What’s a Lair and How Do You Pronounce It?

By Maeve Maddox

The word lair comes from a Germanic word for bed.

The sleeping place of a wild animal is called a lair:

The Ridgeback, singly or in a pack, will silently track the lion to its lair…

Gollum led Sam and Frodo to the lair of a giant spider called Shelob.

Because criminals–especially murderers–are frequently regarded as less than human, their homes or hiding places are often referred to as lairs:

300 Human Bones Found in Serial Killers’ Lair
Inside Adam Lanza’s lair

Generally, lair carries a negative connotation of evil, but sometimes the word is used in the sense of a cozy place to work or play:

Every writer needs a lair.

Soon he [a toddler] began rearranging the chairs, using them to form the walls of a private lair where he could hide out and look back on the world undetected.

In a police drama I watched the other night, a detective character used the word lair to refer to a criminal’s hiding place. He said the word twice; each time, he pronounced it to rhyme with layer.

Lair rhymes with pair.

In case anyone needs to practice, here are six other one-syllable words that rhyme with lair:
air
chair
fair
flair
hair
stair

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


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11 Responses to “What’s a Lair and How Do You Pronounce It?”

  • thebluebird11

    As far as drawing out the “ai” sound, my first thought was, he is from the southern US. The drawl type of accent tends to do that, I think. All of the words you gave as examples can be drawn out that way into 2 syllables, to sound like “ay-er.” Not saying it is right or wrong, just is what it is.

  • venqax

    Not saying it is right or wrong, just is what it is.

    I’ll say it. It’s wrong. LOL. If you’re standard of reference is SAE. If you are knowingly using southern dialect, that’s a whole nuther eessue.

  • thebluebird11

    Dialect is just that, not SAE. And right/wrong are in the ears of the hearer. I’m not fond of a southern drawl, but as Jake Perry said in ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ “Honey, just cuz I talk slow doesn’t mean I’m stupid.” I am not a movie person and I don’t memorize lines like some people do, but that one stuck with me; because frankly talking slowly, especially with that drawl thing, does sound stupid most of the time. I can see where it might come off as romantic in the right setting on occasion, but not for the bulk of one’s life.

  • Roberta B.

    After reading the article and before reading the comments, my first thought would be consistent with bluebird’s first one, but my question would be to ask if this TV detective had an ethnic or American “racial” dialect. You know in some neighborhoods, in a variety of places across the US (not just regionally), you’ll hear the word for school children pronounced as kee-uds [kids] – two syllables – which grates on my ears! However, as bluebird says: Dialect is just that. As we’ve seen in past comments, venqax has some definite opinions about pronunciation and a low tolerance for credibility of dialect, but the movie line quoted by bluebird has merit. In a lot of cases, it is what it is.

  • Dale A. Wood

    The U.S. in standard American English, is always to be written with the two periods: “U.S.” Leaving out the periods is some kind of a quirk of British English.
    The British also have the odd practice of leaving out the periods of such abbreviations as Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., St., Ave., Blvd., Sr. (senor), Sra. (senora), A.D., B.S., B.A., M.S., M.A., Ph.D., M.D., B.C. (Before Christ or British Columbia), P.E.I. (Prince Edward Island), N.S. (Nova Scotia), N.B. (New Brunswick), N.Y., N.J., N.H., Fr. (a religious “father” clergyman), Sr. (a religious “sister), Br. (a religious “brother”), O.D. (doctor of optometry), D.D.S. (doctor of dental surgery, N.S.W. (New South Wales), U.N., and Q.E.D. (quod erat demonstratum).
    Also, the British way seems to be to omit the periods following the initials in such names as Samuel F.B. Morse, George H.W. Bush, and John F. Kennedy, and John Q. Public.

    So, my question to Americans who don’t want to write “U.S.” or “U.S.A.” is “Do you want to be an American, or do you want to be British? I am an American, born in the great land of Tennessee, and I always write “U.S.”

  • Dale A. Wood

    I got into an argument via e-mail with some disagreeable British people concerning a place they wanted to call “South Georgia”. The place that they wanted to call this is really an UNINHABITED island deep in the South Atlantic Ocean: South Georgia Island, which is British territory. The people who are found on South Georgia Island are only living there temporarily: scientists, meteorologists, radar operarators, etc.

    I could not convince them that the REAL South Georgia is in the southeastern United States. This is a place with a population of millions, with thousands of farms, and real cities like Columbus, Savannah, Macon, Albany, and Brunswick, and thousands of miles of highways and railroad tracks. South Georgia contains the major expressways called Interstate 75, Interstate 95, Interstate 16, and Interstate 185, and it does contain colleges and universities like Georgia Southern University, Valdosta State University, Mercer College, and Albany State University.
    South Georgia contains a major submarine base of the U.S. Navy along its eastern coast (at King’s Bay); and a major fort of the U.S. Army (Ft. Benning) along its western boundary (with Alabama); and two important bases of the U.S. Air Force: Robbins A.F.B. and Moody A.F.B. Robbins A.F.B. is huge because it is one of a handful of major logistics bases of the Air Force. (Hill A.F.B. in Utah and Tinker A.F.B. in Oklahoma are the other two, and there used to be one in California, too, but it has been closed in this century.)

