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  1. Victor Mair said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 5:26 am

    6. Hero

  2. Philip Taylor said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 5:29 am

    Also /ˈxɪər əʊ/ for me (but only after I was corrected by a native speaker). Until then, like most Britons, /ˈdʒaɪər əʊ/.

  3. Philip Taylor said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 5:34 am

    One might also ask the analogous question for "Gouda". But I see I failed to amend JW's syllabification, which I normally do in order to more accurately reflect my own speech — I should, of course, have written /ˈdʒaɪə rəʊ/.

  4. M. Paul Shore said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 6:20 am

    This particular word gives one of the best examples of the fundamental folly of retaining the original spellings—a transliterated original spelling in this case—of borrowed foreign words. It’s a folly that of course stems from the near-universal fallacious belief on the part of educated but linguistically uninformed people that the identity of a word resides almost exclusively in its graphical rather than in its aural form. The respelling “hero” was pretty much the right way to handle the borrowing (though “hiro” would arguably have been slightly better); the transliteration “gyro” was a catastrophically wrong way. Looking at the situation more broadly, the contamination of the English writing system by entirely or mostly unrespelled French and Latin borrowings is one of the main reasons for the sad state of English spelling today.

    When English spelling comes to be reformed—as it’ll have to be eventually, because it can’t stay mired in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance forever while the spoken language moves on—the borrowing of foreign words without phonetically respelling them should, it seems to me, be outlawed.

  5. bks said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 6:32 am


  6. Thomas Hutcheson said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 6:36 am

    # 4 like "gyroscope."

  7. Vireya said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 6:59 am

    Another vote for souvlaki.

  8. cliff arroyo said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 7:00 am

    "only after I was corrected by a native speaker"

    Of what language?

    When I first became aware of them in the early 1980s people were pronouncing them like the first two syllables of gyroscope… but I was taking Modern Greek and so I pretentiously adopted [ˈʝiro] even before some place in town added the helpful YEE-roh to a sign advertising them.

  9. Robot Therapist said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 7:04 am


  10. David Marjanović said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 7:09 am

    Döner macht schöner.

  11. Philip Taylor said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 7:14 am

    A good question, Cliff — I didn't actually interrogate him as to his ethnic origins and/or L1. The location was Germany, where there are more Turks than Greeks, but would not a Turkish-German restaurant have called them "Döner Kebab"s ?

  12. Morten Jonsson said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 7:18 am


    I’d call the Greek dish option 4, jie-row, after wondering if I should pronounce it the Greek way, then deciding I don’t really know the Greek way and no one would understand me anyway and I’d have to repeat it saying jie-row.

    It’s not souvlaki. The meat is shaved, not in pieces.

  13. Daniel Deutsch said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 7:38 am

  14. Robbie said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 7:42 am

    That's a kebab. Specifically, a doner kebab.

    I've seen Americans talking about "gyros", but never knew what they meant by it.

  15. Keith said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 7:57 am

    This old chestnut, again!

    When one language (English) borrows a word from another language (Greek) and the borrowed word contains a sound that doesn't exist in the borrowing language, the word is always going to get mangled. I don't think that there's anything particularly wrong in keeping a Greekish spelling of "gyros" for "γύρος", and I can understand why the final "s" would be dropped in order to make it obvious that it is a singular noun.

    In England, in my experience, at least, it would be more common to refer to that "meatloaf in a flatbread" as a "kebab" or a "doner kebab" (sometimes spelt "döner kebab"), from its Turkish name.

    Here in France, it is less frequently known by its Turkish name and far more frequently as "un sandwich grec" ("a Greek sandwich"), usually shortened to simply "un grec" or humorously as "100dwich grec".

  16. Philip Taylor said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 8:00 am

    Am I alone in hearing Stavros pronounce the word with three syllables ? What I hear is (roughly) /i ˈjɪə rɒs/.

  17. Rose Eneri said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 8:02 am

    As a native USAer, to me a kebab consists of chunks of meat and vegetables that are served on, or slid off, a skewer.

    I would imagine that a Doner kebab would have been something eaten by the Donner Party. Yikes!

  18. David Marjanović said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 8:25 am

    Am I alone in hearing Stavros pronounce the word with three syllables ?

    He emphasises the fricative [ʝ] by making it very long, arguably syllabic: [ʝ̩ːˈirɔs̠].

    Of course that's exaggerated, and in normal conversation it'd be [ˈʝirɔs̠].

  19. cliff arroyo said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 8:38 am

    I'll add that while I don't know how the dish called gyros is served in the US now, but the picture doesn't look like gyros I've had in Greece (which has french fries in it).

  20. Richard Hershberger said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 8:55 am

    The problem with the 'hero' pronunciation is that this is also a recognized name for what in God's country we call a hoagie, and it is entirely possible for a single establishment to sell both.

