Pronunciation of Pesto

Office co-worker of Italian descent insists it is pronounced Pay-sto. Everyone else is in the Peh-sto boat. Office hijinks ensued. Does he have a case?

Here’s something from Googling. The Italian pronunciation, to me anyway, emphasizes the ‘e’ sound in a way that could be taken as a long-ish ‘a’, but not quite pay-sto. Maybe Giada would give it a longer ‘a’ than the voice in the video. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


there is no one way to pronounce anything. language doesn’t work that way. it exists in context because it has to be functional. 100% of people that i’ve encountered in my home country would pronounce it pes-toe. doesn’t mean it’s ‘correct’, vis a vis the authoring language, it means it works to convey meaning. that is all. this reminds me of the tak-o v. tok-o discussion on the baking show thread. people who seek authenticity of language don’t understand what language is.


The Italian pronunciation of “e” in that context is kind of halfway between the “e” of “less” and the “a” of “late.” It’s not one or the other. It can also be a little more stretched out than one would normally do in English, because of the stress on that syllable in the word.


Depends on where in Italy. People pronounce things differently wherever you go.


In the UK, we would generally pronounce it pess-toe.

I’ve no idea how Italians might pronounce it or folk in other countries. Nor is it particularly relevant to me, of course.

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I’m an opera singer - studied Italian language and diction in college. There are different rules governing spoken and sung pronunciation, of course, with spoken being more regionally-influenced, but in general, the stressed syllable of an Italian word will be pronounced with the same vowel sound by most speakers, because it can change the meaning of the word if it is not pronounced correctly. For instance, “venti” is the word for “twenty” and “winds,” but the “e” vowel is pronounced differently in each. In twenty it is closed (vayn-ti) and in winds it is open (vehn-ti). Also, please note that there is NEVER EVER a diphthong sound at the end of any Italian vowel (aka the secondary vowel that Americans slide into at the end of words like “pay,” where the long e sound morphs into “ee” as in cheese at the end). Any Italian word that has two vowel sounds in one syllable will be spelled with those two letters and each vowel pronounced distinctly.

Another general rule is that “e” is usually open (eh) when it precedes a cluster of two or more consonants, and closed (ay) when it preceds a single consonant. Certain consonant clusters are more likely than others to follow this rule, and there are THOUSANDS of exceptions in any case. The only way to know for sure is to consult an authoritative dictionary, which I did - and guess what? It’s “pay-sto,” despite the double consonant following the “e” AND the fact that “st” is one of those consonant clusters that is more likely to follow the open vowel rule. Not a word I run across much in opera libretti, but now I know (and so do you!).


Well, that’s how they said it in that great Italian Classic, Ratatouille By Disney Pixar Pictures.

So there!

Oh, wait - that was Paris. Nevermind.