It’s been a timeless debate: how do you pronounce caramel? While some people pronounce it “car-mel”, others claim it is pronounced “care-a-mel”, some even claim it is pronounced “car-muhl”. Yet despite all of these different pronunciations, everyone swears that their own pronunciation is correct.

For example, when you go to the coffee shop and order a salted caramel mocha, and your friend makes fun of the way you pronounce caramel–but honestly to you, it sounds funny the way she pronounces it.  So, how is caramel supposed to be pronounced? I'm here to end the debate once and for all. 

A brief history

candy, truffle, nut, chocolate, sweet
Ethan Cappello

In order to truly understand the correct pronunciation of the word caramel, I figured that it’s important to understand where the word came from.

The word caramel derives from the Latin word “cannamellis.” In which, canna means “cane” and mel/mellis means “honey.” Though, obviously, we do not use that same Latin name. In the 18th century, the Spanish began to use the word “caramelo” which is thought to have come from the original Latin word cannamellis. 

Later on, approximately in 1725, the French took the word from the Spanish and the word caramel was born.  So yes, our English word is essentially the same as the French word–pronounced "care-a-melle".

In English, please

Caramels mous (5)

Fabienne D. on Flickr

Despite it's foreign roots, I wanted to end the debate about the English pronunciation of the word caramel.  So even if the French pronounce it as care-a-melle–emphasis on the elle, is that really how it is pronounced in English. 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the differences between pronunciation have to do with where you are from. The Cambridge Dictionary supports two correct English pronunciations of the word caramel.  According to Cambridge dictionary the UK's pronunciation focuses more heavily on the care-a-mel.  While in the US, it focuses more heavily on the car-a-mel.  

So, who's right?

Caramel Popcorn

Sam Howzit on Flickr

While the primary difference between the United States and the United Kingdom's pronunciations is between the car versus care emphasis, whether you say m-elle or muh-l depends on where you are from.  AKA, there are multiple ways to say tequila caramel corn.

The reason that there are so many different pronunciations of caramel is because of differentiation among accents.  Depending on your accent, you may put different emphasis on different vowels.

The fact of the matter is that there is no correct or incorrect way to pronounce the word caramel.   So go ahead, make those maple caramel pretzel bars.  And pronounce it however you'd like.