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Pronunciation of mineral names

Posted by Steve Adams  
Steve Adams April 20, 2017 01:36PM
I have spent much time trying to locate online the pronunciation of various mineral names. It seems Mindat rarely offers any pronunciations. I spent over an hour searching online dictionaries to no avail. Even where I found a pronunciation, there was no accent info. For example, is "tainiolite" pronounced "TAI-ni-o-lite" or "tai-NI-o-lite"? My personal opinion is that such a service, if offered by Mindat, would be a valued and welcomed asset and fill a need not found elsewhere. I discovered that even science dictionaries have only a small percentage of mineral species names listed, and they don't even give the pronunciations - only definitions.
Alfredo Petrov April 20, 2017 02:44PM
And who will decide which is the right pronunciation? A majority vote? ;))
Steve Adams April 20, 2017 03:25PM
David, the audio has nothing on it. Yes, there is the pronunciation audio icon there, but it takes you to an empty audio.
David Von Bargen April 20, 2017 03:30PM
I can get it to work by clicking any icon on the audio control (on the audio control itself)
Donald B Peck April 20, 2017 03:41PM
I think that if one knows for what, where, or whom the mineral is named that it helps. I try pronouncing the name without the ". . . ite" ending, and hope it works. The Photo Atlas of Minerals (CD) from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles includes pronounciation of each mineral.
Rolf Luetcke April 20, 2017 06:13PM
I was going to mention the Photo Atlas but the newer windows won't support that Photo Atlas anymore and ours can't be used. I loved it had that feature.
Shame they didn't update the Photo Atlas for the newer windows systems.
Our copy is completely useless, can't view it anymore and I loved it.
Ed Clopton April 20, 2017 07:19PM
I once asked Willard Roberts of the South Dakota School of Mines, co-author of two editions of an Encyclopedia of Minerals, about including pronunciations in future editions. He replied that Hey had tried that in one edition of his Chemical Index of Minerals and "opened such a can of worms" that pronunciations were omitted from all future editions.

Before I belonged to a mineral club (and to some extent even now) there are a lot of mineral names and other terms that I have only ever seen in print and have to make my best guess as to pronunciation. I was startled when I heard Roberts say "bismuthinite" for the first time; I had seen the word in print before and wasn't sure what to make of it, but "biz MYOO thun ite" was not among the possibilities I had considered.

Refereeing pronunciations of words having roots in so many languages, by speakers of so many other languages, would be a daunting task. How many (English) pronunciations have we heard for "goethite"? I can think of five or six, none matching the proper German pronunciation of the name of poet/mineral collector Wolfgang von Goethe for whom the species is named.

The author of a letter to the editor in Mineralogical Record 25(4):301-2 (July-August 1994) tells of asking Terry and Marissa Szenics, for whom szenicsite is named, how it should be pronounced. "He said 'zeniks', but she said 'theniks, because I'm Peruvian'." Even the two people for whom the species is jointly named don't agree! That letter also repeats what Roberts said about pronunciations in Hey's Chemical Index of Minerals.

And what of "cyanotrichite"? The "cy" at the beginning suggests "SI an o trik ite", but the Greek root kyanos (sorry, I don't have Greek on my keyboard) begins with K, not S. I say, or at least think, "KI an o trik ite", but I'll bet that's a minority opinion.

Uniformity would be nice, but I'll bet we will just have to live with ambiguity.
Chester S. Lemanski, Jr. April 20, 2017 07:50PM
What a bucket of worms this subject spills onto the clean floor! I wonder at times what the correct pronunciation of even some common minerals might be!

I have heard earth science professionals use varying pronunciations for common minerals such as hematite (short "e" or long e"), limonite (short "i" or long "i"), sphalerite (short "a" or long "a"), chalcopyrite (kalcopyrite or chalcopyrite), etc. One fairly consistent rule is that the second syllable carries the accent. This rule does at times make mineral names that hardly resemble the name of the person after whom the mineral was named!
Hendrik van Oss April 20, 2017 07:59PM
There is no unique mineral (assemblage) left over from the extraction of iron from iron ore. "Slag" (or more correctly, blast furnace slag) is as good a short answer as any, but it is itself not a mineral.

In a blast furnace, there is a more or less continuous top feed (burden) of a mix of iron ore, coke, and fluxing & slagging agents (commonly silica sand, limestone, and/or dolomite). Through this burden is an uprushing flow of extremely hot gas, mostly CO, from the combustion of the coke.

