7
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What is the greatest and least number of syllables that a word of a given length can have?

More precisely, for each word length from 1 letter to 20 letters, find words of that length containing as many and as few syllables as possible.

The concept of a syllable is notoriously hard to define, so let's define the number of syllables to be the number of distinct vowels in the standard English pronunciation of the word. Only English dictionary words are allowed. British and American English are both acceptable. Diphthongs count as single vowels, so "I" is a single-syllable word. If a word has more than one acceptable pronunciation differing in number of syllables, choose the most helpful one (e.g. count "squirreled" as 1 syllable rather than 2 since that makes a new record for minimum syllables with 10 letters).
Let me know if there are any loopholes I've missed!


Current best

1 letter: min 1 syllable (credit JLee/Prem), max 1 syllable (credit JLee/Prem), ratio 1
2 letters: min 1 syllable (credit JLee/Prem), max 2 syllables (credit JLee/Prem), ratio 2
3 letters: min 1 syllable (credit JLee/Prem), max 2 syllables (credit JLee/Prem), ratio 2
4 letters: min 1 syllable (credit JLee/Prem), max 3 syllables (credit JLee/Prem), ratio 2
5 letters: min 1 syllable (credit JLee/Prem), max 3 syllables (credit JLee/Prem), ratio 3
6 letters: min 1 syllable (credit JLee/Prem), max 4 syllables (credit JoeZ), ratio 4
7 letters: min 1 syllable (credit JLee/Prem), max 5 syllables (credit user13433), ratio 5
8 letters: min 1 syllable (credit JLee/Prem), max 5 syllables (credit JLee), ratio 5
9 letters: min 1 syllable (credit JLee/Prem), max 5 syllables (credit JLee), ratio 5
10 letters: min 1 syllable (credit Deusovi), max 6 syllables (credit JLee), ratio 6
11 letters: min 1 syllable (credit Emrakul), max 6 syllables (credit JLee/Prem), ratio 6
12 letters: min 1 syllable (credit Emrakul), max 7 syllables (credit JLee/Prem), ratio 7
13 letters: min 2 syllables (credit Prem), max 8 syllables (credit JLee), ratio 4
14 letters: min 2 syllables (credit Prem), max 8 syllables (credit JLee), ratio 4
15 letters: min 3 syllables (credit JLee/Prem), max 8 syllables (credit JLee), ratio 2.666...
16 letters: min 3 syllables (credit Prem), max 8 syllables (credit Prem), ratio 2.666...
17 letters: min 3 syllables (credit Prem), max 8 syllables (credit Prem), ratio 2.666...
18 letters: min 4 syllables (credit Prem), max 9 syllables (credit Nathaniel), ratio 2 .25
19 letters: min 4 syllables (credit Prem), max 9 syllables (credit Prem), ratio 2.25
20 letters: min 5 syllables (credit Prem), max 10 syllables (credit Prem), ratio 2

Where two answerers have tied for the same minimum or maximum, I've mentioned both their names in alphabetical order; I don't know who was first, but I assume JLee and Prem are both working independently. I also haven't included the actual words found, since that would make the list much longer. If you want to find the words, scroll down to read (and upvote) the answers below.

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  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I think your definition is still ambiguous; English has no "standard pronunciations", and some words are pronounced with a different number of syllables by different speakers (example: crayon, for which even Google lists both possibilities, breaking @IanMacDonald's proposal). You probably need to specify a particular dictionary, and state what to do if that dictionary lists multiple pronunciations with different numbers of syllables. $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge Jun 21 '15 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ @NateEldredge It's a rare enough occurrence that I say why not just take the one that helps most. If you need more syllables, take the one with more, and vice versa. On another note, wow, I have never heard of crayon being pronounced with just one syllable! It seems like it would have to sound like "crane" in that case. $\endgroup$ – JLee Jun 21 '15 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ Give the tick mark to Prem. I am already at 4000, and I don't care that much about rep points anyway. $\endgroup$ – JLee Jun 22 '15 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ @JLee , thanks for your previous comment. I checked what you meant by "already at 4000", and see that, that is the state at which all privileges are granted. Beyond that, it is simply a number. $\endgroup$ – Prem Jun 22 '15 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ @randal'thor Grad time isn't even in the pipeline, according to the last meta post I read. Rep is great, but not very satisfying, at least not to me. What is satisfying is either writing an excellent thorough answer OR creating an excellent, challenging, and/or unique puzzle OR even finding a cool puzzle and trying to solve it, even if you don't end up figuring it out. The 'privileges' that come w/ rep aren't that awesome. Basically, they just add more responsibility. In the same way that money corrupts true love in the real world, rep points corrupt the true honorable goals of the site. $\endgroup$ – JLee Jun 22 '15 at 17:13
5
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For 1, minimum : "I" 1
For 1, maximum : "I" 1

For 2, minimum : "It" 1
For 2, maximum : "Io" 2

For 3, minimum : "Don" 1
For 3, maximum : "Era" 2

For 4, minimum : "Done" 1
For 4, maximum : "Iota" 3

For 5, minimum : "Stone" "Schwa" 1
For 5, maximum : "Anion" 3

For 6, minimum : "Streak" 1
For 6, maximum : "Anonym" "Hawaii" 3

For 7, minimum : "Streaks" 1
For 7, maximum : "Anonymy" 4

For 8, minimum : "Strength" 1
For 8, maximum : "Ignominy" "Abacuses" "Honolulu" 4

