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How Do You Pronounce Ballet How Do You Pronounce Ballet


How Do You Pronounce Ballet

Written by: Monique Winfield

Learn how to correctly pronounce ballet and master the art of pronouncing this graceful dance form. Discover the secrets to proper ballet pronunciation and improve your dance vocabulary.

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Table of Contents


Ballet is a timeless art form that has captivated audiences for centuries. From the graceful movements to the intricate choreography, ballet showcases the agility and poise of the human body. But have you ever wondered how to pronounce the various ballet terms? With their French origins and unique phonetic patterns, pronouncing ballet terminology can be a challenge for both dancers and enthusiasts.

In this article, we will explore the world of ballet pronunciation and provide you with tips and tricks to improve your pronunciation skills. Whether you’re a ballet dancer looking to perfect your technique or simply a lover of the art form, understanding the correct pronunciation of ballet terms will enhance your appreciation for this beautiful art.

Over the years, ballet has borrowed heavily from French vocabulary. As a result, many ballet terms have maintained their original French pronunciation. Learning to pronounce these terms correctly adds an extra layer of authenticity to your ballet knowledge.

However, it’s essential to note that there can be slight variations in pronunciation between different ballet schools and companies. These variations can be influenced by regional accents or individual interpretations. Nevertheless, the guidelines we provide will help you develop a solid foundation in ballet pronunciation.

So, if you’ve ever found yourself unsure of how to say “pas de bourrée” or “arabesque,” fear not! By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to tackle these terms and more with confidence.


Understanding the Ballet Terminology

Before diving into the intricacies of ballet pronunciation, it’s important to familiarize yourself with some of the commonly used ballet terms. Understanding the meaning behind these terms will not only give you a better grasp of the art form but also aid in their proper pronunciation.

Ballet terminology can be divided into several categories, including positions, steps, jumps, turns, and gestures. Let’s explore a few examples from each category:

  • Positions: Ballet is known for its five fundamental positions of the feet, which form the basis of all footwork in ballet. These positions include first position, second position, third position, fourth position, and fifth position.
  • Steps: There are a wide variety of steps in ballet, each with its own unique name and execution. Some common steps include plié (a bending of the knees), tendu (a brushing of the foot along the floor), and relevé (a rising up onto the toes).
  • Jumps: Ballet jumps require power and grace. Examples include sauté (a small jump from two feet), changement (a jump where the feet change positions in mid-air), and grand jeté (a large leap that covers a significant distance).
  • Turns: Turns are an essential element of ballet, and they require balance and control. Pirouette (a spin or turn on one leg) and fouetté (a whipping movement of the working leg combined with a series of turns) are iconic ballet turns.
  • Gestures: Ballet uses various gestures to convey emotions or depict a character. Examples include arabesque (an extended leg position with the body balanced on one leg) and port de bras (movements of the arms).

By familiarizing yourself with these terms and their meanings, you’ll be better prepared to tackle their pronunciation. Remember to take note of any specific accents or nuances associated with each term, as they can greatly influence how they should be pronounced.

Now that we have a solid foundation in ballet terminology, it’s time to delve into the intricacies of accenting pronunciation in ballet.


Accenting Pronunciation in Ballet

When it comes to accenting pronunciation in ballet, it’s important to remember that many ballet terms have their roots in the French language. Understanding the French accent and applying it to ballet terminology will help you achieve a more authentic pronunciation.

In French, emphasis is typically placed on the final syllable of a word. This rule applies to many ballet terms as well. For example, the word “plié” should be pronounced as “plee-AY,” with emphasis on the “AY” sound at the end.

However, it’s worth noting that there are exceptions to this rule. Some terms may have the emphasis placed on the syllable before the final one. For instance, “dégagé” should be pronounced as “day-ga-ZHAY,” with the emphasis on the “ZHAY” sound before the final “AY” sound.

In addition to the accent, French words often have unique phonetic patterns. For example, the French “r” sound is different from how it is pronounced in English. It is softer and more subtle, almost like a whisper. When encountering the letter “r” in ballet terms, aim for this gentle “r” sound. An example is “arabesque,” which should be pronounced as “a-rah-BESK.”

Another aspect of accenting pronunciation in ballet is understanding the nasal sounds of French. In French, certain vowel sounds can be nasalized, producing a distinct pronunciation. For example, in the term “fondu,” the “on” sound should be pronounced with a hint of nasality, like “fawn-DOO.”

