Facile

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The adjective facile can be misleading. It is derived from the Latin adjective facilis, facile (with three syllables), which means 'easy'. But in current English, it has distinct connotations of 'too easy', 'superficially seeming to be easy [without real effort]', 'glib'. OED says: "In later use freq[uently] in disparaging sense: contemptibly easy." Because this is the predominant meaning in academic circles, AWE recommends its users never to use facile in any other sense. Be careful, similarly, not to use facile as an adjective formed from the noun facility.

It is an etymological oddity that the root has given rise to identical-looking words in different languages which have very different pronunciations. Only in English does it usually have the dismissive meaning of 'too easy' or 'glib'

  • In the usual pronunciation in British English (RP) the two syllables are fairly evenly stressed (although the first is slightly the stronger), and the '-i-' rhymes with 'I'll' and 'while' - it is the diphthongal '-i-': 'FASS-ile', IPA: /'fæ saɪl/.
    • The standard pronunciation in American English (GA) has a much reduced second syllable, which sounds like the end of "kettle": 'Fass-el', /'fæ səl/. (See also -ile (pronunciation.)
  • In French, the adjective meaning 'easy' has the stress on the second syllable, which has the vowel of 'he'll' and 'feel': 'fass-EEL', IPA: /fa 'siːl/.
  • In Italian, the adjective for 'easy' has three syllables, with the stress on the first. The '-c-' is pronounced in a characteristically Italian fashion, like the English '-ch-' or '-tch-' in 'rich', 'such' amd 'match': 'FATCH-ill-eh', /'fa tʃɪ le/.