I always fear my conversation sounds like this:

— What would you like to drink, sir?
— I will take some cock, thanks.

Any tips on how to pronounce Coke so it is not mistaken for anything? :)

  • to make it simple: kok = cock, kouk = coke
    – roman m
    Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 22:18
  • 8
    ask for pepsi then?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 19:13
  • serg, you just need to remember that the letter o has a different sound in each of those words.
    – Tristan r
    Commented Mar 15, 2014 at 18:57
  • "Coke" is short for "Coca Cola", with "Coca" being a reference to the same coca leaves that yield cocaine. See if simply pronouncing the first syllable of "cocaine" seems to work for you.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 2:31
  • Related.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 17:48

5 Answers 5


Coke is pronounced /kəʊk/ in British English and /koʊk/ in American English. Cock is pronounced /kɒk/ in British English and /kɑk/ in American English.

As you can see, it is the vowel sounds that are different. The two sounds are distinguished in two ways: (1) by one being a diphthong and the other being a monophthong, (the vowel sound changes quality in a diphthong and remains stable in a monophthong), and (2) the position of the tongue is different. The “long O” sound of Coke is a diphthong, whereas the “short O” sound of cock is a monophthong, and it is pronounced with the tongue in a lower position. Here is a vowel diagram for British English: British English vowel diagram

As you can see the vowel sound of Coke starts with the tongue in the position for /ə/, which is in a middle neutral position, and it moves up and slightly back to the position for /ʊ/. The vowel sound of cock, on the other hand, is pronounced with the tongue very low and very far back in the mouth, and it doesn’t move during the production of the sound. The differences in American English are similar.

Here is a page discussing all the pairs of words in English that differ only by these sounds, which suggests that this sound pair is a frequent difficulty for non-native speakers of English. I would suggest looking up those word pairs in an online dictionary, like Merriam-Webster and listening carefully to the recordings for each pair of words to hear the differences between them.

  • 3
    What's the difference between half-closed and half-opened? Just how optimistic you are? :p Commented Sep 17, 2010 at 21:27
  • Tongue position is part of this but lip position is also part of it. Very difficult to teach this by writing and pictures.
    – delete
    Commented Sep 17, 2010 at 22:49
  • 3
    @serg555, according to the Wikipedia article about Ukrainian phonology, the O sound of Ukrainian is ɔ, which is kind of in between the sounds for Coke and cock, so your confusion is understandable.
    – nohat
    Commented Sep 18, 2010 at 1:00
  • 7
    @serg555: the problem is that Russian and Ukrainian don't really have diphtongs. So, to explain it in the most simple terms, "cock" is closer to "кок", while coke is closer to "ко́ук", where the "оу" is kind of one connected sound, rather than two separate ones. If you are familiar with musical terms, I would say that "cock" is (mezzo) staccato, while "coke" is legato.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Sep 19, 2010 at 17:10
  • 6
    Down voted for detail? Even when it includes a short two sentence summary at the start?
    – Nat
    Commented Jan 20, 2011 at 1:39

It rhymes with "poke" and "joke", not "pock" and "jock". It's a long o sound.

Or you could just switch to Pepsi.

  • 2
    To expand on this, see Kosmonaut's answer to a similar question.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Sep 17, 2010 at 18:48
  • Thanks, @RegDwight. Somehow I didn't remember seeing that answer before.
    – mmyers
    Commented Sep 17, 2010 at 19:01
  • +1 for the Pepsi suggestion. Frankly if you have any trouble at all with this word sounding like the word for male genitalia in conversation, I'd avoid it like the plague until you are confident you have no trouble with it.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 14:55

What would you like to drink, sir? — I will take some cock, thanks.

Maybe it's the "take" as well. "I'd like a coke" or something.

Sorry but it's very difficult to teach pronunciation via typing words into a computer so it's hard to make a suggestion, except if you exaggerate the vowel enough "coke" will not sound anything like "cock" to a native speaker.


is a list of minimal pairs for this vowel pair.


I can see how this can be a problem...

The difference between cock and coke is this (at least the best I can do in writing):

the "o" in c*o*ck is an "open" O. (your lips are pretty opened when you pronounce it : "r*o*ck", "s*o*ccer", "c*o*ffee"...)

the "o" in c*o*ke is more complicated. It's the combination of two sounds : a "closed" o (lips almost closed, not used a lot by itself in the english language) immediately followed by a "u" sound ("t*o* d*o*", "p*ooh*", "L*ou*isiana"...)

For future reference, the sound of the "o" in "c*o*ke" is the same as these : "r*o*se", c*o*de, cr*o*w, gr*o*w, rainb*o*w, cl*o*se, wind*o*w...

EDIT : You shouldn't say "I'll take a coke", you should say "I'll have a coke". Take isn't used properly and it adds misunderstanding to the mispronunciation.

  • Tonik, that's a good point about using have instead of take. It sounds more natural.
    – Tristan r
    Commented Mar 15, 2014 at 18:25

Everyone is giving detailed, technical answers. How about I give you a mental substitution for the word instead? Think of the spelling as Coak or Coh-k instead. Make sure it's a long "o" pronounced like "oh". That should fix the issue once you practice using it. It took me a long time to stop pronouncing Aqua (ah-coo-wah) as Akwa (ak-wah), so I sort of understand your issue.

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