You’ve been pronouncing “Khaleesi” wrong this whole time


What if I told you you’ve been pronouncing the Dothraki word “Khaleesi” wrong this whole time? I know, I know. You’ve been saying Daenerys Targaryen’s Dothraki title the same way for years, and you been listening to Jorah Mormont sub it in for her name since season 1. Some of you may have even named your newborn daughter “Khaleesi,” and no judgment there.

However, according to David Peterson — the man who created the Dothraki and Valyrian languages — we’ve been pronouncing “Khaleesi” incorrectly all along, and it’s really starting to get to him. Peterson hopped on the Allusionist podcast recently and told host Helen Zaltzman that, when putting together these languages for the show, he “wanted to make sure if something was spelled differently, it was pronounced differently. That worked pretty well for everything except the word ‘Khaleesi’. Which is just a real thorn in my side.”

Peterson’s Khaleesi rant starts around the 18:30 mark.

“There’s no way it should be pronounced ‘ka-LEE-see’ based on the spelling,” Peterson says. “So I had to decide am I going to re-spell this thing because I know how people are going to pronounce this, or am I going to honor that spelling and pronounce it differently? I made the latter decision and I think it was the wrong decision.”

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So how should Jorah Mormont address his queen? According to Peterson says, it should be pronounced like “CHA-LAY-eh-SEE” (pronounce the “CHA” like you would Chanukah or Hanukkah). There’s more of an “H” sound at the beginning.

“Changing the spelling to ‘Khalisi’ would have fixed all my problems,” Peterson said. “You have an ‘EE’ and ‘I’ that can’t be pronounced the same because they’re spelled differently. If I want to honor George R.R. Martin’s spellings, that is if something is spelled differently then it should be  pronounced differently. So I decided to honor that. Which gives us the pronunciation CHA-LAY-eh-see.”


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But when it came to pronouncing the word correctly on the show, Peterson knew he’d already lost the fight, “because the instinct is so strong with English speakers when you see a double E it’s pronounced ‘E,'” he said.

And now you know why you and all your friends have been saying “Khaleesi” wrong for a the better part of a decade. CHA-LAY-eh-see is how everyone should be saying it from now on, but good luck getting your daughter’s pre-school teachers to go along.

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h/t Digital Spy