Submitted by silje on October 31, 2005

Steak - correct pronunciation

Is it possible to pronounce steak as the /ea/ in weak is pronounced? Or should it always be pronounced as the /a/ in bake?

I’m from Norway, and we’we got steakhouses here, it’s no word for this in Norwegian. So when people pronounce this as the /ea/ in weak, is this incorrect, or is this possible in English too?

Thanks in advance.

Silje

Comments

Sort by

English seems to be a mix of languages, the same structure may produce different sounds. So if you never heard the word you cannot be sure how it is pronounced:

Example:

STEAK

SPEAK

The only difference is the second consonant, the same happened to me the first time I saw the word I pronounced it with the /ea/ as in speak. Sneak is another example that sounds like speak.

With accentuation is similar:

"Component" I've heard that word pronounced with emphasis in the first syllable "Com" and also with emphasis in the second syllable "po". But have not heard that same duality in other very similar words in structure like "Impotent", "Exposen", etc.

That is weird to me, my native language is Spanish and we have rules on pronunciation and accentuation. If you know the rules you know exactly how to pronounce the word even if you never heard it before (with very few exceptions).

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

I'm not sure you can make a general rule for steak, break etc as itorredel1 has done. Both words seemed to have started off with "brake"-like spellings. To back up Sebastian - Etymology Online Dictionary has this to say about "steak"- 'mid-15c.... probably from Old Norse steik "roast meat," cognate with steikja "to roast on a spit," and ultimately "something stuck" (on a spit); related to stick (v.).' Somewhere along the line, the spelling got changed.

And "break" seems to have come from the Old English brecan. I think you need to look at these spellings individually to see how we got them. Much of it is no doubt partly down to the whims of the earliest dictionary writers

I tried looking this up at Morewords.com, and found that the pattern - two consonants followed by "ea" seems to have four main pronunciation patterns. The majority are indeed /ɪ :/, like "speak, cheap" etc, but there are also /ɪə:/ - "clear, dreary" etc, /e/ - "bread, dread" etc, as well as /eɪ/ - "break, steak, great". This last sound doesn't seem to happen after single consonants, only double ones.

1 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Well Silje, I'm from Denmark, having the same problem. I just never understood the reason that Steak was pronounced as Stake, because in Speak, you say it very differently to the word Steak... Which is the same word if you delete the T/P...

My teacher has told me that it is Stake pronounced :P but I still makes the Speak/Steak mistake :D

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

I can't remember how it was exactly, but I can tell you that I studied the history of the English language, and I think that words such as steak, break and great have an [ei] diphthong instead of an [i:] because they stem from the Middle English upper-class pronunciation. The spelling ea corresponded with a long, open [e] in the Middle Ages, whereas ee corresponded with [e:]. The first evolved towards present-day [ei], and the second towards present-day [i:]. However, in the lower class the long, open [e] evolved first to [e:] and then to [i:]. Nowadays, the pronunciation for ea is that from the lower class in the Middle Ages, that is, the upper-class pronunciation that should be used for ea was lost in time, except for those three words. I'm not sure about this because it is a long time since I studied this. Saludos desde España.

3 votes Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

I agree that the English language has more weird and inconsistent pronunciations than any of the other 5 languages I learnt. The question is why did it become the world language (the French probably still disagree until the last man stands :). I still don't know.
I have a conspiracy theory that these deliberate mis-pronunciations started with William Shakespeare because he didn't want to be associated with either vegetables or cuddly animals (only the stuffed ones).

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

I've never heard "steak" pronounced anything other than "stake" (in English-speaking countries). In France I think they pronounce it "steck" and sometimes they spell it "steack".

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

I have heard the "steek" choice many times, always outside of North America. "I say it as "staik." I have also heard Australians use stoeek.
Under a common rule, a case can be made for steek: when two vowels go walking, the first does the talking, as in goat and boat are sounded as gote and bote, respectively.
With the Norse origin in mind I feel it is correct either way.

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

the phonemic transcription for steak is /ste?k/..so,it is so true that it rhymes with stake.

1 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Steak
ORIGIN Middle English : from Old Norse steik; related to steikja ‘roast on a spit’ and stikna ‘be roasted.’

-->
Old Norse
the North Germanic (Scandinavian) language of medieval Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden up to the 14th century, from which the modern Scandinavian languages are derived. See also Old Icelandic .

2 votes Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Reminds me of a date I had many years ago. I picked the girl up at her home on Dubois Avenue. I made the "mistake" of referring to is as "Dooh-BWAH" Avenue. She sharply "corrected" me by informing me that it was pronounced "Dooh-BOYS". Hey, it was her street. When in Rome...
Oh, I still didn't get any.

4 votes Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

John makes a very good point. I live in Japan, and this sort of debate goes on all the time. In my opinion, once a word is borrowed, it belongs to the language that borrowed it to do with it as they will.

1 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

On the other hand, if the word "steak" is borrowed into Norwegian, Norwegians can pronounce it in whatever way they want. It's no longer an English word, it's a Norwegian word.

I'm sure English speakers don't pronounce "fjord" or "slalom" the way Norwegians pronounce them.

3 votes Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

All this complications, just to make English a little interesting and challenging, else, wouldn't it get boring ?

2 votes Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Why are break, steak, great, yeah not pronounced with [i:]?

0 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

yep...."steak" is pronounced like we say 'weak' ...just y'day we had this doubt at home.... n thats how i started searching for the right pronunciation on net n came across this site. Nothing at stake.;)

1 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

English spelling is a PEST!

cake, brake, break, steak, stake, take, lake

weak, week, leek, leak, shriek,

.. there are LOTS more, I'm afraid!!

I apologise for the fact that my language is not written / spelt phonetically (unlike so many others - German, Portuguese, Spanish...!!)

Best wishes! Happy New Year!

1 vote Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

I recall from my childhood being told a complicated (and not very funny) joke or story that turned on a German speaker's mis-hearing of the English word "steak" as if it were the German word "stieck" (which would, of course, rhyme with the English word "weak"). (The story was told to me by a native speaker of German, who was quite fluent in English, although he spoke with what always seemed to me to be a pronounced German accent.)

The story was this: A famous German piano virtuoso, who was well-known to be a vegetarian, gave an astoundingly good performance of some piece at the conclusion of his concert program. As the applause began, a member of the audience sitting in the front row turned to his companion and said, loudly enough to be heard over the enthusiastic applause, "If he can do that on just vegetables, imagine what he could do on steak and potatoes!" The pianist mis-hears the word "steak" as "stieck" and thinks he is hearing the audience call for an encore. Only when this error has been repeated four or five times, does the story become (even mildly) funny, as the audience begins to react to the latest encore with the sentiment that the pianist was "good, but not *that* good".

All of which is a long way of saying that, no, I don't think the word "steak" is ever *properly* pronounced to rhyme with the word "weak".

5 votes Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

OK, thanks! Then it's all just because some Norwegians are pronouncing it incorrect, making it rhyme with weak.. And now I'm able to correct them if they use it the wrong way :o)

2 votes Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

I drove a steak through the vampire's heart.

2 votes Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

It sounds the same as "stake."

5 votes Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

It is never correct for steak to rhyme with weak.

3 votes Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

As far as I know, the word "steak" can only be pronounced as the "a" in "bake."

3 votes Vote!  •  Permalink  •  Report Abuse

Your Comment