From Word Genius
Have you searched your brain and given up?
It’s not a common word, but it’s more than just a fun word to say. It’s that upside-down “e” seen in the dictionary, squeezed into a string of phonetic symbols.
How to Pronounce “Schwa”
A “schwa” is the “ǝ” symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). It is an unstressed syllable pronounced like “uh.” Most of the time, this syllable comes in the middle of a word — notice how the “e” in “dozen” and the “o” in “memory” don’t have an outsized presence in the pronunciation of the word.
The word “schwa” comes from the Hebrew word shva. When reading Hebrew, two dots beneath a letter indicate a schwa. In English, there isn’t a visual indicator other than in the IPA pronunciation in the dictionary. That upside down “ǝ” symbol indicates the pronunciation of the “uh” of “schwa.”
A schwa is a vowel sound in an unstressed syllable, where a vowel does not make its long or short vowel sound. It usually sounds like the short /u/ sound, but is softer and weaker.
Examples of a schwa:
- a: balloon.
- e: problem.
- i: family.
- o: bottom.
- u: support.
- y: analysis.