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How to say: Pinochet

14:31 UK time, Tuesday, 5 December 2006

A weekly guide to the words and names in the news from Martha Figueroa-Clark of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

"This week, the former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet Ugarte was hospitalised following a heart attack. Our anglicised recommendation for his full name is ow-GOOS-toh PIN-uh-shay oo-GAR-tay. The decision to recommend the anglicised pronunciation was made on the basis that the name has appeared in the news over many years. PIN-uh-shay (sometimes also PEE-nuh-shay or PEE-noh-shay) appears to be the most usual pronunciation of this name in Britain.

"There is some variation in the Spanish pronunciation of this name among Chileans. As a half-Chilean, I have, over the years, heard the name pronounced by Chileans in the UK and in Chile, including the Chilean media. Perhaps the most common Chilean pronunciations of Pinochet are peen-otch-AY and peen-otch-ETT (the actual vowel sound in the former is a monophthong in Spanish. The consonant sound at the end of the latter is often inaudible to a native-English ear). Less commonly, it is pronounced pee-nosh-AY, perhaps out of a belief that it should be pronounced in a French way. It is worth noting that the pronunciation of orthographic 'ch' in Spanish varies considerably among Chileans: in some speakers the sound is close to 'tch' in church, while others pronounce it as 'sh' in 'shirt'. On the whole, however, Chilean learners of English tend to struggle with the pronunciation of English 'ch' as in church."

(For a guide to our phonetic pronunciations, click here.)


  1. At 11:25 AM on 06 Dec 2006, Dale Whitaker wrote:

    I remember enjoying a BBC news bulletin some years about a Chilean demonstration with the newsreader saying Pin-uh-shay and the crowd in the background clearly saying Peen-otch-ett.

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