Compare - compere

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The verb 'to compare' and the noun a compere may strike some as homophones. They are not.

  • The verb 'to compare' is pronounced 'cerm-PAIR' (IPA: /kəm ˈpeər/), with the stress on the second syllable. The vowel in its first ayllable is the weak schwa, /ə/.
  • The noun a compere has the stress on the first syllable and has the vowel sound of the '-o-' in 'off', IPA: /ɒ/: 'COM-pair', IPA: /ˈkɒm peər/.

The two words have no relation in meaning.

  • The verb 'to compare' basically means 'to liken' [two things or people, etc]; "To mark or point out the similarities and differences of (two or more things); to bring or place together (actually or mentally) for the purpose of noting the similarities and differences" (OED, 1891). Its root lies in Latin com ('with') and par ('equal').
    • A not uncommon instruction in essays and other assessment exercises is compare and contrast. This offers the writer (the student being assessed) the opportunity to show what the items have in common, and what makes each different from the other(s).
  • The noun a compere (sometimes written in English as it is in its language of origin, French, with a Grave accent as compère) may be pronounced in the French way, with fairly level stress (French is a syllable-timed language, so equal emphasis is given to each syllable); but in English, a stress-timed language, it is stressed on the first syllable. It means a person who introduces elements of an entertainment, a 'master of ceremonies' or director.
    • In origin - Latin com 'with' + pater 'father' via French com 'with' + père 'father' - it meant 'godfather': someone responsible, with the parents, for a child's upbringing and spiritual welfare. (A compere is properly a man: in French a female in the role is a commère, 'godmother'.)
There is also a rarely used noun 'a compeer', which means an equal, or, more loosely, 'a companion', 'comrade' or 'fellow'.