The coke (mostly C plus some silica plus some pyrite) burns, with the main equation being 2C + O2 = 2 CO

The hot CO strips the oxygen from the iron ore, which is generally hematite (plus silica/silicate impurities); simplistically, the reaction producing the crude iron is:

3CO + Fe2O3 = 2Fe + 3CO2

The fluxing and slagging agents help these reactions proceed at a lower "temperature" (heat input) than would otherwise be the case. They also combine with the impurities (mainly silica and silicates) in the ore (and the ash content of the coke) to produce a complex (but mainly Ca- and/or Ca-Mg-Al-)silicate melt that is the slag. This can be simplistically described (using a limestone slagging agent) as:

2CaCO3 + SiO2 = (CaO)2SiO2 ("C2S" in cement chemistry shorthand) + 2 CO2

but, ultimately, there can be many phases ("minerals") present, and/or a reactive glass, depending the actual chemistry of the ore and slagging agents (etc...) and upon how the slag is cooled. Some of these phases are synthetic equivalents of natural minerals, and some (though referred to as minerals in the steel and cement industries) are basically not found in nature; a number of these phases have variable compositions. The slag may also contain free metal (iron) and/or iron carbides.

According to the old standard reference on iron blast furnace slags (Josephson, Sillers, and Runner, 1949: USBM Bull 479), among the common phases found in iron blast furnace slags are: akermanite-gehlenite (i.e., melilite), the C2S I mentioned above, pseudowollastonite and other monocalcium silicate phases, olivine series phases, pyroxene phases, merwinite, and pyrrhotite-group phases. But given the wide range of minor element compositions of iron ores and slagging agents, no doubt many other phases have been reported in slags from around the world, and with slags from the same furnace produced at different times. And then, if dumped outside, the slags can weather...

Ditto, in spades, for slags of other metallurgical industries!
Hendrik van Oss April 20, 2017 08:26PM
Ah, my reply to the slag mineralogy question that had appeared as the last entry in this thread has now been orphaned by the removal of the slag question from the thread.

Not sure that there is much debate on the pronunciation of 'slag'.
Hendrik van Oss April 20, 2017 08:41PM
On the subject of mineral pronunciation, given that all sorts of foreign ('fern") geologists collect minerals, there will forever be variation in pronunciation:

"ch" vs. "k" in minerals like chalcopyrite

Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation of calcite as "kalseeja"

Day-klwa-zite vs. Dez-kloh-ih-zite for descloisite

Incorporation of diacritical marks in mineral names (helpful, I suppose, if one knows how the marks are pronounced)

not to mention tongue-twisting engooment of mineral names with chemical descriptors: ferro-ferri-fluoro XYZite, as evidenced in the latest Fleischer, which is making mineral names more difficult than the Latin names of fossils.
Doug Daniels April 21, 2017 01:39AM
Another one - brochantite. Is the ch a "ch", or a "k". I believe Brochant himself was French, which may make a difference.
Vachik Hairapetian April 21, 2017 05:19AM
By the way, how you would pronounce Zunyite?
Paul De Bondt April 21, 2017 06:36AM
Brochantite is with a ch.
Zunyite should be pronounced zuniïte as the TL is Zuni.
Like gauthierite. Everybody say gauthieRite but should be gauthiEite as his name was pronounced gauthiE.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/21/2017 06:39AM by Paul De Bondt.
Johan Kjellman April 21, 2017 10:00AM
crash course:
långban = long ba[r]n
långbanite = long ba[r] night

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/21/2017 10:01AM by Johan Kjellman.
Paul Brandes April 21, 2017 12:17PM
Chet summed it up best.... "What a bucket of worms this subject spills onto the clean floor!".

As much as people try, I do not believe there will ever be total consensus on the pronunciation of mineral names. Compounding the issues even further than what has been mentioned above is the fact that different languages pronounce words differently, especially when those words are translated into English. The Photo Atlas of Minerals CD (which is where I believe WebMineral got their info from) does a pretty good job of this, but I have heard foreign language speakers say a mineral name and depending on what country they were from, get totally different responses.
Alfredo Petrov April 21, 2017 12:38PM
Sugilite: A large majority of collectors and jewelers pronounce it with a soft "g" as in gene, ie. "soo-jee-light". So, if the "majority rules", then that's the way it's pronounced in english. But if you believe (as I do) that minerals named after people should be pronounced the way that person pronounces their own name, then the soft "g" is completely wrong and it should be pronounce with a hard "g" as in geese, as that's the way Dr Sugi's name is pronounced.
Uwe Kolitsch April 21, 2017 12:44PM
Try the new mineral kyawthuite (if I hadn't been in Myanmar, I would have had no idea how to pronounce it).
Rolf Luetcke April 21, 2017 03:26PM
Very interesting and an often talked about subject with a new collector friend who has his own way of pronouncing mineral names.
Brings about our own areas usages of the Gila Monster with the silent g, or Saguaro with the g silent again.
Having been a herpetologist I ran into that with snake name pronunciations as well and every person seemed to have their own.
Chet, you are right, it is a can of worms.
I think as long as people can understand what another is talking about it works.
I had often asked what mineral someone was talking about with the way they said the word but understanding was reached.
Interesting thread
Kelly Nash April 21, 2017 05:38PM
Steve the pronunciation bar on Webmineral works fine for me. My browser asks if I would like to activate Quicktime once or always, that application needs to be on. I'm glad Webmineral has decided to open that can of worms because all I want to know is what pronunciation typical English-speakers are using. "Hauyne" always tripped me up, and from Webmineral I know that at least some people who have thought about it are saying "Ha-ween" which is better than my first attempt. There will always be variations in pronunciation when different languages are involved, but we already deal with that on Mindat which defaults to British English spelling (e.g. "baryte").
Chester S. Lemanski, Jr. April 21, 2017 06:13PM
Hematite is very interesting. Virtually everyone pronounces it with a short "e." The minority of folks pronounce it with a long "e." The conundrum is evident when we look at "hemoglobin" where the "e" is always long and it comes from the very same root word!
Colin Robinson April 21, 2017 07:37PM
Asking for the correct pronunciation of a mineral name assumes there is a 'correct' one. Look at how the Americans and the English pronounce tomato !!
Łukasz Kruszewski April 21, 2017 11:12PM
Well, beware: new Polish new minerals coming to IMA....................... (-;