Accurate pronunciation in ballet also extends to the specific sounds of consonants. French often uses more subtle and delicate consonant sounds compared to English. For example, the “t” in ballet terms is softer and lighter, more like a gentle tap with the tip of the tongue. Pronouncing “fouetté” as “foo-ETT” with a delicate “t” sound exemplifies this.

By accenting the pronunciation in ballet and understanding these French nuances, you will bring an elevated level of authenticity to your ballet conversations and performances. However, it’s important to remember that pronunciation can vary across different ballet schools and regions. The most important aspect is consistency within your own practice and communication.

Now that we have covered how to accentuate pronunciation in ballet, let’s address some common pronunciation mistakes to be aware of.


Common Pronunciation Mistakes in Ballet

When it comes to pronouncing ballet terms, there are a few common mistakes that dancers and enthusiasts often make. These mistakes can sometimes result from unfamiliarity with the French language or simply a misinterpretation of the phonetic patterns in ballet vocabulary. Let’s explore some of these common pronunciation errors:

  • Misplacing Emphasis: One frequent mistake is misplacing emphasis within the word. As mentioned earlier, many ballet terms have their emphasis on the final syllable or the syllable before the final one. It’s essential to pay attention to this aspect to ensure accurate pronunciation. For example, pronouncing “tendu” as “TEN-doo” instead of “ten-DOO” would be a common misplacement of emphasis.
  • Mispronouncing Nasal Sounds: French language has distinct nasal sounds that can be challenging for non-native speakers. It’s common for dancers to overlook the nasalized vowel sounds in ballet terms. For instance, mispronouncing “pas de bourrée” as “paz de boh-REE” instead of “pah deh boo-RAY” would be a common nasal sound mistake.
  • Struggling with French Consonants: French consonants often have subtle and delicate sounds. Mispronouncing these sounds can result in an incorrect pronunciation of ballet terms. For example, pronouncing “chassé” with a hard “ch” sound, like “CHASE-ee,” rather than the softer “sh” sound like “shah-SAY,” would be a common French consonant mistake.
  • Ignoring Silent Letters: French is known for its silent letters, and ignoring them can lead to mispronunciation. Ballet terms may have silent letters that are crucial for accurate pronunciation. For example, correctly pronouncing “pas de deux” as “pah deh DUH” instead of “paz deh DOO” accounts for the silent “s” in “pas” and the silent “x” in “deux.”
  • Glossing Over Accents: Accents play a vital role in French pronunciation, and neglecting them can result in incorrect ballet pronunciation. Accurate pronunciation includes paying attention to diacritical marks, such as the accent aigu (é) or the cedilla (ç), when they appear in ballet terms.

Being mindful of these common mistakes will help you avoid mispronunciation and develop a greater sense of accuracy in ballet terminology. Now, let’s move on to the next section, where we will help you master the correct pronunciation of various ballet terms.


Pronouncing Ballet Terms Correctly

Mastering the correct pronunciation of ballet terms is essential in becoming a well-rounded dancer or enthusiast. Here, we will guide you through the accurate pronunciation of some common ballet terms, focusing on the emphasis, phonetic patterns, and specific sounds within each word.

  • Plié: Pronounced as “plee-AY,” with emphasis on the “AY” sound at the end. Remember to keep the “r” sound soft and subtle.
  • Tendu: Pronounced as “ten-DOO,” with emphasis on the “DOO” sound. Keep the “u” sound light and nasalized.
  • Chassé: Pronounced as “shah-SAY,” with emphasis on the “SAY” sound. The “ch” should sound like a soft “sh.”
  • Grand jeté: Pronounced as “grahn zhuh-TAY,” with emphasis on the “TAY” sound. Emphasize the “zhuh” sound for the French “g” sound.
  • Pirouette: Pronounced as “pee-roo-ETT,” with emphasis on the “ETT” sound. Keep the “r” sound soft and subtle.
  • Arabesque: Pronounced as “a-rah-BESK,” with emphasis on the “BESK” sound. The final “e” is silent, so it is not pronounced.
  • Port de bras: Pronounced as “por duh brah,” with emphasis on the “duh” sound. The “s” in “bras” is silent.
  • Fondu: Pronounced as “fawn-DOO,” with emphasis on the “DOO” sound. Nasalize the “on” sound in “fondu.”
  • Pas de bourrée: Pronounced as “pah deh boo-RAY,” with emphasis on the “RAY” sound. Nasalize the “u” sound in “de” and “bourrée.”
  • En dehors: Pronounced as “ahn duh-OR,” with emphasis on the “OR” sound. Keep the “r” sound soft and subtle.

