Pronunciation of kefir

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Jun 20 00:16:46 UTC 2014

On Jun 19, 2014, at 6:56 PM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:

> Based on Wikipedia (, I've been saying this word with the accent on the second syllable. This is what Oxford gives (

I was going to say I pronounce it /'laesi:/, but I see that's actually a different yogurty drink.  I haven't heard or uttered "kefir" that often, but I'd have gone with the second syllable stress too, or possibly an equi-stressed /'kE'fi:r/.  Definitely not "Kiefer", unless I was requesting the actor.

> On the occasion or two when I've asked grocery store employees where it's located, they've had trouble understanding me, though I attribute more with unfamiliarity with the product than my syllable.
> The other day, I talked to a dairy farmer who has begun producing it, and even after I said kuh FIIR, he said KEE fuhr.
> Webster's ( has decided any of three pronunciations are acceptable.
> I found a discussion about the pronunciation at, where there is a link to a casual poll that concluded the first accent is most commonly accented. One person chimes in noting that Kiefer Sutherland's name has nothing to do with it, but that certainly could shape what the standard becomes.
> My guess is that Kiefer will win out among all but the most diehard "purists."
> Benjamin Barrett
> Formerly of Seattle, WA
> Learn Ainu!
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list