For 9, minimum : "Strengths" 1
For 9, maximum : "Abrasions" 4

For 10, minimum : "Squirreled" 1 , thanks to Deusovi
For 10, maximum : "Abacterial" "Abiogenist" 5

For 11, minimum : "Broughammed" 1 , thanks to Emrakul
For 11, maximum : "Abecedarian" "Abiogeneses" "Aerobiology" "Alcyonarian" 6

For 12, minimum : "Schtroumpfed" 1 , thanks to Emrakul
For 12, maximum : "Unisexuality" 7

For 13, minimum : "Scratchboards" "Straightbreds" "Straightboard" "Straightforth" 2
For 13, maximum : "Unideological" "Unreliability" "Monosexuality" 7

For 14, minimum : "Straightboards" 2
For 14, maximum : "Stereoisomeric" "Supersexuality" "Unisexualities" 7

For 15, minimum : "Schlockmeisters" "Straightforthly" "Straightforward" 3
For 15, maximum : "Stereoisomerics" "Monosexualities" "Organomercurial" 7

For 16, minimum : "Straightforwards" 3
For 16, maximum : "Stereoisomerical" 8

For 17, minimum : "Straightforthness" 3
For 17, maximum : "Electroanalytical" "Electrophysiology" 8

For 18, minimum : "Forethoughtfulness" 4
For 18, maximum : "Universalizability" 9 , thanks to Nathaniel

For 19, minimum : "Straightforwardness" 4
For 19, maximum : "Extraterritoriality" 9

For 20, minimum : "Forethoughtfulnesses" 5
For 20, maximum : "Radioimmunoassayable" 10

WHEW

References:
http://www.morewords.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_longest_English_words_with_one_syllable

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Syllables are essentially about the pronunciation and not the spelling. So "dee" is 1 syllable and "double-you" is 3 syllables and "Hawaiian(s)" is 3 syllables. Other than that, looks good so far! $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 21 '15 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ I've updated the OP with an honours list and a few clarifications. In particular, British English and American English are both acceptable, so @ Deusovi's "squirreled" also extends to "squirrelled" (which matches @Emrakul's "broughammed") $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 22 '15 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Deusovi For the word squirreled, go here and click the Syllables button to see that it is clearly 2 syllables. $\endgroup$ – JLee Jun 22 '15 at 10:32
  • $\begingroup$ @JLee, similar to how some people pronounce "crayon" with only one syllable, I'm sure there are people that choose to pronounce squirreled as sqworld. $\endgroup$ – Ian MacDonald Jun 22 '15 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ @IanMacDonald That's the exact example I had in my head as I thought about the 2-syllable-ness of squirreled. Really, to me, world is one of those words that is already kinda on the fence between 1 and 2 syllables, and then, adding the sq in place of the w definitely (in my opinion), makes it sound like 2 syllables, even though I am one of the people that pronounce squirreled as sqworld! $\endgroup$ – JLee Jun 22 '15 at 14:12
5
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WIP (Work in Progress)

Well, to start,

enter image description here

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't Strengths be 9? You could probably cover 1-9 that way. $\endgroup$ – Quark Jun 21 '15 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ OK, that's it for now. I've got to leave the house for many hours. I'm not sure when/if I will be able to finish this... $\endgroup$ – JLee Jun 21 '15 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ Nice job so far! I was going to disagree on the number of syllables for aa and acai, but having looked them up, I found that you're right. I'm learning plenty of new words here :-) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 21 '15 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ You could use "squirreled" for 10. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Jun 21 '15 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ rand said diphthongs count as a single vowel, so "açai" is only 2. You could use "area" instead. $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. Jun 21 '15 at 16:39
5
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Here's a 9 syllable word with only 18 letters: universalizability.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Puzzling! I've edited this into the currently accepted answer for you. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Apr 21 '16 at 4:10
  • $\begingroup$ +1, for improving the answer. I have credited you at the relevant point. $\endgroup$ – Prem Apr 21 '16 at 8:38
2
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Oxyopia is 5 for 7. Doing six syllables for 8 might be possible.

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Puzzling.SE, and nice job on oxyopia! I'm about to start adding an honours list for those who found the current best words... $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 22 '15 at 9:36
0
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I found this post while confirming something I researched several years back. I write puzzles for my board game shop, and upon seeing the Mayfair game titled "Oceania" it all came flooding back.

I once hypothesized that there may be a word that would trigger a "spelling bee haiku". I.e. a 5-syllable, 7-letter word (no 'w') that if given in a spelling bee would result in the contestent uttering a haiku.

Oceania o-c-e-a-n-i-a Oceania

I found oxyopia & Oceania. Not sure if you'll accept proper nouns. Let me know if any others are found!

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Puzzling Loaded Question! Thanks for taking the time to share your story, however on Puzzling (and the other Stack Exchanges) it is best to format your answer such that it can be seen more easily of how it fits and answers the question (Similar to some of the previous answers to this question), since this is deemed a "Question and Answer" website. You are free to share other information with your answer as well, just make sure other that read it can 'pick out' the important information easily. $\endgroup$ – Mark N Jul 15 '15 at 12:40
0
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'iff', meaning 'if and only if' is a 3 letter word with 5 syllables. It is important to distinguish it from 'if' and for this reason it is always pronounced with the full five syllables. The Meriam online dictionary has the pronunciation correct (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/iff).

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