QUINOA - You probably aren't pronouncing it correctly ...

So  How DO you pronounce Quinoa ?  This question is seemingly a topic of MUCH debate.  For most of you, especially those from predominately ...

So How DO you pronounce Quinoa?  This question is seemingly a topic of MUCH debate.  For most of you, especially those from predominately English speaking countries, it may come as a surprise to you that there is a high chance you have actually been pronouncing it incorrectly.

How to Pronounce Quinoa
Image: www.aukihenry.com
First: a bit of history to help answer this question for people.  The back story of the origins of the word is important to the topic and will give you some basic facts about Quinoa that are at the very least mildly interesting, but will also let you decide if you want to pronounce the word based on its origins or based on what you hear around you.

On that note, what is Quinoa? It is referred to often as a 'pseudocereal', it's not really a cereal, and is also not really a grain as some mistake it to be as it does not come from a grassy plant.

The Quinoa that we eat is a seed from a leafy plant that is native to the mountainous Andes region.  It is often touted as a 'superfood' (lets not get started on the overuse of the term superfood in foodie circles nowadays, this is a rabbit hole that goes deeper than we have time for).

Part of the motivation for writing this piece was the prolific amount of hot air  blowing all over the internet about this word and the "correct" way to pronounce it (more often than not accompanied by a good measure of patronizing superiority when people hear what THEY think is the incorrect pronunciation of the word).  So here's a nice little info bomb to drop on you about the basic etymology of the word which might help you not be THAT person ... the pronunciation snob who fails in a public forum.

'Quinoa' is the Spanish version of a Quechua word kinua or kinúwa.

The Quechua are a people comprised of several indigenous ethnic groups from South America, predominately the Andean region.  The Quechua have cultivated and eaten the crop for thousands of years, it is still a staple of their modern descendants today.

When saying Quinoa / kinúwa both individual vowels are pronounced.  As the Quechua pronunciation this will be sounded out phonetically as kee-NOO-ah

The Spanish variation of the word is very close to the original with less emphasis on the drawn out "oo".  The pronunciation follows the basic phonetic rules of the language.

 - "Qu" is pronounced as a short and soft "K" sound.  Think Cat, Kettle, Car, Kite.  "Qui" - with the addition of the weak vowel "i" this is pronounce "KEE". Think Keep, Keel

 - Strong vowels when placed together in Spanish are sounded out as separate syllables.  This is important to the pronunciation of "noa" as it is properly pronounced as NO and Ah.

Hence the Spanish derivation Quinoa is pronounced kee-NO-ah.

The highly Anglicised pronunciation that most of you have likely heard is the one that has been repeated by English speaking TV chefs and then replicated by the trendy foodie blogger set.   This permutation of the original pronunciation has mistakenly slurred together the two distinct syllables for the vowels resulting in the approximation of KEEN-wah.  The reach of modern media has seen this particular pronunciation spread so far that many believe it to be the way to pronounce it.

Well now you are armed with a little truth bomb that you can drop any time the debate is raised around you work watercooler!


  1. Anonymous16:47

    Glad to know that I was wrong then in the way I been pronouncing it. Although I have been corrected twice by some snobby women for not pronouncing it their way.



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Auki Henry Official: QUINOA - You probably aren't pronouncing it correctly ...
QUINOA - You probably aren't pronouncing it correctly ...
Auki Henry Official
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