  21. klu9 said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 9:35 am

    Another vote for:
    + Kebab / Doner kebab
    in conversation and when ordering in most Turkish/Greek/Cypriot/generic kebab shops in the UK. But when ordering in the Arab (Syrian or Lebanese) places on the Edgware Road, I'd call it shawarma.

    In Spanish, I'd say "taco árabe". Turkish, Greek or Arabic loanwords for this kind of food don't get a look-in here in Mexico. (BTW, when served in "pan árabe", it's a "taco árabe". When served in a tortilla (maize, natch), it's a "taco oriental".)

  22. ThePossum said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 10:06 am

    I was once told it should be pronounced with an "H" as in "Chutzpah":


    *this "H" being the one where it almost sounds like you're about to cough up some sputum

  23. klu9 said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 10:09 am

    While Stavros is an undoubted expert on the foodstuff in question, I'm not sure he's a model to follow when it comes to pronunciation…!%3b+I+ISS+THE+REAL+STAVROS.-a061132355

  24. ardj said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 10:11 am

    Can't remember what called in Turkey or Greece, (tho' NOT Gyros – is that new or regional ?), as too long ago.
    Here in deepest Languedoc my daughters and their school frriends (of all colours and backgrouns) would call that a Pitta Kebab. However we would none of us dream of asking for anything so fancy, as what we wat is a Durum. Preferably with la sauce blanche.

  25. Trogluddite said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 10:26 am

    As a Brit, I'd never head of a doner kebab being called a "gyro", but the obvious connection with spinny-things (the roasting spit) would have led me to guess it was the same "gyro-" known from other words for spinny-things. I may have had some doubts, however; simply because I can't see any reason to have asked the question if the answer were that obvious!

    @Rose Eneri
    That would be a shish kebab. I have come across this difference before – it seems that unqualified "kebab" usually means a doner kebab in the UK, but a shish kebab in the USA. To add to the confusion, in some "curry houses" in the area I live, you'd end up with a shami kebab if you weren't more specific (a fried patty of spicy ground meat).

  26. Ernie in Berkeley said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 12:24 pm

    When these first appeared in New York City, around 1972, there was an advertising campaign that called them "Greek heroes".

  27. Philip Taylor said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 12:49 pm

    To Trogluddite, speaking as a UK resident. "[I]t seems that unqualified "kebab" usually means a doner kebab in the UK" — I think that that would depend very much on the demographics. Those that see a greasy doner kebab smothered in chilli sauce as the perfect ending to a night spent drinking will think only of doner kebab if the word "kebab" is mentioned. Those who see a combination of souvlakia/shish kebab, sheftalia/shish kofte, and a skewer of chicken as a real meal will be more likely to associate the word "kebab" with souvlakia/shish kebab.

  28. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 2:55 pm

    Just a few days ago there was a little bit of internet virality for a comical low-budget ad for a low-budget neighborhood Greek place in Los Angeles featuring as the pitchman and enthusastic customer the modestly prominent rapper Ja Rule. He definitely goes with #4 above, before getting some comical mileage out of his inability to pronounced (even Anglicized) some of the other menu items before assuring viewers that the food is "so goddam good you can't pronounce it."

  29. Andreas Johansson said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 3:12 pm

    I don't think I've ever used the word in English, in Swedish I say something like [ji:ros].

  30. Rick Rubenstein said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 3:38 pm

    Frankly that word is a P.I.T.A.

  31. martin schwartz said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 4:37 pm

    While the Greek word in question gives te acoustic impression of
    yíro(s), the initial consonant is a highly palatalized voiced fricative/continuant g (gamma), which is pronounced very carefully by the Stavros sound-clip, with its subtle voiced consonantal onset.
    Etymologically the word is the semantic equivalent (perhaps calque)
    of Turkish döner (kebap), from the Turkish root dön- (infinitive
    dönmek) 'to turn', from the meat turning on the spit. I think
    Arabic kabâb comes from the same idea of going around, but I don't want to interrupt this writing to check. Incidentally there are Turkish
    grills around the world which punningly call themselves MacDoner etc.
    The TV clip has a character named Stavros with an atrociously fake Greek accent. I wonder if it is merely coincidental that the visible part of the tourist poster with the name of the island KOS ('*whetstone')
    would put any Iranian n mind of the offcolor word from female anatomy
    Martin Schwartz.

  32. Dick Margulis said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 5:09 pm

    Being young and too stupid to ask anyone when these first appeared on the street in New York (@Ernie in Berkeley: I think it was a couple years earlier than 1972, as I'd moved out of the City by then), I assumed the name had something to do with the rotating vertical spit that the meat was sliced from and that therefore it was short for gyroscope. Eventually, it dawned on me that my hypothesis was flawed.

