« Drive Thru Baguettes? | Main | Cheryl Ann Rogowski »

September 28, 2004



Only the USA can change things as they believe they are the founders of speaking the English language - Basil the herb is a short 'a' and I will always continue to say it that way - while on the subject how about the word 'herb' the USA say 'erb' so does that mean that they dont say the 'h' as in er hat, is clothes, er car and so on this also baffles me - people now say 'for free' everything is 'for free' which is totally incorrect - it is either 'free' or 'for nothing' I can go on and on and on and on .....


I am delighted to know that my daughter and I are not the only ones who still say basil with a short a. I have often just used its Italian name basilico, thereby sidestepping the issue, but I think that is a bit cowardly, so I will now continue using the pronunciation I grew up with, knowing there is a full army of short-a supporters behind me!

William Lindsey

I share your bafflement. I grew up hearing the herb pronounced with a short a, and then when I learned Greek, realized that this pronunciation is true to the Greek roots of the word.

And then suddenly the long a pronunciation came down the pike--around the same time that the food marketing industry began to talk about "house-made" this and that rather than the old-fashioned "homemade."

Don't get me started on the pronunciation of biscotti, which I grew up hearing pronounced (true to the Italian roots of the word) with a long o. I happened on your posting, in fact, as I was scanning websites for information about the correct pronunciation of that word after a grocery-store stock person corrected me today when I asked for biscotti, and informed me that the pronunciation is like "bis-scotty."

Lots or pretension in the food world. And ignorance. And market hype.


Well my last name is Basil and for the 100+ years that the family has been in this country it has always been pronounced with a short a just like Basil Rathbone. Suddenly now that basil is a popular herb people actually correct me when I pronounce my name and get ANGRY when I pronounce the herb with a short a. I tell them it is phonetic, a s is as, bas rhymes with as and basil has a short a.


However you pronounce it, fresh basil is delicious.


Well, OK, Sean. Maybe the A simply elongates the farther north the basil-lover locates.


Long A all the way. Being Canadian this is what I say..though there are others around that use the short a(British way)...I just keep it the same as our PotAtoes and TomAtoes.

If your in a country that drives on the right side of the road, pun intended.. use the Big A's, or maybe its cause us Canadians say A alot eh!


John--The Pot of Basil always will remain inviolate of ( or from?! ) creeping BAY-sil, or so I fervently trust.

John Wood

It drives me crazy to hear it pronounced "bay-zul." I have attributed the change to snooty, ignorant waiters who don't know any better and think "bay-zul" sounds more elegant. As a college English professor for all my life, I'm wondering if this corruption will begin distorting the title of Keats's poem "Isabella; or, the Pot of Basil." I hope not. Thanks for your posting.


Alice---we two likely will remain among the few "short A" basil holdouts, though my son is fairly adamant as well, so.....My primary question remains: when and why did this pronunciation change?


In the early '90's I noticed a friend pronouncing it with the long a and corrected her that it is short, like Saint Basil, or Basil Rathbone, and that basal, like basal thermometer is the long a.
Well, everyone around me and all I hear on the media now use the long a.... and it is very annoying that the incorrect pronunciation has become more common.

Mercy Donovan

Thanks for your marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author.I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and will often come back very soon. I want to encourage you to ultimately continue your great job, have a nice afternoon!

fake christian louboutin

Forgive me for enjoying the beauty of your body and soul´╝Ť

Forgive me for wanting to be with you when I grow old!

Bee Barmann

I was delighted to learn that there is a following among us who grew up with the short "a" pronunciation for basil. When people try to "correct" me, I ask them to pronounce the word 'basilica." Most times, that one comes out with the short "a." To me, to say the word "basil" with a long "a" confuses me with such phrases as "basal metabolism," "basal carcinoma," "basal body temperature" etc. Thanks for bringing this to light.
B. B.

AC Smith

http://visual.merriam-webster.com/pronunciation.php?id=food-kitchen/food/11014&title=basil provides the long a pronunciation for the herb which I use as well. As a person's name I've used the short a.

A. C.


In the Bahamas and indeed the majority of the English speaking world, the short "a" is used when pronouncing "Basil". Some people who attend school in the U.S. will come back and use the long version for a while but then revert back to the normal short "a" when they get over trying to show off their what learning they picked up over there and grow up when entering real life at home. The same with the odd U.S. dating system (M/D/Y) instead of the logical and worldwide accepted D/M/Y and strange new spelling of words which are not accepted as correct in any other English speaking country!


Short "a" in basil for me. I think that a lot of the language in North America is being "corrupted" by the American dialect. For example, "multi" and "semi", should be pronounced with a short "i", but over the past few years, it's being pronounced with a long "i". I guess whoever has the largest TV audience wins the language game.

Chloe In Texas

Both Webster's and American Heritage Dictionaries list both pronunciations. When asked this question by the public, members of the Herb Society of America answer that both are correct. My personal choice is to use the long A for the plant and the short a for the man's name. This could be from habit, or a need to limit confusion in my life.


On NPR, someone just used the long a pronunciation, and I decided to look it up for once and for all. I get a lot of grief for pronouncing it with a short a (mainly from my boyfriend). All sources agree -- we're right.

But to answer your question, I don't know when this happened. When did patina start rhyming with katrina? Applicable with icepickable?


Well, Dorothy, and fellow short "A" basil pronouncers, we must be strong, united and unafraid. We know whereof we speak!

Dorothy Gibbs

I'm 79 and was taught the short "a" by my father who was a PhD and Phi Beta Kappa - we're real snobs :). I am horrified when my niece - and now my beloved sister - use the long "A". Isn't it nice to have something so really important to argue about??

Andrew Spark

I was pleasantly surprised to find a web site for our area. Thank you for all your hard work!


I've always said basil with a short A. I don't really mind when people say Bay-sel, but I get irritated if they "correct" me.

barb in albq

Hey, I have used the long A pronunciation my entire life, but then I'm originally from Chicago where we say things like "funchroom" for front room or living room, and my Uncle Vito used to tell us to shut the windall and get him a sammich.

By the way, most people pronounce Chicago incorrectly. You should say "shi caw' go" and you should refrain from using the short A that is used in the correct (according to you) pronunciation of basil. Got that?

By the way, we still have some nice basil growing in our garden though we have allowed a couple of our plants to sprout flowers instead of pinching them off, as recommended. We are rebels.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Become a Fan