"Carillion" is a mis-spelling!

So is "carrillion."

"Carrillon" is a mis-spelling!

So is "carrilon."

None of those attempts to spell "carillon" appear in any of the many standard English-language dictionaries accessible to the author of this page.

The mis-spelling "carillion" is probably derived from the pronunciation of "carillon" as "kuh-RIL-yun".  However, this pronunciation appears in very few English-language dictionaries, and when it does it is as the least-preferred of several alternatives.

The pronunciation "kuh-RIL-yun" does prevail in some parts of the English-speaking world, most notably Australia, and may have originated from an old French or Spanish pronunciation.  However, it is not accepted by aficionados of the carillon in North America (as represented by The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America) nor in Great Britain (as represented by the British Carillon Society).  The correct pronunciation of the word "carillon" in these areas is approximately "KEH-rih-lon".

It is usually found that native speakers of either American English or British English who use "carillion" (either the spelling or the pronunciation) are mostly or completely unaware of what a "carillon" actually is.  They may use the term not only in the various senses explained in our Glossary, but also to mean "bell tower" or "clock tower" (and not just the bells therein) or indeed a group of any kind of bell or other thing that produces a somewhat bell-like sound, especially via automatic operation.

Non-native speakers of English who use "carillion" (either the spelling or the pronunciation) are likely to mean "carillon" in the sense used throughout this Website, but probably have picked up this word through informal learning.


Don't take our word for it--check it out for yourself with these on-line authorities:

Cambridge International Dictionary of English


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913 edition

Merriam-Webster's WWWebster Dictionary

WordNet Vocabulary Helper

The Wordsmyth English Dictionary-Thesaurus

Proper names:

When it comes to proper names, dictionaries and other such authorities become irrelevant.  A proper name is whatever its owner or originator wants it to be.  Witness the myriad of invented words which have been claimed as corporate names in recent decades, or the odd place names which appear on maps or buildings.  Not only has "carillon" been borrowed for this purpose, for things which have nothing to do with bells (a mountain, a shopping mall, various apartment buildings, and a company which imports spirituous liquors).  But also its various mis-spellings have been legitimized by the same means (more apartment buildings, a street name, a health care company, a firm which manufactures fishing flies, etc.).  One is tempted to speculate about the possible reactions of the originators of these names upon discovering that they have adopted mis-spelled words!

Other languages:

The spellings "carrillon" (n.) and "carrillonner" (v.) are found in a very old French dictionary (1694).  But they seem not to have survived into the modern French language.

"Carrillón" may be legitimate in Spanish and/or Portuguese, but the situation in these languages is not yet clear to us.  Relevant information from persons knowledgeable in these languages would be welcome.

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This page was created 1999/11/03 and last revised 2010/06/20.

Please send comments or questions about this page to csz_stl@swbell.net.