  33. David Morris said,

    June 26, 2020 @ 9:47 pm

    Kabab or yiros (a kebab can also be on a skewer). I have never encountered 'gyro'. (Australia)

  34. Luke said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 1:04 am

    Döner macht schöner

  35. Philip Taylor said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 1:10 am

    I confess that when I first read the question I allowed myself to be influenced by the suggested options. Like David M, I have never encountered the word (in this context) without a final "s", and so of course my earlier answer should have been /ˈxɪə rɒs/, but that is only partially true — at home, in the UK, I would simply call it a döner kebab. Only in those countries (or restaurants/take-aways) that call it "gyros" would I do the same, pronounced (I now know wrongly) as above.

  36. Norman Smith said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 7:33 am

    That depends. Does "row" rhyme with "how" or with "hoe"?

  37. Andrew Usher said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 7:35 am

    I assume the anglicised option is exactly the same as the 'gyro' in 'gyroscope' and other words – it should be, as those actually do contain the same Greek root. The final -s is 'gyros' is simply a case ending, and there should be no trouble with replacing it by our own case endings; namely zero in the singular and -s in the plural.

    In any case, that's the one I'd recommend for anyone unsure as it should be universally understood and is defensible: as I would transcibe it, /ˈdʒaiɹo/.

    The initial sound in the Greek pronunciation is definitely voiced; so I don't understand why people would want to or accept saying it as /h/ or /x/ (which I assume is actually [ç] before the front vowel), and indeed the Greekish pronunciation I hear is normally year-o, not hero; I would of course duplicate it as [ʝiɾo] if I needed to (unsure about stress, as Greek is funny with stress) but year-o is the closest with English phonology.

    The alternative 'doner' (the Turkish equivalent of 'gyro') I think I've only heard as do-nair; two comment above have read 'Döner macht schöner' but that doesn't look like a rhyme to me!

    k_over_hbarc at

  38. Rodger C said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 9:12 am

    an advertising campaign that called them "Greek heroes"

    Gyron aeide, thea!

  39. cliff arroyo said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 9:49 am

    "I don't understand why people would want to or accept saying it as /h/ or /x/"

    Maybe on some weird association with Spanish pronunciation where ge or gi have (dependent on dialect) something like [h] or [x]… though gy is not a real combination in Spanish….

  40. Philip Taylor said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 10:08 am

    I can answer only for myself. I say /ˈxɪə rɒs/ because that is what I thought I heard when a gyros-seller in Germany corrected my /ˈdʒɪə rɒs/ (or whatever I actually said at the time — too long ago to be sure). Having now heard Stavros say (what sounds to me like) /i ˈjɪə rɒs/, that is the pronunciation I shall endeavour to use in the future, when and if the occasion arises.

  41. poftim said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 11:01 am

    I assume that Nick Kyrgios's surname should also be pronounced with a /ʝ/. Native English speakers usually pronounce his name with a silent 'g'.

  42. bratschegirl said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 11:10 am

    I've always said #3, Year-row. I've never encountered "doner" in California, though I've seen it in Canada and in the eastern US.

  43. Thomas Rees said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 2:51 pm

    It can be found a mile from my house in Pomona:

  44. Peter Taylor said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 3:04 pm

    I would also have said "kebab".

    With respect to Trogluddite's and Philip Taylor's (no known relation) comments on "kebab" in British English, I grew up in south-east England with my only reference for "kebab" as skewers of meat and vegetables which were cooked on a barbecue. I'd heard of döner kebabs, but didn't know what one was until I first bought one in my late 20s.

    With respect to klu9's and cliff arroyo's comments on Spanish, here in Spain the common word is "kebap". Surprisingly, that's also the word for a takeaway which specialises in them, as I discovered when a friend corrected my assumption of *"kebapería". I have been to a Greek restaurant in Spain which sold "giros" (/xiros/).

  45. Jamie said,

    June 27, 2020 @ 4:38 pm

    When I first heard Americans refer to gyros, I was quite pleased that I was able to work out (because of the rotation) that it was a doner [kebab] or schwarma (an unspecified kebab would be skewers with meat).

    I assumed the pronunciation would be as in gyroscope (knowing no Greek).

  46. Moa said,

    June 28, 2020 @ 9:10 am

    I'm also on the "kebab" team. Kebab refers to the meat of course, so it can be served a variety of ways, but usually as a sandwich such as the picture. Although last time I ate kebab it was on a pizza. That's a kind of sandwich too, isn't it? If I saw the spelling gyro written and tried to pronounce it, it would end up most closely to option 3. (I never have reason to talk about gyroscopes, so I have no idea how to pronounce them.)

  47. Andrew Usher said,

    June 28, 2020 @ 2:01 pm

    Surely no one can have never heard 'gyroscope(s)', which indeed can itself be shortened to 'gyro(s)', or any other word containing gyro-.

