I'm looking for a definitive answer on how to pronounce Fritz Leiber's last name. I guess audio of him or a close family member would be ideal, or maybe he addressed it somewhere in writing.

I and people I know have always pronounced it LEE-ber (IPA /'libər/), but tonight I heard a podcast episode use LIE-ber (/'laibər/). Pronouncekiwi gives

/i/ /ai/
Australian English 3 0
UK English 4 0
Indian English 1 0
US English 2 8
Welsh English 1 0

No consensus!

  • 12
    It's pronounced Throat-Warbler Mangrove.
    – Lexible
    Nov 5, 2021 at 3:49
  • 10
    @Lexible, it's pronounced 'Bouquet'
    – Separatrix
    Nov 5, 2021 at 9:31
  • 2
    Thanks for asking this! Likewise a few weeks back on my D&D talk show, I was saying "LEE-ber", and a minute later our guest Mike Curtis (who found a previously unknown manuscript by F.L.) said "LYE-ber", which threw me off. So I was wondering exactly this! Wish I could bounty a question. Nov 5, 2021 at 14:46
  • 5
    Setting aside possible variations in how any individual (e.g. Fritz Leiber) may pronounce their own name... "Leiber" is originally a German surname, and thus follows German phonetic rules; the diphthong spelled "ei" is pronounced as /aɪ/ (i.e. like "lie"; an example).
    – V2Blast
    Nov 5, 2021 at 23:26
  • 2
    @V2Blast As has been pointed out several times on this page, the origin of a name and the current pronunciation are very different things. Absent other evidence, both standard German pronunciation and standard American English pronunciation would be reasonable guesses for a third-generation German-American.
    – IMSoP
    Nov 6, 2021 at 16:19

4 Answers 4


In this videotaped interview the interviewer initially mispronounces Fritz Leiber's name as LEE-ber (rhyming with Bieber) but Leiber corrects him,

"My name is LYE-ber" [rhyming with cyber].

  • 44
    Fritz Leiber is German. I before e is “—ee—.” E before i is “—eye—.” Nov 5, 2021 at 3:17
  • 21
    @CGCampbell Actually the SF writer Fritz Leiber was not a German. He was an American, born in Chicago. He had a German grandfather. It is true that in German ei is always pronounced as in the English word height. So the German pronunciation of Leiber rhymes with the English word cyber. It's anybody's guess how an American Leiber would pronounce the name. E.g., Sissy Spacek does not pronounce her surname in the Czech fashion, nor Matt Nagy his in the Hungarian. It so happens that Fritz Leiber used the German pronunciation of his last name.
    – user14111
    Nov 5, 2021 at 11:03
  • 4
    @CGCampbell In German language, it is a grammatical rule (and unlike English, German language tends to not view rules are meant to be broken). Nov 5, 2021 at 11:26
  • 14
    @CGCampbell Strictly speaking, it’s a phonetic rule, not a grammatical rule. Grammar has nothing to do with pronunciation Nov 5, 2021 at 11:30
  • 7
    @Silly but True, Re "German language tends to not view rules are meant to be broken", The point was that they're not from a German-speaking country, so anglicization is a very real possibility.
    – ikegami
    Nov 5, 2021 at 15:26

Such a surname comes from German language where “ei” is being pronounced like the English “i” (as in “ride”). Therefore the right pronouncing would be LYE-ber (not actually LIE-ber, cause it has soft L)

  • 4
    Ah, but many people with German names in English-speaking countries have adopted anglicized pronunciations (or at least given up correcting people. Do you have any evidence that Fritz Leiber pronounced his name this way?
    – DavidW
    Nov 6, 2021 at 14:46
  • 6
    How it's pronounced in German is common knowledge. The question is about how the American writer Fritz Leiber pronounced his name.
    – user14111
    Nov 6, 2021 at 19:34
  • 2
    @DavidW And it's not just English-speaking people who do this. For instance the French politician Nicolas Sarkozy does not pronounce his Hungarian surname as it woud be pronounced in Hungary. I'm not sure but I don't believe the German mathematician Dirichlet pronounced his name in exactly the French manner.
    – user14111
    Nov 6, 2021 at 20:03
  • @user14111 Oh, absolutely. My Hungarian-first-language relatives refer to their friends (Nagy) as "nah-GEE" because they've been trained over decades that's how they have to pronounce it to be understood. And I've never met anyone in an English-speaking country who goes by, for example, "Veber." (German pronunciation of "w.")
    – DavidW
    Nov 6, 2021 at 20:13
  • 4
    Re: "LYE-ber (not actually LIE-ber, cause it has soft L)": I'm not sure what distinction you have in mind here, but lie and lye are pronounced identically in English (at least in the major dialects).
    – ruakh
    Nov 7, 2021 at 22:53

Greetings from Fullerton, California! As a fan and friend of Fritz Leiber, Jr. back in the 1970's and beyond, I had the opportunity to ask him (by letter) several questions about his and his characters' names. He confirmed that it is Li/ber ("li as in like").

Page three of my fanzine contains the relevant quotes.

enter image description here Q. ... Li/ber (li as in like). F.L. Correct!

Eldritch Leanings - Issue #5, 2 February, 1977

PS. Anyone interested in Fritz Leiber, Jr., might also enjoy this section of my Blog devoted to him; and, you might just spot me in a couple of the pictures with him too. I can't believe I'm still around to post this about Fritz!

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F! This is great evidence, but it would be better if you quoted the relevant passages and included them directly in this answer, instead of having them in images on another site. (This is a great aid for accessibility, among other reasons.)
    – DavidW
    Nov 11, 2023 at 4:18
  • William, did u meet him through chess by any chance? I think it is just amazing that Coming Attractions anticipated masks that we used during the Covid epidemic.
    – releseabe
    Nov 11, 2023 at 6:34
  • I've taken the liberty of adding some a picture and quote of the relevant passage from your album and tidying up the wording. We want this evidence to last as long as possible and having it stored locally is far better than an answer that says "go here" only to find that "here" has gone...
    – Valorum
    Nov 11, 2023 at 6:52

It seems, in the US, names with ei coming from German are pronounced /aɪ/ (Lye ber) but names with ei coming from Yiddish are pronounced /i/ (Lee ber). According to user's answer, Fritz Leiber (of German ancestry) used the German-type pronunciation.

When I was young, the composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein had his name frequently pronounced both ways, depending on the background of the person pronouncing it. There was some comic with a routine about Albert Einstein pronouncing the name in the Yiddish way for effect.

  • 1
    As noted above, how it's pronounced in German is common knowledge. The question is about how the American writer Fritz Leiber pronounced his name
    – Valorum
    Nov 7, 2021 at 15:03

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