How is the Word “Kratom” Pronounced? A Quick Lesson in Phonetics

Many people are familiar with the Mitagyna speciosa plant, but do they know how to pronounce the word Kratom correctly? Unsurprisingly, the pronunciation of this two-syllable word has attracted a lot of confusion. This is partially due to the fact that there’s more than one correct way to say this word. According to the Oxford Dictionary, there are two acceptable English variants. We’ll take a look at those pronunciations in a moment. But first, let’s learn more about the word Kratom itself.

Definition of Kratom

image of definition

There are two primary definitions for Kratom.

  1. “The tree, related to the coffee plant, from which Kratom leaves are taken.”
  2. “A preparation of the leaves of a Southeast Asian evergreen tree.”

The word and scientific genus originated in Thailand. There are two prominent theories regarding the etymology of the genus. The full scientific name for Kratom is ‘Mitragyna speciosa Korthals.’

  1. The person who discovered Mitragyna speciosa (Korthals) reportedly stated that the plant’s stigmas “resembled the shape of a bishop’s mitre.” Hence, Mitragyna speciosa.
  2. Another theory states that the first two parts come from Greek words. “Μήτρα – Mitra – Womb; Γυναίκα – Gyna – Woman (Same prefix as gynecologist). The last part, Speciosa, comes from the Latin word for beautiful.”

How to Pronounce the Word Kratom in English

In America, the UK, Australia, and all other English-speaking countries, there are two primary ways to pronounce Kratom.

  • /kreɪtəm/ – “KRAY-tum” – rhymes with ‘Tatum.’
  • /kratəm/ – “KRAH-tum” – rhymes with ‘atom.’

How to Pronounce the Word Kratom in SE Asia

The pronunciation of Kratom in Thailand and Malaysia is similar to English, but there’s one major difference. In these countries, the letter ‘R’ is silent. Therefore, Kratom becomes Ketum, and is pronounced KEY-tum (rhymes with ‘Tatum’) or KEH-tum (rhymes with ‘atom’).

Alternative Pronunciations

Regional dialects can cause subtle changes to the way the word Kratom is pronounced. In America, some people say KRAY-tome. In the UK, there’s a subtle difference that makes the word KRA-tome. Finally, in SE Asia, some natives pronounce it KAH-tome.

What’s the Most Popular Pronunciation?

With so many different accents, dialects, and languages, it’s difficult to claim that any one specific pronunciation is the best. However, you’re likely to hear it pronounced as KRAH-tum by most Western enthusiasts. Interestingly, news reporters often tend to lean more toward KRAY-tum. Whichever version you prefer is technically accurate, but others in the community may still try to correct you. Some Western “purists” insist that it’s KRAH-tum.

What About Mitragyna Speciosa?

Yet again, there are differences of opinion regarding the pronunciation of Mitragyna speciosa. The two most common forms of Mitragyna are:

  • Mih-truh-JAY-nuh
  • Mih-tra-JIE-na

Speciosa is typically pronounced like SPE-cie-O-sa (similar to species).

Final Thoughts

image of kratom leaves

Whether you say KRAY-tum or KRAH-tum, the end result is the same. These pronunciations are close enough that anyone aware of this plant should have no problem understanding you. When you’re buying Kratom, most vendors aren’t going to care about the exact pronunciation. If you’re nervous about mispronouncing the word, you can always turn to online Kratom vendors because they’ll have no idea how you say it!

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