Words with Multiple Pronunciations


Other than confusing grammar, another thing that can cause heated arguments are words with confusing pronunciations. The next time any of the following words comes up in conversation between friends, causing an argument, you can step in and say that they’re right.

1. Route
Is it /root/ or is it /rowt/? Turns out, it’s both! In British English, the former pronunciation is preferred, though it’s still used in parts of the United States. The latter pronunciation is more popular in North America.

2. Tomato
As the saying goes, “You say /toh-may-tow/, I say /to-mah-to/. This is another difference between British and American English. The same can be said for potato (/poh-tay-tow/ and /po-tah-tow/), but the difference is more used in tomato. In the United States, the British English pronunciation is still used in parts of the East Coast.

3. Pecan
Whether you say /puh-KAHN/ or you say /pee-CAN/, you’re still right. Just be careful where in the United States you are when you say it. If you’re somewhere in the South, go for the latter. Sometimes, the difference also depends on the food. Use the latter pronunciation for the pie, and the former pronunciation for praline.

4. Herb
If you hear someone pronounce the “h” in this word, don’t laugh. The preferred pronunciation in American English is /erb/, but in both Australian English and British English, it’s /herb/.

5. Often
So what’s the T? Should it be pronounced? Well, that depends on you. There’s no place where a silent T is preferred over a pronounced T, but both /off-un/ and /oft-un/ are accepted pronunciations.

6. Caramel
This confection actually has three pronunciations, all of which are correct. In the United States, it’s /kar-mel/. The second syllable is present in British English, so they pronounce it either /kar-uh-muhl/ or /kar-uh-mel/. This is because the word is actually of Spanish origin.

7. Vase
Long /a/ or short /a/? Either is fine. The pronunciation /veiz/ is more used in the United States, while /vaz/ is more used in British English. The word is of French origin, coming from the word vause, which is also pronounced /vaz/.

8. Lychee
The lychee is a red fruit that comes from an evergreen tree native to China. How it’s pronounced could be telling of where you are. In Asia, it’s pronounced /lai-chee/, coming from the Cantonese “liaj.” Its scientific name is Litchi chinesis, which could be the origin of its second pronunciation, /lee-chee/.

9. New Orleans
For those who live elsewhere, we pronounce it like every other place with the word “new” in it: NEW York, NEW Jersey, NEW England, and NEW Mexico. However, people from Louisiana like to call it /n’or-luhns/.

10. Bass
You could say that you’re “all about that bass,” but how should you pronounce that last word? Depends on what you’re talking about. If you’re all about that fish, it’s /bas/, but if you’re more into music, it’s /base/.

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