Cerebral (pronunciation)

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The 1989 edition of OED records only one pronunciation of the word cerebral. This is the traditional British academic pronunciation(RP). The stress is on the first syllable, and the second syllable is the casual English schwa. So the whole sounds like 'SERR-er-brel' (IPA: /'sə rə brəl/).

Of late, another pronunciation has increasingly been heard, one recorded, albeit regarded as secondary, by LPD. (Collins COBUILD Dictionary also gives it, after the first.) This has the stress on the second syllable, which is a long '-ee' sound: 'serr-EE-brel' (IPA: /sə 'riː brəl/). AWE prefers the first, mainly because of the traditional and conservationist tendencies of usage guides. Both pronunciations appear to reflect the original Latin cerebrum, in which the middle vowel could be either long or short.

Cerebral means 'to do with the brain [cerebrum]'. (More properly, to an anatomist, the cerebrum is the largest part of the brain in mammals, including humans.) By extension, it is used to mean 'intellectual', 'to do with thought'.

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