English Pronunciation – How Do You Say "Pecan"?

April is National Pecan Month, and in honor of this holiday, I decided to do a little research into the English pronunciation of this wonderful tasting nut.

Do you say “pu-KAHN”, “pee-KAHN”, or “PEE-can”? The latter reminds me of an emergency restroom substitute…but I digress.

Did you know that the pecan is the only nut tree native to North America? Or that the name pecan comes from an Algonquin word meaning “nuts requiring a stone to crack”? Or that eating pecans could improve your love life? No kidding – I learned all these wonderful facts and more from the National Pecan Sellers Association.

But what I did NOT learn was the official pronunciation of the word pecan.

Does it depend on which American accent you have? Some say the split between “pu-kahn” and “pee-can” falls on the Mason-Dixon line, but my research so far says not. Though many southerners say “pu-kahn” and many from the Northeast say “pee-can”, it isn’t consistent. One theory I read suggested that people from more rural areas, regardless of location, say “pee-can”, while those from larger cities say “pu-kahn”. Another said that the accepted pronunciation has changed over time. So, has it changed? Do you pronounce pecan differently from your parents or grandparents? And what about those who speak English as a second language? Does your pronunciation of it depend on where your English teacher grew up?

It’s a highly debated topic, and one that doesn’t appear to have a definitive answer. The major dictionaries list more than one pronunciation, though “pu-kahn” is listed first and seems to be the most widely accepted. That is how I pronounce it, and when I conducted an unofficial survey, the overwhelming majority of people replied that they pronounce it pu-kahn as well.

However you pronounce it, I hope you enjoy indulging in this wonderful food in honor of National Pecan Month.