What is the pronunciation difference between collar and color? Can a native speaker tell them apart?

  • Both vowels have different sounds.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 8, 2019 at 12:55

7 Answers 7


Yes, native speakers can easily differentiate these words.

If you have trouble with IPA, you can try pronouncing them this way (for American English):

color ≈ culler (the vowel is a short "uh" sound)

collar ≈ caller (the syllable following c is just like the word all)

You might try practicing with a sentence like "What color is your collar?" and overemphasize the differences until you get used to the sound.

  • 6
    This is Californian or Canadian pronunciation; in the East, some of us distinguish between color = culler, collar and caller. Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 9:46
  • 2
    Well, I'm neither from nor have lived in California or Canada; I have lived in New York, DC, and Florida. I think caller and collar can be distinguishable, but often aren't; I also think the above explanation is an effective way to think about it for someone who can't currently identify any difference between the two words.
    – user13141
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 9:55
  • 2
    Now that you've brought it up, I agree; this indeed should be an effective way to think about it for somebody who can't currently identify any difference. Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 10:13
  • 1
    +1 for What color is your collar?.
    – user
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 10:53

The vowel sound is slightly more open in collar [ɑ] than in color [ʌ].

English pronunciation is not always easy for non native speakers. A good thing is to be able to read the IPA. Most bilingual paper dictionaries will give the pronunciation of words in the IPA.
And on monolingual dictionaries on the web you can listen to the word as well:

An on the Wiktionary, the Freedictionary and lots of others.

On the University of Iowa website there is a very good flash animation that shows all the movements involved when pronouncing each vowel.

  • 1
    You seem to have listed the British pronunciation of color and American of collar, regarding the ending /r/.
    – user4727
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 9:01
  • @ Tim: Thanks. I got confused when copy pasting link. I have corrected now. +1
    – None
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 9:48

The difference is quite clear in British pronunciation. Colour is /ˈkʌlə/, rhyming with duller. Collar is /ˈkɒlə(r)/, rhyming with dollar. (I realize those rhymes may not be much help if duller and dollar sound the same in American pronunciation.)

  • 3
    Color rhymes with duller and collar with dollar in American pronunciation as well. This may not help if the OP also has trouble telling duller and dollar apart, though. Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 12:05
  • @Peter Shor In which American dialect does "duller" have a /ʌ/ sound? (It's not the same as "dollar", but it's not the same as "color" either. (It's confusing because both the "l-colored" and the standard version of /ʌ/ are written the same way in some schemes, but color definitely has the latter and dull definitely has the former)
    – Random832
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 14:12
  • 1
    @Random832: I agree with you, they're not quite the same sound. But is it a good idea to confuse someone learning English with l-colored /ʌ/? I don't think color and duller are that far apart, but maybe I think that because I distinguish cot and caught. Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 15:12
  • @Peter Shor I suppose our opinions simply differ - most importantly, I think the vowel sounds are further apart than color and collar in the first place. And the issue in pronouncing color correctly is to not make the l-colored sound - so focus on making a "kuh" sound and then add the rest afterward without changing the sound (as in Malvolio's answer) is better than relying on an analogy to "duller" [which the questioner may not know how to pronounce, and which doesn't actually rhyme]
    – Random832
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 15:18
  • I don't think cot/caught is really relevant - except in as much as it affects "collar" (and its distinction from "caller", and Malvolio's answer's "aw"), and I distinguish them too in any case.
    – Random832
    Commented Nov 3, 2011 at 15:20

What color was the caller's collar? Thinking about the differences makes me question my pronunciation (and kind of makes my brain hurt). The OP had a good question and the answer varies depending on accent. I pronounce color like cahler, but my husband says culler. My pronunciation of collar is similar to that of color, the difference is very subtle and I don't know how to describe it - for color my tongue is more forward giving a slightly more open/hollow vowel. For caller I say cawler - but not with a southern drawl. My husband pronounces collar and caller the same - cahler.


Color is pronounced much shorter than collar. Pronouncing collar you spend a bit more time on the first coll- part.


For "collar" you say "caw", opening your mouth to about half-open as you say the vowel.

For "color" you say "cuh", keeping your mouth just barely ajar.

In both cases, the second syllable is just lrrr.


Approximate to Kollar (gentle r) and Culla in British English.

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