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
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 0:27
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    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. Commented May 10, 2014 at 0:38
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    @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
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 0:44
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    @choster I pronounce "tabouleh" as /tæbuːliː/.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 0:47
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    @JohnLawler I'm not sure what you mean by assimilation here. If you mean phonological assimilation, then I don't see what you mean because meh is not an example of a word where assimilation would be likely to happen. If you mean that it hasn't been widely adopted in English usage, then I disagree with you. Commented May 10, 2014 at 9:35

5 Answers 5


No, there cannot be. Phonemic /e/ at the end of a word in English can only occur as a phonetic falling diphthong [ej], as in say or they. That’s why those have a ‹y› in our spelling today, and why sleigh has an ‹i› in it.

And unstressed /ɛ/ will soon enough go the way of all things, despite what bokeh enthusiasts would have you believe. (Same with the meh-sayers.) Because English phonotactics forbid an open /ɛ/ at the end of the word, those will therefore soon enough become either a phonemic schwa /ə/ — or else become a close vowel like /e/ or /i/ phonemically and so one with the characteristic falling phonetic diphthong [ej] or [ij] required by English phonotactics.

I therefore little doubt that the word currently spelled bokeh will end up /ˈbokə/ just like the boca heard in the city of Boca Raton, Florida, to rhyme with mocha.

The other two possibilities are for bokeh to wind up rhyming either with hokey or else with hockey. This would be like how Spanish chile which ends with /e/ becomes in English chili which ends in /i/.

Only if the second syllable became stressed could bokeh become /boˈke/ or more likely /bəˈke/, which is the sort of thing you get when in English you pronounce the Spanish word olé under English phonotactic rules.

Whatever happens to words like bokeh as they assimilate to English, they will need to be respelled to use a spelling similar to whatever words they end up rhyming with in order for them to be predictably pronounced by monoglot English readers.

Probably spelling what is now commonly rendered bokeh in English as boka would have been better from the get-go.

  • what is the IPA for bokeh, and what do you suggest it will be? Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 14:49
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    @marcellothearcane English phonotactics forbid an open /ɛ/ at the end of the word. It will therefore become either a schwa or else become a close vowel phonemically (and with a falling diphthong phonetically as again required by English phonotactics). I little doubt it will end up /ˈbokə/ just like the boca heard in the city of Boca Raton, Florida, to rhyme with mocha. The other possibility is for it to end like Spanish chile /e/ > EN chili /i/ and so rhyme with hokey or hockey. Only if the second syllable became stressed could it become /bəˈke/ as when in EN you say ES olé.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 16:56
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    For the time being, though, /ˡbokɛ/ or /ˡboʊkɛ/ is fairly common, despite not being phonotactically valid. Either that will change as the word becomes more naturalised, or the phonotactics will change. The latter will probably require more than just the one word; perhaps the commonness of meh is enough to help. Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 19:58

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
    Commented May 11, 2014 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/. Commented May 12, 2014 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
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 4:08
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    @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.) Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 13:14
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    @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
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 19:50

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
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 0:38
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    Loanwords from Japanese get a similar distortion of the final vowel, as in karaoke, anime and sake.
    – Neil W
    Commented May 24, 2014 at 2:21
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    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. Commented Jun 23, 2016 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
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 15:36
  • @phoog: The OP says the /e/ (or /ɛ/) sound in "bed" /bed/. Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 16:31

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.


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.

  • 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
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 13:56

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