I was going to install two additional voices through Speech preference pane. I noticed the size of two voices is 1,3 gigabytes, which is a lot but manageable.

Looking at the list of already installed/downloaded voices (say -v ? in Terminal) I saw & heard many obscure voices that I probably wouldn't ever use; and I value having a few hundred megabytes (or few gigabytes) of free space a lot more than hearing someone talking while drowning or getting tickled.

How can I properly delete some of these (en_US "Funny") voices? By properly I mean in a way I don't accidentally break anything in the process. For example, directly deleting files from /System/Library/Speech/Voices feels a bit dubious…

Many of the voices that say -v ? lists are actually deactivated in the Speech preference pane, but if I tick them I won't get a warning that they have to be downloaded — so they reside somewhere on my Mac.

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    There is no "proper" way to delete anything from the default installation of OS X. Any answer that you get should feel a bit dubious.
    – TJ Luoma
    Commented Nov 19, 2011 at 16:07
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    @TJLuoma, ok, so, properly is out of question. How about "What is the least–damaging & possibly–reversible kind of way?" :-) Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 9:22
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    @koiyu Removing them from the Voices directory under System is the only way and it does so cleanly. There is nothing "dubious" about it. I've done it myself. But one thing to note, whenever you update Lion to a new build, some of the voices will re-appear. If you are only after saving space, just delete Alex. He's by far the most bloated one. The rest don't weigh much at all.
    – user10355
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 11:13

3 Answers 3


Removing voices

All voices are in /System/Library/Speech/Voices. Just like most other Library items in OS X, they are inherited, which means you could install them in /Library/Speech/Voices and ~/Library/Speech/Voices.

Removing items from /System/Library is indeed usually not a good thing to do, but here, it does not have any practical consequences beyond making the deleted voices unavailable. Indeed, the list in the System Preferences is dynamically generated from the items found in the said folder, just like the Sound alerts, or the wallpapers. You can confirm this by adding / removing / renaming elements in the /System/Library/Sounds folder, for example.

There's no other way to manage the speech items, but since this one is without consequences as long as you leave at least one voice, it is actually pretty nice to simply manipulate the filesystem. I have personally long removed Alex, along with other /System/Library and /Library items.

Installing voices / what to back up

As you underlined, Lion provides a “Customize” item in the list of voices that allows you to download voices in many languages. Therefore, if you ever delete the original “Alex” voice (the heavy one, 400+MB), you can download it again through this menu.

The “funny” voices, however, are not downloadable. You'll need to back them up if you want to remove them but keep a way to get them back (or you could use a package manager like Pacifist to extract only them from the Lion installer package, but that's a lot of hassle for not much). Nevertheless, considering they weigh, all together, less than 35MB, I'd let them in place.

Please note that you must leave at least one voice for the “Customize” item to be accessible. So, even if you want to remove all voices, leave at least one there, or you won't be able to install any again. “Fred” is the lightest “serious” voice, so I'd advise leaving it in any case.

Size note / a bit of history

As for the relative sizes, Alex is very heavy because it is of much higher quality, and is actually from a totally different generation than the others: it shipped with Leopard, while others have been around since Mac OS 7 (had a lot of fun with them, actually ;) ). Of course, Alex would have filled a full hard drive at the time. There's no "logic" that's shared between voices in those packages, hence the heavy weight of installing new “modern” voices in other languages.

  • With "[-- does not have any practical consequences beyond making the deleted voices] unavailable" do you mean "gone forever"? At least that seems to be the case. Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 9:20
  • ... rarely something vital for the system. How about /System/Library/Frameworks/ or /System/Library/Extensions/?
    – Lri
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 9:32
  • @koiyu yes, unless you reinstall them, they will be deleted from your system.
    – MattiSG
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 10:15
  • @Lri that's two folders out of sixty. But you're right, “rarely” was probably an over broad adverb. I'll change it.
    – MattiSG
    Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 10:17
  • @Matti if you tell me whether I can reinstall the voices from somewhere (where?) or should I provide my own backups (if I change my mind later) that's worth a bounty! Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 10:24

To delete some or all of the voices:

  1. Launch the “VoiceOver Utility” (it is in /Applications/Utilities/).
  2. In the left pane select “Speech”.
  3. In the table with languages and voices, next to “English” (or any other language) open the drop-down list in the “Voice” column and choose “Customise...”.
  4. Untick the languages that you want removed.
  5. Press “OK”. A dialog will pop up asking whether you’d like to keep or delete unchecked languages, choose “Delete”.

VoiceOver Utility screenshot

A couple of notes:

  • While this method is safer than deleting the files by hand, it will not delete “Compact” versions of the voices. Also, it will not delete “Siri” voices, which are stored in the same directory.
  • If later you decide to reinstall removed languages, just follow the same steps and tick the languages you want to install.
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    I'm on Catalina and no pop up came after unchecking. Just for the information.
    – abhy
    Commented Apr 19, 2020 at 8:17

They are in /System/Library/Speech/Voices

However the whole /System/Library/Speech folder is "only" .5GB in space, so you wouldn't save much.

  • It also seems that if one deletes a folder e.g. Hysterical.SpeechVoice it is also deleted from the Speech prefpane — meaning that you can't just re-activate it by ticking it in the preferences and download the voice files, the whole record is gone. Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 13:42
  • Ah, and regarding the size: Alex is by far the largest of the lot (over 400 MB). Maybe the other voices use its logic and apply only some voice filters (funny voices) or new sounds (female voices). The reason my download would be 1,3 GB might then be because of I was going to download voices for two distinct additional languages. Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 13:48
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    Yes, there's probably some replication in the other voices. Anyhow deleting stuff from /System is never recommended. As a side note, try from terminal say -v cello d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d
    – Gio
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 14:15
  • I should've elaborated more on what I meant with "properly delete" — a way that doesn't directly deal with the /System files; if there's a way that is intended to be followed. Or, conversely, are the voices meant to stay there? Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 17:01
  • Just wild guessing, but moving the standard out might break Voice Over
    – Gio
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 17:43

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