This a question about how to pronounce the "s" in "parmesan".

Where I come from (Australia), it's said as a "z", or almost an "s", with only the first syllable stressed. But a friend from the USA heard me say it like that, laughed, then confidently corrected me saying it is pronounced "zh" (like "je" in French) ie like "Parmezhan", and with primary stress on the last syllable (secondary on the first).

Searching Google, an American company, for "define paramesan" shows the "s" should be said as "z".

Which is it?

  • 1
    "z" in English ("dzh" in Italian "parmegiano").
    – Greg Lee
    Oct 1, 2015 at 19:55
  • In Britain it is pronounced as a z. But what I would like to know is which syllable takes the emphasis. most people nowadays put it on the last ...san. But I seem to recall a time when it went on the middle ...me...
    – WS2
    Oct 1, 2015 at 19:56
  • The major online dictionaries provide not only pronunciation guides, but audio clips of words, in general "British" and "American" accents. Have you consulted any of these?
    – choster
    Oct 1, 2015 at 19:58
  • 2
    @WS2, I hear it with primary stress on the first syllable and secondary stress on the last syllable: "1parme2san".
    – Greg Lee
    Oct 1, 2015 at 19:58
  • 1
    Interestingly, what we call "Parmesan" here in the United States--the powdered cheesy substance in a cylinder--cannot legally be called that in Europe, because it falls afoul of "protected designation of origin" laws, which say that if it's not from Parma, it's not legally "Parmesan". Oct 1, 2015 at 20:22

1 Answer 1


There is in fact a difference in pronunciation of "parmesan" between the UK and US. According to Cambridge's dictionary, the pronunciation difference you noticed is consistent.

Speakers from the US pronounce it with a 'zh' sound while UK speakers will say it with a 'z' sound. Which is more "correct" depends on the listeners you are speaking with. Neither is always "right."

  • 1
    Your reference gives a transcription with 'z' not 'zh' for the American pronunciation, though the sound clip does sound like 'zh'. The sound clip has primary stress on the first syllable, though the transcription shows it on the last syllable. There's a problem here.
    – Greg Lee
    Oct 1, 2015 at 20:46
  • 1
    @GregLee I was just assuming they didn't know how to use IPA or didn't want to confuse their readers much. My answer is based on the audio clips which both sounded right from my experience hearing the word in different contexts. Oct 1, 2015 at 20:49
  • Interesting to learn that there is a difference between the UK and US. However, I don't think it's a consistent difference. I'd imagine that at least some Americans use /z/; I think I've heard it and it's a plausible spelling-pronunciation. I think I myself (I'm from California) use both versions.
    – herisson
    Oct 1, 2015 at 21:58
  • I'm from the UK and find "parma-zhon" hilarious. My US friends find "parma-san" equally funny. Feb 3, 2019 at 16:56

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