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In first-language English pronunciation (Australian, British, American, etc., not Indian, Malaysian, etc.) are there any words with the /e/ (or /ɛ/) sound in "bed" /bed/ at the end of a word? As a counter-example "me" is pronounced /miː/. I don't know of any words ending in "e" where it is pronounced /e/; it is usually either /iː/ or silent. If you do know of any words please specify if they're limited to a certain dialect, region or accent.

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No, there cannot be. Terminal /e/ can only occur as diphthong, as in they. And unstressed /ɛ/ will soon enough go the way of all things, despite what bokeh enthusiasts would have you believe. – tchrist May 10 '14 at 0:27
Great! Want to post that as an answer? – CJ Dennis May 10 '14 at 0:36
The only exception I can think of is unassimilated Yiddish meh 'display of disinterest', which is /mɛ/ in English. But the point is that it's not assimilated. – John Lawler May 10 '14 at 0:38
@JohnLawler I did think of "meh" but discounted it as not being a "real" word. I like your use of "unassimilated". It's a much better way of saying that! – CJ Dennis May 10 '14 at 0:44
@choster I pronounce "tabouleh" as /tæbuːliː/. – CJ Dennis May 10 '14 at 0:47
up vote 7 down vote accepted

No, there cannot be.

Terminal /e/ can only occur as a falling diphthong, as in they. Actually, it is very rare to have /e/ without it being an /ej/ diphthong anywhere in English.

And unstressed /ɛ/ will soon enough go the way of all things, despite what bokeh enthusiasts would have you believe. So it will soon enough be a schwa or gone.

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There are some unassimilated loanwords (mostly from French) that have a non-silent e at the end, which usually retain an acute accent to indicate the unusual-for-English pronunciation. For example: blasé, café, cliché, fiancé, flambé, frappé, macramé, olé, protégé, risqué, soufflé, and touché. However, there is a tendency to dipthongize the /e/ to /eɪ/, so this may not count.

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I think that in French é is pronounced /e/ but, as you say, it becomes /eɪ/ in English. I was also hoping for less obviously foreign words. – CJ Dennis May 10 '14 at 0:38
Loanwords from Japanese get a similar distortion of the final vowel, as in karaoke, anime and sake. – Neil W May 24 '14 at 2:21
But those French words don't have the vowel of bed — French words which end with the vowel of bed end with -ait or -ais, like lait or frais. Those have a different French vowel which doesn't exist in English, but which we replace with /eɪ/ in English. – Peter Shor Jun 23 at 13:19
@PeterShor but those French words do have the vowel /e/, which is the subject of the question. Dan: I think olé comes from Spanish. – phoog Jun 23 at 15:36
@phoog: The OP says the /e/ (or /ɛ/) sound in "bed" /bed/. – Peter Shor Jun 23 at 16:31

Yes, there are.

But first of all, what dialect of English are you talking about? There are many different dialects of English, and answers to pronunciation questions will differ among them. Second, which sound are you actually talking about? There are more than one 'e' sounds you could be referring to, such as /eɪ/ (as in "rein"), /ɛ/ (as in "bed"), and /ə/ (examples differ greatly among dialects).

Examples with /eɪ/

Dan already pointed out a number of examples. Here are some more:

  • résumé
  • purée
  • toupée

I don't see why these should be disqualified just because they end with /eɪ/ rather than /e/, since a pure /e/ occurs very rarely, if at all, in most dialects of English. I also don't see why they should be disqualified because they are borrowed from French: almost 30% of words in English are from French.

If you consider the same sound but not spelled with the letter 'e', then there are many more examples, including

  • clay
  • say
  • weigh

and so forth.

Examples with /ɛ/

This does occur, although admittedly uncommonly, since English phonotactics tend to discourage final or unstressed /ɛ/. Such words tend to be monosyllabic interjections. Here are some examples:

  • meh
  • heh
  • eh
  • yeh

There are a number of borrowed words that may count, although some may pronounce them with /ə/ or /eɪ/.