(that's why I've recorded the pronounciation of żabińskiite and czochralskiite; but I won't try with tuperssuatsiaite, no worries (-;)
Chester S. Lemanski, Jr. April 22, 2017 12:20AM

My Polish name is relatively easy to pronounce. Despite that, I get all manner of spellings and pronunciations (Liminski, Liminsky, Leminski, Laminski, etc.). Relevant only in the fact that I have a mineral named after me. The correct pronunciation for it is Lēmanskēīte.
Keith Compton April 22, 2017 12:30AM
Hi Chet

But I still spell haemoglobin with an "a" !!! .... and pronounce it with a long "e" .... and I have always pronounced hematite with a long "e".. Some of the very "old" writings show hematite as haematite.

so ... Guess I just must be "old school" !!

Colin ... wasn't it even former President Bush that couldn't even spell tomato??? oops... I have been advised it was Dan Quayle and the spelling of potato !! My apologies to former President Bush.

Lukasz, there are many new mineral names that I would simply be unable to pronounce, especially those with eastern european and chinese origin.

Perhaps I could just start collecting those minerals with four letters that are easy to pronounce like .... gold, gold and gold.!!!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/22/2017 06:52AM by Keith Compton.
Ralph Bottrill April 22, 2017 12:49AM
Haematite was named after the Greek word for blood, Haem. You can forgive variations in pronunciation but the change in spelling was highly illogical.
Erik Vercammen April 22, 2017 09:07AM
we don't write he(a)matite in Greek letters, so we're not bound to the Greek spelling. And if we did, it should be mikrokline because the Greek has no 'c' only the 'k' (kappa)
Ralph Bottrill April 22, 2017 03:11PM
I'm not sure here, does the rest of the world use eg. the spelling (and pronunciation) haemoglobin or hemoglobin? I suspect its only the USA using the latter? I agree there is a lack of consistency in translations, to get the correct pronunciation chalcopyrite should probably be spelt kalkopyryt (also derived from greek Kalkos). I wont hold my breath.
Erik Vercammen April 22, 2017 03:16PM
In Dutch, it is "hemoglobine" and "hematiet".
Donald B Peck April 22, 2017 04:16PM
Colin, American and English are two different languages. ;<)
Chester S. Lemanski, Jr. April 22, 2017 06:54PM

Hemoglobin universally used in the states but the "e" is still pronounced long.
Łukasz Kruszewski April 22, 2017 11:09PM
Huh, I just have my lemanskiite specimen ready to be re-photographed (-;
Łukasz Kruszewski April 22, 2017 11:10PM
Talking about the correct spelling... and transcript ... I wonder if "catapleiite" will ever be corrected to the correct form, that is katapleiitie.... Btw, "morozeviczite" and "polkovicite" should be "morozewiczite" and "polkowicite"; I've contacted the author concerning the name change IMA proposal, but no answer...

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/22/2017 11:12PM by Łukasz Kruszewski.
Ralph Bottrill April 22, 2017 11:32PM
"Colin, American and English are two different languages. ;<)"
Yes, some would say Australian is too, but it would be boring if we all sounded the same!
Timothy Greenland April 23, 2017 09:13AM
When I still lived in the UK, I felt as though there were at least 50 languages from the different regions! The BBC evened things out a fair bit, but from way back decisions had to be made. Caxton is said to have hesitated a long time if he should say "egg(e)s" or "eyen" in a printed text. Regional differences are wonderful and enriching - don't knock 'em! Alternative prononciations of mineral names as well as other terms will persist no doubt. It is exacerbated by the fact that many people have only seen the names written somewhere and not heard the prononciation from a teacher - and even then, he may have got it wrong...


Donald B Peck April 23, 2017 04:49PM
Hi Ralph. Ain't that the truth!
László Horváth April 25, 2017 08:41PM
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has American, Canadian, Australian and probably Indian and other editions or supplements which are updated periodically to include new words, phrases and changes in word usage. I am sure Trumpism is already lined up for inclusion in the OED.

Katapleiite will probably not happen, but a proposal can be made to IMA to change it. They seem to be very willing to consider corrections to mineral names to bring it in line with the name of a person.
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