    Pronouncing 'gyro' or 'gyros' phonetically as an English word could not possibly lead to the Greek pronunciation in any case.

  48. Philip Taylor said,

    June 28, 2020 @ 2:16 pm

    "'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe".

    The LPD gives only /ˈdʒaɪ‿ə ǁ dʒaɪ‿ər/ but I really cannot believe that Lewis Carroll intended a soft G here. /ˈgaɪ‿ə ǁ gaɪ‿ər/ is my bet as to how he intended it.

  49. Narmitaj said,

    June 28, 2020 @ 5:34 pm

    I'm with klu9 that's it's shawarma, but then I was born in Lebanon and have been to the Middle East a few times since. Gyros I only ever encountered in the USA.

  50. Josh R said,

    June 28, 2020 @ 8:29 pm

    Here in Nagoya, Japan we have a local chain called "MegaKebab", which uses, of course, "ケバブ kebabu" as its all encompassing term, with those in pita bread (which I grew up in the States calling "yee-row") as ピタパン・ケバブ (pita pan kebabu) or even ピタパンサンド (pita pan sando), which mean "pita bread kebab" and "pita bread sandwich" respectively.

  51. Philip Taylor said,

    June 29, 2020 @ 4:16 am

    As most readers almost certainly know, the Chinese do a delicious range of snacks which can translate into English as "bun". I love those that have a savoury filling (e.g., char siu), but my wife (Chinese/Vietnamese) likes the plain ones which we jokingly refer to as "bun bun". A "pita bread sandwich" suggests to me exactly the same idea — bread within (different) bread.

  52. Athanassios Protopapas said,

    June 29, 2020 @ 4:46 am

    The posted image is probably not taken in Greece (the lettuce is a dead giveaway and the meat texture is also off). So you can call it whatever you like :-). To see what the Greek one actually looks like nowadays, google πιτόγυρο images. In Greece it is called πιτόγυρο [pi.ˈto.ʝi.ɾo], a compound made from [ˈpi.ta] and [ˈʝi.ɾo]. Not to be confused with kebab (κεμπάπ), which in Greece is neither skewered pieces of meat (σουβλάκι [su.ˈ] or καλαμάκι [ˈ]) nor shaved slabs of meat (γύρος [ˈʝi.ɾos]), but only sausage-shaped (and sized) chunks made with *ground* meat. Greek γύρος is never made with ground meat.

  53. Thomas Rees said,

    June 29, 2020 @ 5:53 am

    Athanassios Protopapas: Does πιτόγυρο often contain chips/French fries?

  54. Dennis Paul Himes said,

    June 29, 2020 @ 1:17 pm

    Philip Taylor said: "I really cannot believe that Lewis Carroll intended a soft G here."

    You're correct. From the preface to Through the Looking Glass: "make the ‘g’ hard in ‘gyre’ and ‘gimble’".

  55. cliff arroyo said,

    June 29, 2020 @ 1:28 pm

    @Thomas Rees

    If google images is to be believed, then it always does….

  56. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 29, 2020 @ 8:37 pm

    I seem to recall that I first heard it as something that sounded to me like "YEAR-oh" from a Greek seller at the West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio. Also that I pronounced it that way once or twice when the seller had no obvious connection with the eastern Mediterranean, only to be corrected to "JIE-roh" as in "gyroscope".

  57. Athanassios Protopapas said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 1:18 am

    Thomas Rees, re:fries. Nowadays it most often does. (Just copy-paste the Greek word into google and then choose images.) When I was a kid, this was uncommon; the three available extra ingredients were (a) tomato, (b) onion, (c) tzatziki. At some point (some decades ago) a fourth ingredient became commonplace, namely fries.
    All ingredients are optional, meaning an order of pitoyiro must come with a choice of add-ons. That is, you can't just ask for pitoyiro, the person taking the order will keep staring, expecting a specification. The most common choice is απ' όλα [a.'], literally "from everything", which means to add all four. But there are many people who forgo tzatziki and/or onion (often because of the lingering smell; e.g., if a date follows :-)). There is also the designation παιδικό [pe.ði.'ko] "children's" which is commonly understood to mean tomato and fries only.
    Regional variation exists. In Thessaloniki it is common to see ketchup and mustard offered instead of tzatziki (horrible, if you ask me), and they also tend to stuff a lot more fries in there. Other hip places have sprung up in big cities (especially Athens) over the past decade or two, with various nontraditional options including different vegetables and/or dips, but those are niche.

  58. Michael said,

    June 30, 2020 @ 1:51 pm

    …Let's call the whole thing off! :)

  59. Leo said,

    July 1, 2020 @ 3:58 am

    @Jerry Friedman: that reminds me of asking for pide at a Turkish takeaway, which I pronounced ˈpiːdə, only to be corrected to paɪd by someone who may not have been Turkish.

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