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Metaphone Calculator

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Metaphone Calculator

A metaphone code is similar to a soundex code. Metaphone creates the same code for similar sounding (phonetic) names that can be used for searching similarly sounding names. It's more accurate than soundex because it uses the basic rules of English pronunciation.

A metaphone search is a way of searching for a surname the way it is pronounced, rather than the way it is spelled. If a database offers a metaphone search, like many of the RootsWeb searches, they are a way of expanding your search to include possible transcription errors or surname spelling variations.

Enter a surname to calculate the metaphone code:

Enter Surname:

Metaphone Code:

Compare the Metaphone Code for Two Surnames

Use this utility to compare two surnames to see if they have same Metaphone code.

Enter two different surnames:

First Surname:     

Second Surname:

Metaphone Calculator for Genealogy Search

Metaphone searches are used in the following RootsWeb Searches:

Change the pull-down box that says "exact" to "metaphone" for a metaphone search.

How the Metaphone Search Works

The metaphone search converts your name to a code, and then searches the database for all occurrences of surnames that share the same code.

A metaphone search is considered more accurate than a soundex search as it is based on English pronunciation.  While many search engines have a soundex search, the metaphone search is not as prevalent in genealogy databases. 

Metaphone converts a surname to a code of 16 possible consonant sounds and can contain any amount of consonants.

One of the limitations of soundex is that similar sounding surnames that start with a different first letter, such as Carr and Karr, will always have different soundex codes, and therefore a soundex search will not find these sound-alike names.

However, with metaphone, they will have the same code and a metaphone search will return both results when searching a database.

Definitely use the Metaphone Search:
  • If surname sound-alike names might start with different letters such as K and C.
  • If surname begins with a silent letter such a KN, PF, or WR.
  • If surname has any of the letters C,S,G,J,K,Q,X,Z on both sides of the letter H or W such as SHC, SHS, CHS, KHZ, SWS, KWS, CWK.  There is some confusion about the way soundex calculates these names.

When you are searching a genealogy database, check that drop-down box to see if a metaphone search is offered.  You never know who you may be missing in a genealogy database until you try all the search options.

Metaphone Rules
Metaphone uses the following rules:

  • Doubled letters except "c" -> drop 2nd letter.
  • Vowels are only kept when they are the first letter.
  • B -> B   unless at the end of a word after "m" as in "dumb"
  • C -> X    (sh) if -cia- or -ch-
         S   if -ci-, -ce- or -cy-
         K   otherwise, including -sch-
  • D -> J   if in -dge-, -dgy- or -dgi-
         T   otherwise
  • F -> F
  • G ->     silent if in -gh- and not at end or before a vowel
             in -gn- or -gned- (also see dge etc. above)
         J   if before i or e or y if not double gg
         K   otherwise
  • H ->     silent if after vowel and no vowel follows
         H   otherwise
  • J -> J
  • K ->     silent if after "c"
         K   otherwise
  • L -> L   
  • M -> M
  • N -> N
  • P -> F   if before "h"
         P   otherwise
  • Q -> K
  • R -> R
  • S -> X   (sh) if before "h" or in -sio- or -sia-
         S   otherwise
  • T -> X   (sh) if -tia- or -tio-
         0   (th) if before "h"
             silent if in -tch-
         T   otherwise
  • V -> F
  • W ->     silent if not followed by a vowel
         W   if followed by a vowel
  • X -> KS
  • Y ->     silent if not followed by a vowel
         Y   if followed by a vowel
  • Z -> S 

Initial Letter Exceptions

Initial  kn-, gn- pn, ae- or wr-      -> drop first letter
Initial  x-                           -> change to "s"
Initial  wh-                          -> change to "w"

Copyright 1997-2010 by Kathi Reid -- All Rights Reserved. This article may not be copied, published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from the author.

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