  • gefilte
  • keffiyeh
  • dahabieh
  • bokeh

Examples with /ə/

There are plenty of such examples, including

  • the (unstressed)
  • comma
  • words ending in 'er' in some dialects: hotter, sharper, braver
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I thought I was pretty specific. Australian, British, American, etc. dialects. I gave an exmaple of the sound. The /e/ sound, not /eɪ/ or /ə/. "bed" to me is /bed/, not /bæɪd/ (baid) or /bəd/ (~bud/~bd). Words like résumé should be disqualified because I was specifically disqualifying them. Maybe it would be clearer if I said that I pronounce "bed" as [bed] and not [bɛd]? The only example word you've given that works the way I pronounce it is gefilte, but only because I have a Jewish background. This word is also uncommon outside the Jewish community and unassimilated into regular English. – CJ Dennis May 11 '14 at 22:26
You pronounce 'bed' as /bed/ and not /bɛd/? I'm doubtful because I've never heard anybody prinounce it that way. [e] only occurs in rare situations in English and it is usually an allophone of /eɪ/. – Peter Olson May 12 '14 at 6:02
I'm following en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPA_chart_for_English_dialects which says that the sound /ɛ/ is realised as [e] in AuE and some NZE, RP, SAE & SSE. It seems to indicate that across all accents that [e] is at least as common as [ɛ], maybe more so. If you can explain the difference using only AuE then I might be convinced that the chart is wrong. – CJ Dennis May 13 '14 at 4:08
@CJ Dennis: Shouldn't latke be pronounced with the same vowel as gefilte? (Don't ask me ... I pronounce both of these with a schwa.) – Peter Shor Jun 23 at 13:14
@Peter Both en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/latke and en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/gefilte_fish give the final sound as /ə/, so it could actually be /e/. I don't know because I had to look up latke. Again, it hasn't assimilated into English; it still sounds like a Yiddish word. – CJ Dennis Jun 23 at 19:50

In first-language English pronunciation . . . are there any words with the /e/ (or /ɛ/) sound in "bed" /bed/ at the end of a word? [P]lease specify if they're limited to a certain dialect, region or accent.

Yes, there's kitteh, which is common in lolspeak. You can hear it pronounced here (in both American and British English) or here (I think maybe synthetically produced).

From Wiktionary:



(Internet, neologism) A cat, chiefly in a lolcat type picture.

2010, Martin Grondin, LOLcat Bible: In Teh Beginnin Ceiling Cat Maded Teh Skiez An Da Urfs N Stuffs, ISBN 1569757348, page 96: You shud wership Ceiling Cat, teh God Kitteh ov Daniel.

There are also a number of similar words, notably "itteh", "bitteh", and "committeh" as seen here:

LOLCats picture of kittens in a box, captioned "itteh bitteh kitteh committeh: Think tank"

OK, that sounds like a silly answer, but I actually think there's more to it than first appears. Lolspeak is an online variety of English (digilect). Its exact nature is still being debated, including at ELL, but linguists have begun studying it more systematically and it does seem to rise above the level of individual slang words or something like Pig Latin. See, for example, Gawne & Vaughan, 2011 or Fiorentini, 2014.

More significantly for this question, some of these online conventions have crossed over into spoken English--my own kids use "OMG" (pronounced oh-em-gee) as an interjection much more frequently than "oh my gosh" or "oh my god" or similar. This phenomenon is also being studied, albeit primarily by younger scholars (many of the hits for "spoken lolspeak" in Google Scholar are for theses of various sorts, rather than published work).

In this context, the appearance of the apparently non-"English" pronunciation of kitteh, which is an English coinage, may suggest that a previously "impossible" word-ending sound has now become more natural for some significant portion of native English speakers as a result of an initially text-only trend.

I suspect that many of the folks who know the word "kitteh" would also know meh, feh, and heh--I have used all of these, which all rhyme. I take it from other answers here that meh and feh both come from Yiddish. Possibly "heh" in its internet sense does as well, or perhaps it is an English altering of "hah" modeled on those examples. Per Wiktionary (sense 2, which includes an audio clip), it is an interjection indicating "Weak amusement, sometimes signaling boredom."

Given these one-syllable examples, it may be that the language (or at least some speakers thereof) is evolving to also allow multi-syllable words such as kitteh to retain their terminal /e/ or /ɛ/ sound.

TL;DR: Among some sub-sets of internet-generation native English speakers, several words ending in the vowel sound of "bed" are in current use, including meh, heh and the (lolspeak) English coinage kitteh.

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Pace Peter Olson, no one's mentioned the

Examples with /ɛ̃/

This is the nasal version of ɛ that, like the click consonants in 'tsk, tsk, tsk,' makes vanishingly few appearances in English.

Here are two examples:

bleh/bleeah/bleah - interjection of disgust/discomfort/indifference http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/bleh

"'weh weh weh' (or 'wah wah wah') cried the baby" - onomatopoeia, obviously

These are both native English as far as I can tell.

They both rhyme with 'Gauguin' (Eugène Henri Paul) (in my dialect anyway) -- the sound ɛ̃ is part of the regular vowel inventory in French. Educated English speakers seem to invoke it often enough to at least pronounce words like 'Gauguin' half-way correctly.

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I take two issues with this one big one small. Big: 'bleah' does not have a nasal vowel for me (or for anyone I can imagine). Small: the spelling 'weh' doesn't correspond to anything in English for me (but yes, 'wah wah' is pronounced as a nasal when mimicking crying, but not for baby talk 'water') – Mitch Jun 23 at 13:56

protected by tchrist Sep 14 '14 at 0:13

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