘bi-OPP-ik’. This is not the first time I’ve heard that pronunciation on a news program.

Is the pronunciation shifting? Or was the news reader conincidentally the same person who used the word months (or a year, or a couple of years – time flies nowadays) ago?

i don’t know whether the pronunciation is shifting, or whether it’s already shifted as far as it’s going to go. Certainly the pronunciation that suggests a movie concerning dual oppics is pretty widespread, and has been for some years, now – even among those, like film critics, whom you would expect to understand what a biographical picture was.

Really? I have never heard it. It looks like a simple mistake to me (and I would be confused by it if I did hear it).

Of course, mistakes based on spelling, like this, do sometimes get baked into the language. Hardly anyone seems to pronounce forehead as forrid any more, though I can remember when we did. (As I understand it, this is a sort of double mistake. Forehead, I believe, was originally a spelling invented by pedants who thought, incorrectly, that the spoken word “forrid”, which, after all, refers to part of the fore part of the head, must be a corruption of fore-head. It was a bit of folk etymology that first infiltrated spelling, and now has made its way into spoken language too.)

I don’t know if it’s shifting or not. I still feel like it’s an error, but we’ll see what popular usage says. The first few times I’ve seen that word in print, I’ve pronounced it bi-opic, and it always confused me, until I realized it was bio-pic, and then it all made sense. I still have a natural tendency to want to say bi-opic when I see “biopic” in print. It takes me a second or two to realize it’s “bio-pic.” I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar happens to newscasters reading off a teleprompter, and that it’s just a slip of the tongue.

Obviously a reference to the leading prominence of a person’s primal essence.

Wait, I’m confused. Isn’t “forehead” “fore”+“head”? Etymonline seems to say so. Or am I misunderstanding? I am aware of both pronunciations, though, although I use the “fore”+“head” one myself.

Could be the news reader is an idiot. Good bone structure and vocal tone are selected for more than education or intelligence. Or they just screwed up, which can even happen to me.

Poems of Home: III. Fun for Little Folk
“There was a little girl”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

THERE was a little girl,
And she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good
She was very, very good,
And when she was bad she was horrid. from

I think it is bio - pic as well and just mispronounced. I also see bi-opic when I first encounter it.

How long has the word “biopic” been around? I first read it maybe five years ago, and pronounced it “bi-oppic” until I figured out that it was a biographical picture so should be bio-pic. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it said, I’ve just read it.

I seem to have heard that word about the same time I started coming across the word “trailer” for a film preview, and “cover” for a song done by a different singer/band.

You kids and your new words!

I say bi-opic, and always have done. It is consistent with my pronunciation of a book about a real person, bi-ography, and auto-bi-ography.
Curiously though, I would also say that a book of that type was auto-bio-graphical.

Go figure.

“Trailer” to refer to a movie preview has been around since the 1920s, possibly earlier.

Biopic and cover both go back at least to the 50s.

I have never heard “biopic” pronounced aloud, to my knowledge. In my mind, I have always pronounced it as bio-pic. I have no idea if this is correct but it is the only fact I have to contribute to this General Questions forum thread.

Cambridgefurther muddies the waters…

When I hear bi-opic I associate it with “biopsy” and think of it as exploring the character on a deeper level. This is, of course, nonsense, as it’s only a biography picture. But that’s still where my head goes when I hear the mispronunciation.

Except that the first part of the word is bio, meaning ‘life’, and graphia means ‘an account’ or ‘record’. Bi- means ‘two’, and I don’t think there is a suffix ‘-ography’ (just ‘-graphy’) – but I’m not sure about that.


I heard someone on NPR say it that way last week and it just sounded wrong…then again, it’s not a word you heat spoken very often.

What I am saying is that the original, spoken work was “forrid”, which some spelling pedant or lexicographer decided should be spelled forehead, on the basis of false (although superficially plausible) assumptions about the etymology. Now that that spelling is established, however, many people have taken to pronouncing it as spelled.

Missed edit window:

It may be that forrid originally derived from forheafod, which is what Etymology Online says, but the word went through a stage where it was pronounced (and probably often spelled, before spelling was regularized) as forrid, and, after that, a stage (which I am old enough to recall) when the lexicographically approved spelling was forehead, but it was still pronounced forrid. Both the currently accepted spelling, and what I think is the now dominant pronunciation, as forehead, both seem to have originated as overcorrection errors (separate ones, that happen to be mutually reinforcing).

As might have been guessed the origin is almost certainly Varietyspeak, the language that Variety has used for decades and still uses to report on show business. It’s a shifting and ever-growing argot with neologisms being formed constantly.

First cite in OED: