How Do You Pronounce Hurricane Ophelia?

Hurricane Ophelia - pronunciationHurricane Ophelia arrived in the British Isles on October 16th, leaving many homes in Ireland and Wales without power and schools temporarily closed. There were violently strong winds across parts of Scotland, Wales and England as the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia hit British shores from the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. With so much discussion in the news about the hurricane, English language learners might have been intrigued or confused about the ‘ph’ pronunciation in the word Ophelia. Read on to find out the correct pronunciation of Hurricane Ophelia, how hurricanes get their names and how the ‘ph’ sound and letter combination works in English.


Hurricane Ophelia Pronunciation 

Hurricane Ophelia follows the usual pronunciation rule in English regarding the letter combination ‘ph’. Ophelia is pronounced using the ‘f’ sound to create the ‘ph’ phonetically. This means the word will sound the same as ‘Ofelia’.

This pronunciation uses a strong ‘f’ sound, like you will find in the word ‘off’. This is not to be confused with the soft ‘v’ sound in the word ‘of’.

The world ‘hurricane’ can be pronounced in a couple of different ways. When English speakers say the word ‘hurricane’ they normally swallow the ‘i’ sound to create an ‘uh’ sound. This ends up as ‘hurrucane’

The pronunciation of ‘hurricane’ can differ and all pronunciations could be correct. You might hear the end of the word ‘hurricane’ pronounced with the long ‘a’ sound to rhyme with ‘lane’ or ‘gain’, so it will sound like ‘hurrucane’.

Alternatively, you can also hear hurricane pronounced as ‘hurricun’ with the ‘a’ sound swallowed. It could even sound as softly spoken as ‘hurrucun’.

So the pronunciation of Hurricane Ophelia phonetically will sound like: ‘Hurricun Ofelia’ or ‘Hurrucun Ofelia’ or ‘Hurrucane Ofelia’, depending on who is speaking.


The Ph sound in English

This ‘ph’ spelling in English is associated with words that come from ancient Greek, which used the letter φ (phi). The Latin language used ‘ph’ in its borrowed words from Greek, which changed into [f] and later passed like this into early English.

The ‘f’ sound from words with an ancient Greek origin can also be found in other European languages, such as French and German.The Spanish language has changed many of these to be spelled with an ‘f’ (for example, telephone in English is ‘teléfono’ in Spanish).

American English can also be different. For example the British English ‘sulphur’ is spelled ‘sulfur’ in American English.

Examples of ‘ph’ words:

The ‘ph’ combination of letters can appear at the beginning, middle or end of a word.

Ph at the beginning of a word: pheasant, phantom, philosophy, photo, phenomenon, phobia, pharmacy, phone, physics, phonetic, Phyllis, Phillip, Philadelphia

Ph in the middle of a word: nephew, elephant, metaphysical, catastrophe, alphabet, pamphlet, dolphin, earphones, typhoon, orphan, emphasis

Ph at the beginning of a word: autograph, pharaoh, triumph, morph, hieroglyph, epitaph, oomph, Ralph

English words where ‘ph is not pronounced as ‘f’

In English, the letter combination ‘ph’ is nearly always pronounced as an ‘f’ sound. This is exactly what happens with the Hurricane Ophelia pronunciation.

There are only a few ‘ph’ words that are not pronounced using the ‘f’ sound. When this happens, it is usually because the word is a compound word joining two previously separate words.

Words where the letters ‘ph’ are pronounced individually with the letter ‘p’ fully voiced are:



Hurricane Ophelia – What’s in a Name?

Hurricanes were traditionally named after saints who were honoured on the day the storm occurred. Then phonetic alphabet was then used (for example, Charlie and Foxtrot).

In 1953, girls’ names started to be used for hurricanes and in 1979, boys’ names were added. Nowadays, weather forecasters alternate girls’ and boys’ names to describe hurricanes.

Most people associate the name Ophelia with the Shakespeare play Hamlet. Ophelia was the tragic character who drowned herself in the play and she is the subject of many paintings. Many people will also now associate the name with the hurricane.

‘Ophelia’ by John Everett Millais

Hurricane names are determined by the World Meteorological Organization headquartered in Geneva.

For Atlantic tropical storms, the National Hurricane Center created six lists of hurricane names containing French, Spanish, Dutch and English names.The six lists are kept in constant rotation.

The lists can change if a storm is especially devastating, such as 2005’s Katrina, as it might be deemed inappropriate to use the name again.


Is Ophelia a Storm or Hurricane?

A storm is called a ‘hurricane’ if it has a counterclockwise circulation and wind speeds of 39 mph (63 kph) or greater.

When storms that meet these requirements form in the Atlantic or Eastern Pacific, they are called hurricanes. In the western North Pacific, they are called typhoons and in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, they are called cyclones.

Once deemed to be strong enough to qualify, the storm is then assigned the next hurricane name alphabetically in line from the year’s current name list.

Hurricane Ophelia - storm or hurricane

Storm Ophelia in the UK

After its arrival on British shores, Hurricane Ophelia was reclassified as a storm, as its energy had dissipated.

The arrival of Ophelia coincided with the anniversary of the great storm of 1987, which battered the UK on 15th and 16th October 1987 and left devastation in its wake. The great storm is also famed for the Met Office failing to forecast the true scale of the storm.

A plume of dust raised from the Sahara also passed over the United Kingdom at the same time as Storm Ophelia, giving us a sepia sky, reddish sun and reduced light levels.

Storm Ophelia - sepia sky

Share your thoughts on Hurricane Ophelia and ‘ph’ pronunciation

Were you been affected by Hurricane Ophelia? Was your school or college closed due to the storm?

English language learners, do you find the ‘ph’ and ‘f’ sound in English confusing?

Can you think of any other words in English that have the ‘ph’ letter combination?

Do you know any ‘ph’ words that are not pronounced with an ‘f’ sound?


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