How to Pronounce Anise

Bring up anise pronunciation, and you'll find there are two ways to say this common ingredient—and no one's backing down. So what gives?

You know how to bake with the darn thing (or do you?), but you have no idea how you actually pronounce it. Consulting your friends is no help. Some say ANN-iss, but others are just as insistent that it’s pronounced ANN-niece. You’ve all but given up and resigned yourself to just calling it “The thing that tastes like licorice.”

Rest easy, there IS an answer. But how did this discrepancy come about in the first place?

It All Started with a Tummy-Ache

Anise came into the English language via Old French, which in turn got the word from the Latin word anisum, or Greek anison, which means dill. It was first grown in Egypt and the Middle East, and then was traded in Europe because of its highly valued medicinal uses. Anise has a carminative effect when consumed—in layman’s terms, that means it helps with gas. In fact, Ancient Romans cooked cakes with the seed to eat at the end of meals, lest they be struck with some unfortunate digestive issues in front of company.

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The Honest Anise Answer

This journey through Europe is the source of the warring pronunciations. While Merriam-Webster declares the approved pronunciation as ANN-iss, with the “a” sound like “cat,” the word itself is derived from French, which pronounces it “ANN-niece.” So, it’s possible that some regions of the U.S. that are heavily French-influenced, like Louisiana, might have strong opinions on the pronunciation.

Here are 20 more food names you might be misprounouncing.

Potato, Pah-tato, Tomato, Tah-mato, Anise…Ann-niece?

You can go to battle for ANN-iss knowing that Merriam-Webster has got your back. But maybe it’s a better idea to put your differences aside, and break some Ancient Roman anti-gas bread together instead.

Try These Awesome Anise Recipes
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Maggie Ward
Maggie’s background in the arts gave her a penchant for collaborative communication and the pursuit of conveying ideas in a clear, striking way. Outside of writing for Taste of Home, Maggie loves playing the piano and writing music, as well as performing with various bands and theatre productions around the city of Chicago.