How do you pronounce “Bokeh?” Here’s how you should

Mar 31, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

How do you pronounce “Bokeh?” Here’s how you should

Mar 31, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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When you see the word “bokeh” written, you probably see an image in your head to associate it with the word. But when you read it out loud, how do you do it? Is it “boh-key,” “boh-kuh,” “boo-kay” or something else?

Guys from Photogearnews asked photographers at The Photography Show how they pronounce it. There are so many different answers, that you may wonder whether yours is the right one. Well, in the video you’ll also hear what the correct pronunciation is from a reliable source. Ryu Nagase, Canon’s Product Management Director, will tell you the right way to say it.

YouTube video

I found this topic interesting both as a linguist and as a photographer. It’s amazing how some foreign words get into our language and we adapt the pronunciation without a problem and make it universal. Yet some other terms, like “bokeh,” get so many variations that you can’t tell which one’s correct.

In the video, you can hear all these variations and realize how many of them there are. Some pronounce it as “bouquet,” some as “boo-key,” sometimes it’s “bok-uh” and so on. But I’d say a native Japanese speaker and a Product Management Director of Canon is a pretty reliable person to tell you the right pronunciation. And it’s “boh-keh,” or /boke/ if you prefer phonetic transcription.

It’s funny that yesterday I told my boyfriend something about bokeh, and I said three variations of the word one after another. At that moment, there was an almost visible question mark above my head. I found it really fun to see that other photographers, speakers of different native language from mine, also have that “question mark” when asked to pronounce “bokeh.” How do you pronounce it? Have you been using the correct way or some other variation?

[BOKEH? NOT BOKEH – How do you say ‘bokeh’? via No Film School]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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17 responses to “How do you pronounce “Bokeh?” Here’s how you should”

  1. Free SVG Images Avatar
    Free SVG Images

    whoaaaa

  2. Police: StartChargingDrivers Avatar
    Police: StartChargingDrivers

    We just used to call it shallow depth of field.

  3. Adrian Duron Avatar
    Adrian Duron

    Bow-kay

  4. JP Danko Avatar
    JP Danko

    What about cine – as in cine lenses!? Sine, sign, sin, sin-ee, sin-ah????

    1. Dunja0712 Avatar
      Dunja0712

      I say “sin-ee”, but I’m not a native speaker, so I suppose it’s completely irrelevant. :)
      And what about “Nikon”? :)

      1. Jeffrey Friedl Avatar
        Jeffrey Friedl

        I was surprised when I first traveled the world to find out that the company”Nestlé” pronounced their name differently in different markets. Growing up in The States, I learned it as “ness-lee”, so I thought it was a quaint mistake when I heard an Australian refer to it as “ness-el”. Turns out that’s how they (the company itself) pronounces the name outside of America.

        In the USA, “Nikon” is “neigh-con”, but in Japan (and perhaps the rest of the world) of course they themselves pronounce it “knee-con”.

        (About “cine”, I’ve always assumed it was short for “cinema”, and pronounced it accordingly, as you do)

        1. udi tirosh Avatar
          udi tirosh

          Interesting. It’s nes-tle’ here. with the le sounding like lemon

        2. JustChristoph Avatar
          JustChristoph

          Gosh! I thought Nikon was pronounced ‘Foo-gee-fill-em’. What do I know!

        3. Brian Menin Avatar
          Brian Menin

          Never once heard it pronounced “neigh-con” in the US. Or anywhere for that matter. You must live in the Ozarks.

          1. Jeffrey Friedl Avatar
            Jeffrey Friedl

            I grew up in Ohio, FWIW, but have lived in Japan long enough to warp my
            sense of phonetic presentation. How about this: “Ny-con”?

  5. Tito Sanches de Magalhaes Avatar
    Tito Sanches de Magalhaes

    This is a complete stupidity: two fingers of forehead would suffice to understand that ‘bokeh’ is the Japanese graphy for the French-originated ‘bouquet’ and should thus be pronounced accordingly.
    One look at the now billions of uploaded photographs of flowers taken by amateurs wanting to test the bokeh of their lenses should make it clear once and for all.

    1. Jeffrey Friedl Avatar
      Jeffrey Friedl

      Close, but it’s actually the other way around. The Japanese word predates the entire French language. Over the centuries that French was forming as a language, so many sculptures were doing reliefs of flowers to demonstrate the beautiful subtly of their chisels, the Japanese word 「惚け」that described the less-sharp areas eventually came to mean the object being carved, a bouquet of flowers. ;-)

    2. MediumDave Avatar
      MediumDave

      Er, no. The source verb bokeru – written 暈ける – means faded or hazy or unclear or out of focus. A lot of the confusion stems from the fact that another verb bokeru — this time written 惚ける or even 呆ける — means fuzzy-headed or addle-brained or mentally confused.
      Both versions tend to just be written phonetically as ぼける now, without kanji, so the various meanings have kind of bled together. For example, pin-boke (peen boe-keh) means a photo that is out of focus overall, while jisa-boke (jee-sah boe-keh), literally “time-difference muzziness,” is the term for jet lag. And if you shout “Kono boke!” at someone, it means “You dimwit!”
      Anyway, it’s “boe-keh,” with either equal stress or stress on the first syllable. Source: Japanese translator for 20+ years.

    3. jakecarvey Avatar
      jakecarvey

      lol

  6. Andrea Gruber Avatar
    Andrea Gruber

    Bo-keh just how it is written

  7. Dave Daniel Avatar
    Dave Daniel

    I’ll practice my Japanese accent!

  8. markflag Avatar
    markflag

    Perhaps it is ‘Bucket’ as in Mrs. Hyacinth Bucket.