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Is it tex(tech)? Or Is it tex(like touch)?

Lay-TeX? or La-TeX?

Should I use TeX pronunciation in LaTeX?

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  • 1
    see last line in latex-project.org/intro.html
    – user2478
    May 5, 2011 at 19:28
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    What about ConTeXt? The final “t” is for “tricky”.
    – rberaldo
    May 5, 2011 at 20:08
  • @rberaldo: see tex.stackexchange.com/questions/5406/…
    – Caramdir
    May 5, 2011 at 20:29
  • @Caramdir thank you! I think the Hans Hagen should put it in the manual, just for the sake of tradition.
    – rberaldo
    May 5, 2011 at 20:40
  • TeX, LaTeX, ConTeXt… You can listen to Donald Knuth pronouncing them in this video. (Note how LaTeX is pronounced twice in a row with 2 different pronunciation — between 0:14 and 0:18.)
    – ebosi
    Feb 24, 2020 at 9:08

7 Answers 7

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Let the creators of TeX and LaTeX answer:

Donald Knuth wrote in the first chapter of his TeXbook:

English words like ‘technology’ stem from a Greek root beginning with the letters τεχ...; and this same Greek word means art as well as technology. Hence the name TeX, which is an uppercase form of τεχ.

Insiders pronounce the χ of TeX as a Greek chi, not as an ‘x’, so that TeX rhymes with the word blecchhh. It’s the ‘ch’ sound in Scottish words like loch or German words like ach; it’s a Spanish ‘j’ and a Russian ‘kh’. When you say it correctly to your computer, the terminal may become slightly moist.

Leslie Lamport wrote in the first chapter of his book LaTeX: A document Preparation System:

One of the hardest things about LaTeX is deciding how to pronounce it.This is also one of the few things I'm not going to tell you about LaTeX, since pronunciation is best determined by usage, not fiat. TeX is usually pronounced teck, making lah-teck, and lay-teck the logical choices; but language is not always logical, so lay-tecks is also possible.

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    a long time ago, in an intro to latex presented at a decus symposium by lamport himself, he said when asked this question, "anything but L.A.TeX". (in other words, don't pronounce the first two letters as separate syllables.) May 5, 2011 at 20:13
  • 2
    Great answer. Another interesting quote by Knuth is mentioned in footnote 1 on page 1 of lshort, I think this quote would add to your answer even more. (I couldn't find the quote in the "German Wikipedia" right away though ...)
    – doncherry
    May 5, 2011 at 23:13
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    One should note, however, that the Greek χ (chi) is pronounced (at least by the very few Greek people I've met) closer to the English word 'he' than to the German 'ach', so I would question whether Knuth's explanation is fully consistent with modern Greek pronunciation. May 24, 2013 at 9:02
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    @BrunoLeFloch: There seem to be two pronunciations of χ in modern greek depending on the context. Wikipedia: "In Modern Greek, it has two distinct pronunciations: In front of high or front vowels (/e/ or /i/) it is pronounced as a voiceless palatal fricative [ç], as in German ich or like the h in some pronunciations of the English words hew and human. In front of low or back vowels (/a/, /o/ or /u/) and consonants, it is pronounced as a voiceless velar fricative ([x]), as in German ach."
    – Perseids
    Sep 15, 2014 at 11:45
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    @BrunoLeFloch: but modern Greek is entirely beside the point. We don't trace our word "technology" back to modern Greek—we trace it back to ancient Greek. Unfortunately it is not as easy as we might like to determine the correct (ancient) pronunciation of Greek words, but scholars claim to have a pretty good idea based on things like poetry.
    – iconoclast
    May 24, 2016 at 1:42
37

Using the IPA, it is /ˈleɪtɛk/, /ˈleɪtɛx/, /ˈlɑːtɛx/, or /ˈlɑːtɛk/.

Resources:

Pronouncing "LaTeX" on Wikipedia

LaTeX is usually pronounced /ˈlɑːtɛk/ or /ˈleɪtɛk/ in English (that is, not with the /ks/ pronunciation English speakers normally associate with X, but with a /k/). The characters T, E, X in the name come from capital Greek letters tau, epsilon, and chi, as the name of TeX derives from the Greek: τέχνη (skill, art, technique); for this reason, TeX's creator Donald Knuth promotes a pronunciation of /ˈtɛx/ (tekh) (that is, with a voiceless velar fricative as in Modern Greek, similar to the last sound of the German word "Bach", the Spanish "j" sound, or as ch in loch). Lamport, on the other hand, has said he does not favor or discourage any pronunciation for LaTeX.

