The word synod is back in the news with the meeting of the Anglican General Synod in London.
In LPD I prioritize the traditional pronunciation with a weakened second vowel, ˈsɪnəd. This was the only pronunciation recognized in EPD during Daniel Jones’s editorship. But nowadays one often hears this word said with a strong vowel in the unstressed syllable, ˈsɪnɒd.
Classicists will recognize that synod is parallel in its morphology with method and period, words whose final syllable is unquestionably always weakened to -əd. All three consist etymologically of a Greek prepositional prefix plus the stem of ὁδός hodos ‘way, travel’ (cognate with Russian ходить ‘go’).
We have two other words in English that have this structure: anode (etymologically ‘way up’) and cathode (‘way down’). We know that they were coined by William Whewell in 1834 at the request of his friend Michael Faraday. Another friend, one Dr Nicholl, coined electrode (‘amber/electric way’). Strange, then, that Whewell and Nicholl chose to write them with a final unetymological (or French-style) e and to say them with the corresponding strong pronunciation -əʊd. This was then also applied to the later coinings diode, triode, pentode etc.