A document referred to a circumstance stymying someone.

Stymying looks wrong, but so does stymieing. Stymie is by far the preferred spelling, but stymy is attested. Stymies and stymied look reasonable. Although it is more often used as a verb (1850s), it was first used as a noun (1830s). Its origin is uncertain, but, given its connection with golf, it is possibly a Scottish dialectal word. 


10 thoughts on “stymied

  1. “stymie – stymying” fits the general pattern of verbs like “die – dying”, “lie – lying”, “tie – tying” … except that unlike those, “stymie” is a multisyllabic verb where the final “ie” is unstressed. I can’t think of any other such verbs offhand.

    Whether a given English word with a final /i/ sound is spelled with “y” or “ie” seems to vary, but a rule of thumb that I made up long ago would be that nouns should end in “ie” whereas adjectives should end in “y”. No provision in that rule for verbs, though.

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    • I was thinking about adding a ps about verbs ending in -ie becoming -ying, but got distracted. There are four single-syllable words: die, lie, tie and vie, which become dying, lying, tying and vying. I’m not immediately convinced that the same applies to multi-syllable words, but while stymie is far more common than stymy, stymieing is only twice as common as stymying (Google Ngrams).

      Part of the problem is the rarity of multi-syllable words ending with -ie. Offhand, I can only think of boogie, which is complicated by so many similar spellings. Casting my eye over, I can safely say that there aren’t many, and I suspect that any that do exist are converted nouns. The list also contains hie. Google Ngrams shows that hieing and hying are used about equally, compared with dieing, which is basically non-existent.


      • Mainly, few if any of the -ie words listed on the site seem to be verbs. I suspect that the statistical evidence showing more -ieing than -ying is unimpacted by any officially recognized spelling considerations.

        I know I’ve seen “boogying” as well as “boogeying.”

        As far as “dieing”, you may have heard this song by The Critters but perhaps never knew the spelling of its title:

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      • “kyrie” is an interesting and unusual case. At least in the US, a word association test would produce more responses of “Irving” than “eleison.”

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      • I didn’t know that song. I wonder who decided to spell it that way. Even ‘dyingly’ is unusual. According to a word frequency list, the most common word with verb+ing+ly is ‘increasingly’, and there’s nothing unusual about being ‘increasingly sad’.

        I didn’t recognise the name Kyrie Irving, but Google’s autocomplete obviously knows more about Australian-born American basketball players than liturgical Greek. Wikipedia says the pronunciation of his name is /ˈkaɪri/, which if I heard I wouldn’t associate with ‘eleison’. I assume I read the liturgical Greek word before I heard it, and probably mentally pronounced it ‘ky-ri’ until I actually heard it.

        Many years ago, when Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu was very popular and even received commercial airplay, someone told me that an announcer on the local radio had pronounced it ‘Pi Jesu’ even after presumably listening to the word sung repeatedly for the last three minutes.


  2. Maybe that announcer was referring to this BIble passage:

    “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.”

    Yep, that’s John 3.14 (π).

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    • I thought about using the Greek letter but wasn’t sure whether it would show correctly. Showing as &1234; Jesu wouldn’t have helped.

      Why John instead of any other book, except that that verse is specifically about Jesus?

      There is a probably apocryphal story that a reader at a wedding read John 4:17-18 rather than 1 John 4:17-18.


      • Thanks to I was able to look up the passages and appreciate the apocryphal story. But doesn’t everyone read 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings? They do where I hang out (mainly at Methodist churches) and I’ve been present (as the musician) at plenty of those.

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      • 1 Corr 13 is probably the most common and best known readings, but personal experience is that not ‘everyone’ has that reading, across Anglican, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Uniting.

        As an organist, I had one couple who expressed great surprise that they were allowed to choose their music. They thought it was compulsory to have Wagner and Mendelssohn. Across the years I ended up not playing those two unless specifically requested.


      • I was determined not to have Wagner and Mendelssohn at our wedding but had to agree to Wagner at the start in order to get my wife to agree to my organ toccata at the end.


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