Remember that these pronunciations serve as starting points and may vary slightly depending on regional accents or individual variations. The goal is to maintain consistency and accuracy within your ballet community.

Listening to native French speakers or ballet instructors pronounce these terms can also be a helpful way to refine your pronunciation skills. Observing their mouth shapes and enunciation can provide valuable guidance in achieving the desired pronunciation.

Now that you have a strong foundation in pronouncing ballet terms correctly, let’s explore some tips on how to improve your overall ballet pronunciation.


Tips for Improving Your Ballet Pronunciation

Pronouncing ballet terms correctly requires practice, attention to detail, and a keen ear for the nuances of the French language. Here are some tips to help you improve your ballet pronunciation:

  • Listen and Repeat: Take the time to listen to native speakers, ballet instructors, or recordings of ballet terminology. Pay close attention to the intonation, emphasis, and specific sounds within each word. Practice repeating the words aloud, focusing on mimicking the pronunciation as closely as possible.
  • Break It Down: When encountering a new ballet term, break it down into its individual syllables. Practice pronouncing each syllable separately before gradually merging them together. This approach allows you to focus on the specific sounds and accents within the word.
  • Record and Compare: Use your smartphone or recording device to record yourself pronouncing ballet terms. Listen back to the recordings and compare them to native speakers or instructional videos. This exercise will help you identify any areas where your pronunciation may differ and allow you to make adjustments accordingly.
  • Utilize Online Resources: Take advantage of online resources, such as pronunciation guides, videos, or interactive exercises, that specifically target ballet terminology. These resources can offer valuable guidance and allow you to practice in a structured and interactive way.
  • Seek Feedback: Ask for feedback from ballet instructors, fellow dancers, or native French speakers within your ballet community. They can provide insights and corrections to help refine your pronunciation further. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek guidance in areas where you may be struggling.
  • Immerse Yourself: Surround yourself with ballet-related content, such as watching ballet performances, listening to ballet music, or reading ballet books. This immersion in the world of ballet will expose you to the correct pronunciation and help you familiarize yourself with the sounds and terminology.
  • Practice Regularly: Consistency is key when it comes to improving your ballet pronunciation. Set aside dedicated practice time each day or week to focus on pronouncing ballet terms. The more you practice, the more natural and fluid your pronunciation will become.

Remember, becoming proficient in pronouncing ballet terms takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress along the way. Embrace the journey of refining your ballet pronunciation, as it will enhance your overall understanding and appreciation of this beautiful art form.

Now, let’s conclude our exploration of ballet pronunciation.



Pronouncing ballet terms correctly is a crucial aspect of being a well-rounded dancer or ballet enthusiast. By understanding the French origins of many ballet terms and mastering their pronunciation, you add depth and authenticity to your ballet knowledge. Emphasizing the correct syllables, incorporating French accents and sounds, and avoiding common pronunciation mistakes are essential steps towards achieving accurate ballet pronunciation.

Throughout this article, we have explored the intricacies of ballet pronunciation, from understanding the ballet terminology to accenting the pronunciation correctly. We have discussed common mistakes to be aware of and provided guidance on pronouncing specific ballet terms. Moreover, we have offered tips to help you improve your overall ballet pronunciation, including active listening, practice, and seeking feedback.

It’s important to remember that ballet pronunciation may vary slightly among different ballet schools or regions. However, consistency and accurateness within your own practice and communication are paramount.

By investing time and effort into refining your ballet pronunciation, you enhance your ability to communicate effectively with fellow dancers, instructors, and ballet enthusiasts. Additionally, accurate pronunciation adds a layer of professionalism and authenticity to your performances and discussions surrounding this beautiful art form.

So keep practicing, listen attentively, and embrace the challenge of perfecting your ballet pronunciation. With dedication and perseverance, you will continue to grow in your ballet journey and deepen your connection to the art form.

Now, go forth and let your ballet pronunciation shine!

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