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What is the correct way to pronounce niche? I've always said and heard nitch, but now I hear neesh, but it always sounds trendy to me.

Thoughts?

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Answers below suffice, I think, but I go with "neesh" - probably a nod to the years of high school French I can no longer speak. –  cori Aug 20 '10 at 2:33

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Either way is correct. "Neesh" is the French pronunciation and has always been used by some English speakers.

My preference is for "nitch" but then I pronounce clique as "click" -- I like my English English and my French French.

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Haha, I like that last line. –  Kosmonaut Aug 20 '10 at 1:58

Since niche is a word that is directly borrowed from French, some people choose to pronounce the word using the original French pronunciation. Merriam-Webster lists both pronunciations (as well as the halfway-between pronunciation of "nish" [nɪʃ]), so both are technically valid.

Phonologically speaking, there is nothing in the pronunciation "neesh" [niʃ] that is actually foreign to English, so to me it doesn't really sound off-putting. A similar example would be envelope, which many people pronounce "onvelope", a nod to the French pronunciation (though not fully faithful anyway).

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Meanwhile, the word envelop I've never heard pronounced the "French" way. –  Joe Z. Aug 21 at 3:45

As far as I know the "nitch" pronunciation is more common in the US, whereas the "neesh" pronunciation is used more in the UK. Seems to be a tomayto-tomahto thing.

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