Homepage   |    Shop Spices & Blends   |    Recipes & More   |    About Us

Spotlight on Spice: How do you say 'cumin'?

cumin seeds being ground into powder by pestle

You would think after so many generations cooking with the seed, we in the English speaking world could decide on one way to pronounce it.

Q-min?  Q-men?  Koo-min?  Koo-men?  Come-in?

Cumin.  Or wait, it's also spelled cummin.

The logical step would be to turn to the dictionary.  But as definitive as a dictionary is supposed to be, it was surprisingly vague when we tried to determine "What is a spice?"  So when we looked up 'cumin' in various British and American dictionaries - Oxford, American Heritage, Longman, Webster - and found multiple suggestions for pronunciation (come-in, koo-min, q-min), it was just as disappointing.

Maybe the origin of the word would shed light on this spicy dilemma? From Oxford Dictionary: Old English cymen, from Latin cuminum, from Greek kuminon, probably of Semitic origin and related to Hebrew kammōn and Arabic kammūn; superseded in Middle English by forms from Old French cumon, comin, also from Latin.

cumin seeds and mortar and pestle

So where does that leave us? Back to where we started.

Is how you pronounce 'cumin' based on which part of the world you are from, or even which part of a country?   Not necessarily.  Like the pronunciation of 'coupon', cumin knows no geographical boundaries.

Or maybe it does. How do you pronounce cumin?


After voting, please leave a comment below telling us how you pronounce cumin, and which part of the world you are from. And if you are not a native English speaker, what is cumin in your own language?

(We may have to discuss the pronunciation of 'anise' in an upcoming post...)

27 comments:

BiteMyCake said...

We in Croatia pronounce it koo-min and it is called exactly the same in Croatian language

Teresa said...

Oddly enough Sheila and I were discussing this very thing at lunch on Saturday! I say q-min, and she says Koo-min; I guess we are both right (or wrong). Aunt Teresa

Tanvi said...

I am Indian, but born and brought up in Chicago. I grew up calling cumin "jeeru" as that is what it is known as in Gujarati. After I learned the English word, I call it q-min.

wok with ray said...

Here in the States, it is pronounced - Cue Min or Kyu Min

Tara said...

I've always pronounced it Q-min. From South Africa :)

guest said...

I pronounce it koo-min, I'm from Michigan.

Maja Matus said...

I would like to say "come in", but we in Croatia pronounce it "Koo-min" :)

Adventuress Heart said...

In Arabic it's "come-moon" Say it quick.

seasonwithspice said...

This is great to hear from people all over the world! The different Arabic pronunciation is really interesting, since it probably dates back much longer in history.

Indonesia Eats said...

Obviously it has a different name in bahasa Indonesia and Malaysia as well :)

Kristin Dinda VanCleave said...

Koo-min and SW Michigan.

seasonwithspice said...

Hi Kristin, I think the Midwest is split 50/50 between Koo-min and Q-min. I'm in the Q-min camp, but that may be the result of Malaysian influences (aka Reese).

M. Alexandria Yoong said...

I'm from Malaysia.
Never cooked as a child & never knew all local names of spices, etc.
I still have a problem telling my fish & vegetables apart! :D

When I started cooking in India, I knew it as "Jeera" and picked up the pronunciation "Q-min" from some locals there... :)

Season with Spice said...

Hi Alexandria - I too took it for granted when I was a child and never learned the names of our local spices although they are such an integral part of Malaysian cuisine. I am glad that I am making it up for the learning losses as an adult. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

It is confusing to learn the names of spices in different languages though. For example, cumin is jintan putih while aniseed is jintan manis in Bahasa Malay. I am still trying remember the names in Chinese so I can have the spice talk with my mom! Well, it's all part of the fun:)

Erin Bowman said...

I am from New Zealand and I say koo-min mostly and sometimes Q-min???

Season with Spice said...

Thanks Erin, I guess there's no wrong answer

Just another curious onlooker said...

I pronounce it come'-in, which is how my mother taught me. She was born in Buffalo, raised in Chicago, but she raised us in Southern California.

Season with Spice said...

Interesting, the pronunciation definitely changes from family to family...

Kipoley said...

If people know what you are talking about than you said it right:) I'm in Michigan too. Koo-min is my favorite spice!

kiki white said...

I pronounce it Q-min. Once I moved from Texas to Miami, FL, I found many Latinos pronounced it koo-min.

carey said...

I've been saying Q-min for many years, which I think I picked up somewhere along the way during/after college (in the northeastern part of the states). I recently discovered, however, that my father pronounces it koo-min, which I think must come from our Syrian side of the family. It made me reconsider my own pronunciation. :)

Season with Spice said...

Good point, Kipoley

Season with Spice said...

I think once spices become more understood, cooked with, and talked about in American culture, we will finally come to an agreement on how to say 'cumin' :)

Allie said...

I'm down in Alabama and I've always said Q-min, but I've always said it quietly because I never knew if I was wrong! haha

Season with Spice said...

If you say it with confidence, no one will question you:) Thanks Allie.

Michael said...

I say cumino

SeasonWithSpice said...

Here in Australia, all three pronunciations are used. I say come-in but as I sell spices and spice blends, I usually use all three so as not to exclude anyone!

Post a Comment