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I've heard meelee, meyley (maylay), and mehlay. Is there any "correct" way to pronounce it in the U.S.?

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It's not 'mee-lee'. It is inspired by the French pronunciation, which is mostly like 'may-lay'. –  Mitch Apr 26 '11 at 0:11
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Oh man... thank you for asking this question. I always cringe when I hear gamers say "mee lee" >_< –  M. Dudley Apr 26 '11 at 3:04
    
Just like they do on Super Smash Bros., and I used the same intonation ;) –  Wayne Werner Apr 30 '12 at 14:16

3 Answers 3

up vote 18 down vote accepted

NOAD gives these pronunciations:

melee |ˈmāˌlā; māˈlā| (also mêlée)

Which are, in order of usage, may-lay, may-lay, and also muh-lay

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This answer gets my approval. –  Nic Apr 26 '11 at 6:15
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In other words - Not mee-lee –  jjnguy Apr 26 '11 at 12:33
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Very much meh-lay in the UK. –  Orbling May 8 '11 at 13:48
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@tchrist: "There is no excuse not to have IPA on a modern computer." That's a bold statement. Does it include notebooks, tablets, and smart phones? –  Robusto Feb 19 '12 at 15:09
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@Robusto I stand by what I wrote. –  tchrist Feb 19 '12 at 15:11

Melee comes from French, to fight, and is pronounced by French rules, with accents it is mêlée, which in English the e-circonflex would be more like "e" in Greg, and ée would be "ay" as in "gray".

Most commonly English speakers butcher it however they like, so no, there is not one correct way to fail to pronounce the French word. It's a potayto-potahtoh thing.

Most commonly I hear "Meh-lay", from US video-game users who use the term to refer to close-ranged weapons like knives, in first person shooters.

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Is appealing to etymology really a legitimate way to determine pronunciation? Do you pronounce "two" as "twah"? –  Malvolio Apr 25 '11 at 23:57
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Only reason I don't pronounce it "melly" anymore, as a word I read before hearing, is because of Super Smash Brothers Melee. Before that, I thought that the "meh-lay" attack in Halo and "melly" were two different, but probably related, words... –  kitukwfyer Apr 26 '11 at 0:30
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@kitukwfyer -- "melly"? That's hilarious, it should be pronounced melly! –  Malvolio Apr 26 '11 at 6:26
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David Beckham: "Victoria, how many Mels were there in the Spice Girls?" Victoria: "Two David. Mel B and Mel C." David: "Oh. Only I heard on the news there was a Mel A outside a night-club last night." (From "The Big impression", BBC) –  MikeJ-UK Apr 26 '11 at 8:15
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It's not mere etymology, it's a loan word. –  Warren P May 2 '11 at 22:44

Using IPA, the American pronunciation is /ˈmeɪleɪ/, while the British pronunciation is /ˈmɛleɪ/, as reported by the New Oxford American Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary.

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+1 for including IPA –  Peter Olson Apr 26 '11 at 3:48

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