According to this extract from Wikipedia, the pronunciation of the term piste meaning "a ski run of compacted snow.":

  • varies slightly in English, with British English using a long "e", (e.g. rhymes with "beast"), and American pronunciation using a short "i" (e.g. rhymes with "list").

Actually, references such as the Cambridge Dictionary or the ODO suggest that the pronunciation is the same in both dialects, that is, with a long "e".

Does the AmE pronunciation of "piste" really differ from the BrE one, or are both versions correct?

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    Both American Heritage and Merriam-Webster. The Wikipedia entry cites Merriam-Webster as its source, and the link takes you to an audio file of somebody saying piste which doesn't match the actual audio-file you get in Merriam-Webster's online dictionary. So I would be very much inclined to doubt the Wikipedia entry. Nov 27, 2016 at 20:57
  • @PeterShor But... the 'pissed' audio-file is marked as 'piste' on the (linked) M-W website... visual.merriam-webster.com/sounds/sports-games/combat-sports/… It's about fencing??
    – Řídící
    Nov 27, 2016 at 21:01
  • The actual website this comes from gives a picture of piste as it is used in fencing, not skiing. Nov 27, 2016 at 21:02
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    @JOSH: This discussion forum seems to indicate that in fencing, both pronunciations are used. Nov 27, 2016 at 21:10
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    In the US, not one person in 100 has ever used the word or even heard it used. Any pronunciation used is either purely a phonetic "guess" or copied from foreign sources.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 9, 2017 at 21:55

1 Answer 1


Neither pronunciation of piste (with /ɪ/, like pissed, or with /iː/, like pieced) seems to be strictly localized to a specific geographical region (which is not surprising, I think, given that it's a rarely-heard word and it's likely a fair amount of people base their pronunciation on its spelling).

Currently, in both regions it seems the /ɪ/ pronunciation is rare and the /iː/ pronunciation is predominant. The comments by Peter Shor indicate that it's possible the /ɪ/ pronunciation is more common in the context of fencing. However, I only saw one person in this forum thread who mentioned hearing or using this pronunciation, and BladorthinTheGrey left a comment here saying "I live in Britain and I am a fencer, I have never heard anyone pronounce it with an /ɪ/". So it seems even in fencing it is quite a minority pronunciation.

The Oxford English Dictionary records the "long e" pronunciation as current for both British and American English, and it also has a note saying the N.E.D.(1907) gave the pronunciation /pɪst/ for the variant of this word spelled pist.

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    I live in Britain and I am a fencer, I have never heard anyone pronounce it with an /ɪ/. Every fencer I've met pronounces it like the original French (/iː/), which is probably related to the French history of the sport (think En Guarde!); every non-fencer also uses that. It is, however, easy to see how someone unfamiliar with the term would think of using an /ɪ/. Jan 9, 2017 at 21:10
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    More anecdotal evidence - I'm an American who has done some fencing. My experience agrees with that of BladorthinTheGrey.
    – user888379
    Jan 9, 2017 at 21:31

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