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The enigma of almond pronunciation explained

UC ANR's David Doll, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County, is considered the go-to guy for almonds. Doll writes the Almond Doctor blog.
People in California are divided over whether the “L” in the word almond is pronounced or silent, reported Ezra David Romero on Valley Public Radio.

As a general rule, farmers in the northern part of the state say “am-end” and farmers in southern areas say “almond.” In a quest for an explanation, Romero spoke to numerous farmers and ag industry professionals who all told a version of the same joke. For his story, he quoted UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor David Doll, who he called the "go-to guy" for all things almond in California.

“Farmers will often tell you, you call it an almond on the tree and an am-end on the ground because you shake the l out of it,” Doll told him.

But in terms of the true rational, Doll couldn't provide a definitive answer.

"People who refer to it as am-end tend to be longer-term farmers, so they've been farming for multiple generations,” Doll said.

A UC Davis plant breeder was able to offer a plausible explanation.

When almonds were first introduced by Spanish missionaries, almendras (pronounced with the l) did not succeed. Later immigrants from France and Portugal, who pronounced the nut amandola and amande respectively, brought the crop to Central California. 

"Somewhere along the line the use of am-end stuck in Northern California, while the Spanish-inspired noun grew popular elsewhere," Romero reported.

Posted on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 11:12 AM
Tags: almond (4), David Doll (26)


Im not an almond farmer, but I was born & raised in Chico, CA and still live there. I call the nuts am-ends because my family pronounced it that way. My dad was born in Chico in 1927, and said as a kid he would earn money helping with harvest. He said they got up in the trees with big knocking mallets to knock the almonds out of the tree. He said they had to hit the tree branches so hard it knocked the 'L' right out of the almond. I personally believe it just depends on the demographics of where someone was raised. I also pronounce salmon without the 'L' and say sa-men, but my relatives in Oklahoma say salmon & I had no idea what they were talking about when they said it. 😊

Posted by Beckee on February 26, 2016 at 11:49 AM

I also live in Chico, CA but I pronounce almond with the "L". I am a transplant from southern CA and that's how I learned to say it. So, I agree with Bekee it's demographics. I also say Esplanade with a short "a" because I grew up on SoCa.

Posted by Theresa on December 12, 2017 at 12:54 PM

Well ive lived Davis, go Aggies , during my childhood and then the east bay area in adult good, my home ldeat sister lived in the middle if an almond orchard and we all sa Almonds with the "L"/in it. I think it is all in how you speak to begin with. Generational farmers probably would hand down that word without the L sound as most worked hard all day and not in school . I'm not saying farmers are uneducated,.I'm saying the dialect is a bit different then the city folks.just as the north and south States have many different pronunciations if the same words. No matter I love to eat almonds and I does bother me to hear a person not pronounce the L in it as it bothers me when people make up words that they think are real. My one leave would be when a person means ," he has Take the trash out" but says " he has tooken the trash out". Ugh

Posted by Roxanne W on February 8, 2018 at 2:24 PM

I think it all comes down to the sheer increased amount of nerve and muscle actualization required to say Almonds. A-mends is just easier to say and still, most people know exactly what you are saying.

Posted by Patrick Cavanaugh on September 23, 2018 at 8:22 PM

I was born and raised in Southern California where My grandfather  
Had a small almond orchard. We, and everyone I knew called  
them “ah-monds”.

Posted by Elizabeth on January 16, 2019 at 4:13 PM

If you’re leaving the L silent, then you’re just saying it wrong.

Posted by James on September 8, 2020 at 8:27 AM

Americans also use L in calm I've noticed. The rest of the English speaking Western world say both words without pronouncing the l.

Posted by Shelley on January 3, 2021 at 10:55 PM

My family does not believe in almonds, therefore the pronunciation is meaningless. We do say "wah-nuts" though.

Posted by Jim Symington on January 26, 2021 at 11:38 PM

The theory that Northern California farmers eschew the Spanish pronunciation is certainly credible. After all, one of the main roads in Chico is Esplanade, which the locals pronounce with a long final "a".

Posted by Kevin Montgomery on September 1, 2021 at 9:23 AM

Years ago, I was in the tiny little store in Jarbidge, Nevada (near the northeast corner of the state), when the woman cashier excused herself for a moment. She went into the back room, I could overhear her talking with her husband, and he was apparently making a list of supplies to order: "Richard, I think that we are almost out of *ammonds.*" When she appeared a minute later to ring up my purchase, I asked her, "Are you from Butte County?" She looked aghast and replied, "We have been here for twenty years! How did you know?" 🙂

Posted by Mark Walsh on September 2, 2021 at 2:38 PM

With the L. Native Texan, BS in Communications plus English double major. Corp retired. Word nerd. ALWAYS w the L.

Posted by Robin Rusk on October 23, 2021 at 11:34 PM

We grew up raising almonds [a’ - monds], flood-irrigation from the canal, knocking them by hand—starting at age 6 or so. The Almond Festival — annual, large, for little Ripon CA, a stone’s throw from Modesto — brought bands and horse troupes and floats from all over the state for a three-hour parade. As a UC Davis grad, I still say “a’ - mond” along with all the farmers I ever knew, and all the kids at the university except the city-folks. They would inform me that “’s got an ‘L’ in it...”, and I’d ask them how they pronounce ‘salmon’. ThAt’d quiet them down long enough for me to tell them that pecan farmers pronounce the name of their crop differently than many city-folk, and urge them to defer to those who make these things their livelihood. Southern CA, a different pronunciation? A different planet, who wouldn’t know flood irrigation if they saw it (or ever knew how many irrigations was the equivalent of six of their swimming pools and two waterings of their favorite golf course). My guess is that prudence recommends siding with the majority of those of us in the know — or, if push comes to shove, allow that when on the trees they’r al-monds, but after we knock them at harvest, we’ve knocked the ‘L’ out of them and what they buy at the store are a’ - monds. Full stop, pretty much.

Posted by J. A. Cover on March 15, 2022 at 5:21 PM

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