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  • 1
    As a linguistics student, I highly appreciate your IPA, to make it even better, you could/should add either slashes /.../ or brackets [...] around it. Your quote went with the slashes, which indicate phonemic transcription. That seems appropriate here.
    – doncherry
    May 5, 2011 at 20:42
  • @doncherry Thank you for the suggestion, I have added the slashes. I am actually learning the IPA at the moment as I have become interested in linguistics, particularly phonetics and phonology, so any good advice such as yours is highly appreciated. May 5, 2011 at 21:14
  • Glad I could help. I'm sure you know it already, but in case you don't, you should check out the tipa package for IPA in LaTeX.
    – doncherry
    May 5, 2011 at 22:36
  • @doncherry I do, thank you. I am currently working on typesetting a short phrasal dictionary so I use it a lot. May 6, 2011 at 4:54
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I think that it's better to find out what Knuth has to say in the matter... Listen!!! :D

Oh, and watch the whole presentation. It is definitely worth it.

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    (pronunciation at 13:40)
    – Neil G
    May 6, 2011 at 7:56
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    Love the digs at Steve Jobs and Apple. Throughout the presentation! Jul 28, 2017 at 5:02
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    Pronounced La-Tech - youtu.be/8HuwiBPLV3A?t=16 Jan 3, 2021 at 14:22
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    @YangshunTay or Lay-Tech, "the author never did decide how to pronounce it." Jan 13 at 18:05
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Knuth answers this in the TeXbook: it's "teccch" (a gutteral sound, like in German or Russian or Hebrew, or of course Greek) not "teks" or "tetch". According to the TeX FAQ, there is no official pronunciation for LaTeX, but I often hear "lay-TeX" or (of course) "lay-teks" for humorous reasons. I prefer "lah-TeX", as in "Lamport", but I'm pedantic.

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TeX actually stands for tau-epsilon-chi and the 'X' is therefore pronounced like the 'ch' in German, i.e. by breathing out through half closed mouth (I can't explain it better). It's sounds similar to the 'tech' in 'technique'.

The TeX Wikipedia page says:

TeX (/ˈtɛx/ as in Greek, but often pronounced /tɛk/ in English) ... 'ch' like in 'loch'

LaTeX is pronounced lah-tech by most German speakers (like me) but in English it is often pronounced lay-tech. IMHO that is because it is the natural pronounced of that languages.

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    "breathing out through half closed mouse"!!! I'm sure you can't explain it better. May 5, 2011 at 19:38
  • Reading through Wikipedia's description I wonder, how I can speak at all. Seems way too complicated ;-).
    – Caramdir
    May 5, 2011 at 20:41
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    Incidentally, 'LOL' is now in the Oxford English Dictionary. It's a sad day. May 5, 2011 at 20:54
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    Martin, which German "ch"? There's Bach and there's Brecht. The different sources seem to be contradicting each other. The above quotes list the Scottish "loch" but on latex-project.org/intro.html the instructions compare it with "Brecht". These are different sounds for the ch, at least for a German speaker.
    – teylyn
    May 5, 2011 at 21:06
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    @teylyn: According to Wikipedia, it is IPA [x], as in German Bach. See also the entry on χ.
    – Caramdir
    May 6, 2011 at 1:23
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Here, in the answer to the third question, Leslie Lamport pronounces TeX and LaTeX as tek and lay-tek respectively, although @gonazalo-medina mentioned a very good reference and I also personally prefer lah-tek.

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Allow me to suggest a probably unpopular alternative: "latex" /ˈleɪtɛks/. Like the substance. Let it stand for whatever Greek letters it may: I'm not reading it in Greek, so that's irrelevant. Spell it like an existing word and you only invite a reader to read it like an existing word.

Ultimately, I'd posit that it's not that important as long as people understand you.

(Also, SQL is not "sequel" and "arXiv" is not "ar-kh-iv" (and definitely not "archive").)

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  • I agree. I actually know some (modern) Greek, but the tongue-in-cheek pronunciation is, in my humble opinion, the one implicitly mandated by Leslie Lamport, which coincides with the English word for rubber, thus implying elasticity and flexibility of LaTeX over its mother(-tongue) TeX. Feb 4, 2019 at 13:46
  • SQL = Ask you well. Feb 4, 2019 at 13:49
  • I concur with Leslie Lamport that the pronunciation should be dictated (haha) not by fiat (founder or prominent person says) but by usage ie how people pronounce it. I hope more people come around to this practical and simpler idea. This is the same with English words and pronunciation which has made it successful compared to German which is more prescriptive (fiat) Dec 27, 2020 at 12:50

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