Usage Notes

How to Pronounce the Trickiest Menu Items

After you read—and listen to—this you'll be ready to order anything.


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\ˈyē-ˌrō, ˈzhir-ō\ play

: a sandwich especially of lamb and beef, tomato, onion, and yogurt sauce on pita bread

The name of the sandwich is pronounced differently than the gyro that refers to a gyrocompass or a gyroscope, but it too is etymologically about turning: it comes from the Greek gyros, meaning "turn," from the rotation of the meat on a spit.

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\än-ˈdü-ē, ˈän-dü-ē\ play

: a highly spiced smoked pork sausage

This word was borrowed from French in the early 17th century. It ultimately comes from the same Latin word that gave us induce, but by way of a Vulgar Latin word meaning "made by insertion." We are talking sausage, after all.

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\tə-ˈbü-lē\ play

: a salad of Lebanese origin consisting chiefly of cracked wheat, tomatoes, parsley, mint, onions, lemon juice, and olive oil

It can also be spelled tabouleh and tabouli. The word is Arabic in origin, and shares an ancestor with the Arabic taubala, meaning "to spice, season."

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\kēl-ˈbä-sə, kil- also ki-ˈbä-sə\ play

: a smoked sausage of Polish origin

The plural of this word is either kielbasas or kielbasy, as in "The Polish grocery store has a variety of kielbasas. I had no idea there were so many kielbasy." You, though, should probably pick a plural you prefer and stick with it. The English word comes directly from the Polish word kiełbasa.

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\ˈnȯ-kē, ˈnyȯ-, ˈnä-\ play

: dumplings usually made with potato or semolina and served with sauce

It's completely understandable that an English speaker would be a bit flummoxed by gnocchi: it starts with gn (not unheard of for an English word, but not common) and ends in cchi. It does not look like an English word. And it's not: it's Italian, and the g is pronounced, unlike the g in gnat and gnarl. Listen to the audio, and then remember that the second syllable is always pronounced like the word "key," and the first syllable (which always gets the emphasis) can be pronounced like \NOH\, \NYOH\, or \NAH.

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\kə-ˈnish\ play

: a small round or square of dough stuffed with a filling (such as potato) and baked or fried

And again with knish, we have what is usually a silent letter in English letting its \k\ flag fly. We have Yiddish to thank for this one, and Polish too. The Yiddish knish comes from the Polish word knysz.

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\ˈkēn-ˌwä, kē-ˈnō-ə\ play

: an annual herb (Chenopodium quinoa) of the goosefoot family that is native to the Andean highlands and is cultivated for its starchy seeds which are used as food and ground into flour; also : its seeds

Our current earliest evidence of this word in print in English is about 400 years old, but quinoa has only recently started appearing on menus in the U.S. You can pronounce it like it's pronounced in the audio link, or you can give it an Anglicized pronunciation and call it \kee-NOH-uh. It's from Quechua originally.

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\ˈkēsh\ play

: an unsweetened custard pie usually having a savory filling (such as spinach, mushrooms, or ham)

Quiche, which is pronounced as though it's spelled keesh, is French, coming in particular from the Lorraine dialect. Quiche Lorraine is made with cheese and bacon.

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\ˈfə, ˈfō\ play

: a soup made of beef or chicken broth and rice noodles

The Vietnamese name for this soup is spelled phở. The English alphabet lacks that particular o-like vowel, so we replaced it with a plain old o in the borrowed word. The dominant English pronunciation \FUH\, however, mirrors the Vietnamese one, though the Anglicized \FOH\ is accepted too.

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\brü-ˈshe-tə, -ˈske-\ play

: thick slices of bread grilled, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, often topped with tomatoes and herbs, and usually served as an appetizer

Bruschetta comes from a word in the Tuscan dialect meaning "to toast, burn." You can pronounce the sch as you do in school or as you do in schnauzer. The original word does it as in the former.

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\ˈprē-ˈfēks, -ˈfiks\ play

: a complete meal offered at a fixed price; also : the price charged

Blame the French for this one. In that language, this phrase means "fixed price." English speakers shouldn't be expected to know the ins and outs of French pronunciation, but since this borrowed term has (mostly) retained its French pronunciation, you might want to remember that the final consonant in a French word is often silent unless there's an e after it. This means that in prix fixe, the prix is pronounced like \PREE\ . The fixe on the other hand, can sound like \FEEKS\ or \FIKS\ . (We've capitalized all the letters in the pronunciation guide because the two elements have equal stress.)

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\prō-ˈshü-(ˌ)tō\ play

: dry-cured salted Italian ham usually sliced thin

You have two options for the plural of this word: prosciuttos or prosciutti. The first one is pronounced as you'd expect given the singular form. The second one sounds like this: \prō-ˈshü-(ˌ)tē.play

Note that the less you know about this word's etymology the more you can enjoy its referent. Prosciutto comes from a Latin word meaning "to suck out."

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\bān-ˈyā, ˌben-\ play

1 : fritter 2 : a light square doughnut usually sprinkled with powdered sugar

Anyone who's had a beignet can thank the French Acadians: it's believed that they introduced the pastry in Louisiana in the 18th century. The word beignet suggests a surprising amount of discomfort given the pleasure to be gotten by way of the food. Beignet traces back to a Middle French word meaning "bump" or "bruise."

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\pō-ˈsō-(ˌ)lā\ play

: a thick soup chiefly of Mexico and the U.S. Southwest made with pork, hominy, garlic, and chili

This English word, which is also spelled pozole, traces back through Mexican Spanish to the Nahuatl word pozolli, which comes from a root meaning "be covered in foam."

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\ˌzä-bəl-ˈyō-nē\ play

: a whipped dessert or topping consisting of a mixture of egg yolks, sugar, and usually Marsala wine

It's only harder to pronounce than bologna because it's not as common as lunch meat.




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