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According to this video with Brian Kernighan, the correct pronunciation of the classical Unix editor ed is "Eee. Dee." — not "Edd".

So that made me wonder — what about the other classical editor, vi... should it be pronounced as "Vee. Aye." or as "Viii"? Does anybody know?

(I'm ignoring vim for this discussion — I suppose it is simply "Viimm".)

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    I have heard people pronounce it 'six', and claim it is its version number, and at the time roman numerals were still used.
    – Aganju
    Commented Apr 7, 2022 at 3:01
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    @VladimirFГероямслава The joke is that vi is so old the Romans were using it.
    – amalloy
    Commented Apr 7, 2022 at 18:19
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    @Chenmunka: The first comment from Jean​‑François Fabre's joke comment wasn't "extended discussion", and was the best part about this whole Q&A. Please restore it. Especially since others have made the same "six" comment (as a non-joke?). Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 8:37
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    Why have two people voted to close this question as "opinion based". Since two answers have been given referencing the official way to pronounce "vi", it clearly isn't opinion based.
    – JeremyP
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 15:16
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    I am so old that I remember that (on BSD), you could invoke vi with its full proper name: "visual" (but the shorter "vi" worked as well, so no one used "visual"). That was probably before the rise of the Roman empire. -- Note that only one of the two preceding sentences is a joke.
    – Klaws
    Commented May 2, 2022 at 5:48

2 Answers 2

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vi is pronounced as the two separate letters, /ˌviːˈaɪ/ (in English); listen to the same Brian Kernighan (also re-confirming the ed pronunciation).

Vim’s pronunciation is explicitly documented:

Vim is pronounced as one word, like Jim, not vi-ai-em.

Nemo mentioned this interesting email about “Unix-room” pronunciations from Rob Pike, which includes a number of interesting tidbits in relation to this question:

  • some Unix-room denizens did pronounce ed like the first syllable of “editor”;
  • vi was little-used but apparently pronounced /ˌviːˈaɪ/ by all its users;
  • on Plan 9, vi was a MIPS interpreter (“v” for MIPS, along with “5” for ARM, “k” for SPARC, and “q” for PowerPC), also pronounced /ˌviːˈaɪ/.

Note that vi came from BSD, not the Unix room, so Unix-room pronunciation isn’t necessarily canonical (if there is such a thing anyway in a living language). But Mark Plotnick’s answer gives a reference from vi’s creators themselves.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Matt Lacey
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 9:10
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From An Introduction to Display Editing with Vi, by the people who wrote vi, William Joy and Mary Ann Horton:

This document provides a quick introduction to vi. (Pronounced vee-eye.)

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    That first author's name surprised me. I knew that Bill Joy (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Joy) had put together the first cut of vi. Then it struck me that William Joy and Bill Joy were likely the same person
    – Flydog57
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 16:12

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