In H Rider Haggard's novel She and its sequels three, the title character is known by various names, including She, Hes, and Ayesha, the latter being the title of the second book. These novels are considered to be among the earliest works of modern fantasy, forerunners of the more famous Tolkien, and indeed the influence of She is clear both in Tolkien's Galadriel and CS Lewis's Jadis. My question is:

How should the name Ayesha be pronounced?

My first assumption was "Ah-yeh-shah", but I've also seen her name identified with that of Muhammad's wife Aisha, which is pronounced "Ah-ee-shah". Is there a definitive statement from Rider Haggard on how he intended his character's name to be pronounced?

  • Note that the first Ah is not really what you would expect; the consonant is the voiced pharyngeal fricative consonant.
    – einpoklum
    Jan 9, 2016 at 15:10
  • Also note the literal translation of the name is "(she is) living", or "(she is) alive", or "(she is) a living one".
    – einpoklum
    Jan 9, 2016 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


Quoting from the Wikipedia page for the first sequel:

In the introduction, Sir H. Rider Haggard links the name Ayesha to Muhammad's wives, and the Arabic name (Arabic: عائشة, ʻĀʼishah, pronounced [ˈʕaːʔiʃa]), stating that it should be pronounced "Assha" /ˈɑːʃə/,[1] although the pronunciation A·ye·sha /ɑːˈjɛʃə/ or /ɑːˈjiːʃə/ is perhaps more common.

and here’s the exact quote from the Author’s Note in the introduction (emphasis mine):

In response to many enquiries he may add that the name Ayesha, which since the days of the prophet Mahomet, who had a wife so called, and perhaps before them, has been common in the East, should be pronounced Assha.

  • Ahh. I did search through the Wikipedia page for the first book for "pronounce" or "pronunciation", but didn't check all four Wikipedia pages. Thanks!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 9, 2016 at 12:32
  • A nitpick though: Wikipedia claims Assha is pronounced "ah-sha" (with a long "a" at the start), but the cited reference is the book itself, which only says "Assha" - how do we know the intended pronunciation isn't "ash-a" (as in the English "ash")? Is there any more specific guidance from HRH?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 9, 2016 at 20:27
  • This begs the question does he get many enquiries about the many enquiries about how to pronounce Mahomet’s name, Ma-homm-ett or Ma-ho-met — or is it just mispronunciations all the way down for us? Nov 23, 2021 at 12:45

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