How To Say 'Bokeh'

If you're a photographer you've used bokeh. It's a defining element in your work and your style is partly due to it's existence, whether intentional or by accident. Do you know how to pronounce the word that you so often use? Here is a fun video by Photo Gear News to show us how. The video also shows that the English speaking members of the world don't know how to pronounce it, although we all respond to the "bokalicious" hash tags on social networks and read the articles about it. Most importantly, we all judge lenses in some degree based on the bokeh-quality of the images it produces. In my opinion, it's something we should get right, and use it in the correct way. It shouldn't be made up. Pronunciation and meaning of these terms all add to the professional nature of our work as photographers and videographers, regardless of accent or dialect. 

Wikipedia defines bokeh to be "the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens." The word comes from the Japanese term "Boke", which means "blur" or "haze." The Japanese also use it in the sense of a mental haze or senility.

I live in Paris, but the city's name is pronounced without the "s" by the French, and it's Francais and not French, so I understand language and culture use different ways to express meaning. What do you think, should we pronounce it in an American or British way, like we currently do, or should we use the Japanese word as reference and use it like they do? Let us know in the comments.  

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9 Comments

Hans Heigenhauser's picture

I always pronounce it with the "Bo" like in "Boston" and the "keh" like in "Kensington". I think that's like the Japanese would. But I never thought about that. It's just that we Germans would also pronounce it that way.

It's easy for me since I never use the word. Other than mirror lenses (are such lenses made anymore?), I don't see enough of a difference between lenses to care.

Todd Vorenkamp's picture

"Out-of-focus blur."

Yep. Reminds me of the people that like to say a giclee print. I respond by saying, oh you mean an inkjet print? 😁

Dallas Dahms's picture

Oh, hokey, pokey, bokeh...

Ale Vidal's picture

I though it was boo-keh, before realizing it was a Jap word. Then, of course, I corrected myself. Pretty easy for an Italian like me, harder for a native English, where even the sound of "o" sounds different compared to the Italian/Japanese version.

Michael Yearout's picture

Potato, Patato, tomayto, tomato. Let's call the whole thing off!

A fun video to watch. Thanks for posting it Wouter

A photographer knows it when he or she sees it. Sh! No need for words. In non photographer-speak, just say " blur". Then I just relax and let all my pretentions float away. .....

Ngaere Woodford's picture

I just say it in front of clients to sound clever...hahaha