    So, because of these scales of importance, which one really deserves the name of “South Georgia”? By the way, because of its shape on the map, the State of Georgia is divided readily into two parts: South Georgia and North Georgia, where the latter contains such important places as ATLANTA, Decatur, Marietta, and Augusta (not to be confused with Augusta, Maine). Especially because of the huge metropolitan area of Atlanta and its neighboring cities and towns, most of the population of Georgia lives in North Georgia, with much of South Georgia being agricultural. Of course, the University of Georgia, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, and Emory University are all in North Georgia, as is the capital of the state, Atlanta.

    As for that other country in the Eastern Hemisphere, it needs to be called the “Republic of Georgia” to avoid confusion with the larger, more populous, and economically important State of Georgia.
    D.A.W.

  • venqax

    I have no problem with dialects. I just want them recognized as what they are: dialects. Variations from the standard. And the standardin the USA is SAE. On a site like this, we are talking about formal or standard language. The very purpose of such is to overcome or transcend regionalisms, not to encourage regional or sub-regional variations. When the Confederacy becomes a separate country again, then we can take SSAE as its own standard.

  • venqax

    The U.S. in standard American English, is always to be written with the two periods: “U.S.”

    No, it’s not. At least not exclusively. The sans-a-period versions of all-caps abbreviations and acronyms have been standard in American English for quite some time and are becoming more so. In most branches of the military they are officially mandated: LT, SSGT, BGEN, NATO, SDC, NORAD, US Army, USN, etc.

    The British rule, I believe, is to omit the terminal period where an abbreviation comprises the first and last letters of the word. So, Mr, Mrs, Dr . But Co., Org., Div. Someone else might know for sure.

    The Georgia bit would be annoying, especially given their relative prominence. Kind of like Elvis Sheinbaum insisting that HE should just be known as Elvis, no last name needed. However, South Georgia is the official name of the island entity at hand. Southern Georgia might be more suitable for half a state. Otherwise it sounds like it’s a state on it’s own given the precedents of the Carolinas, the Dakotas, and W. Va. And we say Southern Calif., Northern New Mexico, Southern Illinois, etc. Of course there is West Texas…dang! It’s always them!

  • thebluebird11

    @venqax: I beg to differ with your claim that this site is about formal or standard language. This site is about language, period. Written, spoken, texted, slang, profane, from all parts of this planet. SAE is but one small aspect of language. While this site has many posts geared toward ESL, it is by no means solely for that purpose. I don’t need a web site to teach me English. I thoroughly enjoy the eclectic mix of posts we see here, which serve not only to broaden my knowledge of SAE (way beyond basic), but also to open my eyes and ears to non-SAE, including British and all other variations. In addition, posts that highlight linguistic influences on English (and vice versa) are refreshing and quite eye-opening, giving us a peak into the roots of English and how it came to be what it is today. It helps us COMMUNICATE better with people from other places, knowing that, for example, what is called a flat in England has nothing to do with a tire in the US.
    Contrary to what DAW insists is limited to Brits, and in spite of the fact that I’m NYC born and bred, I too do away with all those annoying periods all over the place, right here in South Florida, USA!

  • venqax

    Really? If you went to a source called Writing Tips, would you expect the advice given to be relevant to Ebonics or Cajun? Or southern dialect? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that when looking for general writing advice, people are searching for standard language rather than any regionalisms or slang? Wouldn’t you expect such things to be dealt with by a source that identifies itself as Tips for Writing in (fill in the dialect or sub-dialect)? Dictionaries (good ones, anyway) note things that are “colloquial”, non-standard, slang, regional, etc. Well, all those things are relative to what, exactly? I’m not saying to ignore colloquialisms of any kind, rather to distinguish them as such and not confuse them with SAE.

    I believe it’s called Standard, or General American instead of Southern American, or Interior American or California English, etc. for a reason. If someone making a formal speech in front of an educated group asked me how to pronounce pecan, I don’t think I’d be doing him or her any favors by telling them to say PEE-kan. Nor if they asked whether they should say you or y’all would I say, “Either is fine, doesn’t matter.” But why not?

  • thebluebird11

    @venqax: Tips are one thing, discussion is something else. Maybe the name of this website needs to be changed to reflect its broader scope. Some things here are descriptive, not prescriptive. I am from NY and I say PEE-can. To say “pih-CAHN” sounds pretentious coming from me, but it’s OK for someone who grew up where it is pronounced that way. I also don’t say “AHN-velope” and “AHNT” (aunt). I don’t say IN-surance or DEE-troit or SEE-ment. But other people do. You wanna argue with them? Have at it!

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