PetaPixel

How Do You Pronounce “Bokeh”?

The term “bokeh” is often used in the world of photography to describe the quality of the out-of-focus blur in photographs. Do you know how it’s pronounced?

The term comes from the Japanese word “boke” (暈け/ボケ), which translates to “blur”, “haze”, or “fuzziness”. It made its way into English-speaking world back in 1997 after Photo Techniques editor Mike Johnston (who now writes at The Online Photographer) included three articles on the topic for the March/April 1997 issue of the magazine.

An example of a photograph that features bokeh

An example of a photograph that features bokeh

In the articles, Johnston changed the spelling from “boke” to “bokeh” to make the pronunciation of the word more intutive, lest people pronounce it like “poke” with a ‘b’. Johnston writes,

[It was] one of the few issues of that magazine that sold out. My own contribution was…er, a letter. I decided that people too readily mispronounced “boke,” so I added an “h” to the word in our articles, and voilá, “bokeh” was born […]

Actually, to be precise, what I had noticed was not just that people mispronounced the word as it was commonly spelled, but that they had a tendency to ridicule it, making lame jokes about it as if it rhymed with “smoke” or “toke” or “joke.” Actually, even spelled boke, it is properly pronounced with bo as in bone and ke as in Kenneth, with equal stress on either syllable.

Some of the other ways the word is pronounced these days (which many people consider mispronunciations) include boh-kuh (with the second part sounding like “cut”), and boh-kay (which sounds like bouquet).

If you want to be correct, however, the straight-from-the-horses-mouth pronunciation can be heard in the video above by Justin Marx.


Image credit: I ♥ Bokeh! by maira.gall