The Proper Pronunciation of “Propitiation”

While traveling to OH for my sister’s wedding last weekend, I had the opportunity to listen to D. A. Carson’s (Wikipedia | Theopedia)1 three-part series on the New Perspective on Paul (Theopedia): “The So-Called New Perspective on Paul Critiqued” (Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 also here: Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3).2 He delivered it at Reformed Theological Seminary in 2005. It’s a helpful overview and introduction to the issues.3 If you don’t have a good grasp on the New Perspective, this is a good place to start.

PropitiationBut the New Perspective is not the subject of this post. During the course of the third lecture, Dr. Carson repeatedly referred to propitiation (Theopedia) when working through Romans 3. What struck me as odd was his pronunciation of the term. He consistently said prō-pĭs-ē-ā-shŭn (e.g., 48:54). Perhaps as intriguing was that he pronounced the verb form, “propitiate,” (correctly, in my view) as prō-pĭsh-ē-āte rather than the expected prō-pĭs-ē-āte.

That pronunciation was new to me. I have always pronounced it prō-pĭsh-ē-ā-shŭn, which I believe is the standard (and correct) pronunciation. I’ve also heard both prō-pĭch-ē-ā-shŭn and prō-pĭt-chē-ā-shŭn (which are nearly indistinguishable),4 but never have I heard—until now—prō-pĭs-ē-ā-shŭn.

It reminded me of my pastor during my teenage years who would always pronounce “Deuteronomy” as “Deuteromony”—probably just a childhood mistake that was so ingrained that it couldn’t easily be unlearned (or perhaps he was ignorant of the fact, and no one was ever bold enough to tell him!). I’d like to thing there’s something else going on here since we’re dealing with one of the premier NT scholars of our day—one who would certainly know better!

Does anyone have any ideas? Just a guess, but I wonder if it is British or reflects Carson’s knowledge of French. (Carson grew up in French Canada and studied in England.)

All the dictionaries that I’ve looked at that have a pronunciation list only the pronunciation prō-pĭsh-ē-ā-shŭn.

Take the poll, and let’s settle this once and for all!

[poll id=”2″]

Update: Michael White has pointed out in the comments that Webster’s 1828 lists prō-pĭs-ē-ā-shŭn as the only pronunciation. Very interesting. I’ll have to look this up in OED to find out more about its history.

See also my other two posts:


  1. See also Andreas Kostenberger’s ten-page biography of Carson.
  2. See Andy Naselli’s nice collection of Carson audio.
  3. See Adrian Warnock’s summary.
  4. E.g., Steven Lawson follows the latter pronunciation. See his sermon “Ten Reasons Why the Bible Teaches Definite Atonement: The Reality of Christ’s Propitiation” (e.g., 0:21).

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4 Responses to The Proper Pronunciation of “Propitiation”

  1. Mike Aubrey August 6, 2007 at 4:48 pm #

    I’m also impressed by Random House that they use IPA for their pronunciation (though I wonder how many people can actually read it…).

  2. Michael White August 7, 2007 at 10:07 am #


    I noticed that Webster’s 1828 gives Carson’s pronunciation:,propitiation


  3. Nick February 28, 2010 at 4:55 am #

    Finally! I’ve struggled with the meaning and pronunciation of that word forever…THANKS!

  4. Tom December 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    Indeed in French you would pronounce it pro-pis-ee-ah-syon, so likely that’s where he’s getting it from. (Sorry for my homemade phonetics.)