Does anyone else notice the chill in the fall air? No, it's not from the changing weather, but from the intense foodie debates that always crop up during this time of year, and one of the biggest points of contention, especially as we inch towards Thanksgiving, is how to pronounce pecan.

It seems like people fall into two distinct camps on this issue: is it "pe-cahn" or "pee-can?" Neither side is willing to admit or accept defeat, so the battle rages on. But, if you want to avoid a huge family divide at the holiday dinner table, it has to be proven once and for all how to pronounce pecan the correct way. Not all heroes wear capes, my friends.

Back to the Beginning

sweet, pecan, chocolate
Zoe Malin

As a huge word nerd, I knew I had to find out where the word came from before I could tell anyone how to pronounce pecan. Turns out, this humble nut's roots stretch all the way back to before the Declaration of Independence.

"Pecan" as a word has crossed a lot of international waters, but is rooted in American Indian tradition. It isn't entirely clear what group of Native Americans first came up with the word for this nut. Some say "pecan" is derived from the Illinois word pakani, while others give claim to the Algonquians or the Cree. Ultimately though, by the early 1700s, "pecan" had been transformed into the French word pacane. 

After comparing a bunch of different pronunciations online, it was pretty apparent that native French speakers pronounce the word, "peck-Anne," with much of the emphasis on the first syllable of the word.

Parlez-vous anglais?

beer, pecan, chocolate, coffee
Zoe Malin

So, while the authentic French pronunciation is all well and good, how do we pronounce this word in the States? As a native New Englander, I've always said, "PEE-can," but it turns out that I'm in the minority here on this one.

According to a dialect map by Farm Flavor, most Americans put the emphasis on the second syllable. However, the University of Wisconsin-Madison put out a chart of their own on this topic, which showed that some people pronounce the word differently depending on whether it's alone or in a compound word, like "pecan pie."

Can Anyone Win?

pecan, caramel, sauce, pie
Amanda Shulman

Mark this day folks, a proud Boston girl is about to admit that she's been wrong. I consulted both the Merriam Webster Dictionary and the Cambridge Dictionary online. Turns out, even though people pretend that this word is a tough nut to crack, it's been pretty simple the whole time.

The correct pronunciation is "pe-CAHN." I know, I'm just as shocked as you are, but it's true. The good news is, it doesn't make this nut any less delicious.

Honestly, it's going to be hard for people to suddenly change a pronunciation that they've used all of their lives. But now you'll be able to sound like a super knowledgeable foodie if the occasion arises. As for me? I don't care how to pronounce pecan, so long as you slap these babies into some pecan praline