How to Say Crêpes, Forte, Niche: The Answers Might Surprise You

how to pronounce crêpeA reader sent me an email about one of her pet peeves, and it involves pronunciation of one of the following words: crêpes, forte, niche.

Are you the one who’s getting on her nerves?

You might be surprised about how many choices — and meanings — there are to a couple of them.

But first, let’s get into the food.


According to website Eva in the Kitchen, the French have a tradition of breaking up their afternoon — usually about four o’clock — with a sweet snack. Crêpes are a favorite at that time of day.

A crêpe is an almost paper-thin pancake that is spread with jam or something tasty, folded or loosely rolled closed, and then sprinkled with sugar, often the powdered variety.

Many people pronounce crêpe as if it were spelled crape and rhymed with grape. But said correctly, it should rhyme with yep.


Forte, a word of French and Italian derivation, has three meanings:

  1. Forte, pronounced as you would say Fort Knox, means your strong point or something at which you excel. However, many people say FOR-tay, which is more acceptable among the British.
  2. Forte pronounced as fort (no ‘ay’) means the strongest part of the blade of a sword.
  3. Forte from the Italian derivation is a musical term meaning to be performed loudly. The pronunciation for this usage appears as FOR-tay in some places and for-TAY in others.


There are multiple definitions — and pronunciations — for niche:

1. a shallow recess, sometimes in a wall to display a statue or other ornament

He eased the miniature angel into the small niche in the hallway.

2. a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment

After years in biotech, she found her niche as a trainer and coach in a new field: positivity.


3. denoting or relating to products, services or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of a population or market

A new vegetarian restaurant opened downtown, carving out a niche eatery among the steakhouses that line Main Street.

Along with these three definitions, I found three acceptable pronunciations:

neesh (like sheesh), nitch (like ditch) or nish (like fish)


The differences in derivation and meaning of crêpe, forte and niche result in differences in interpretation and pronunciation. Make your choice, but be prepared for the possibility that you’ll be corrected or questioned — or perhaps simply regarded with a raised eyebrow of disapproval.

I’d love to hear, either in the comment section below or by email, what YOU consider the correct pronunciation to be for crêpe, forte and niche.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

2 thoughts on “How to Say Crêpes, Forte, Niche: The Answers Might Surprise You

  1. Avatarwilliam

    1. Always pronounced crepp.

    2. I always say’ for-tay.’ Given a choice between Italian, which is closer to the original Latin, or French, I think Italian is preferable. It makes the chorus instructor crazy when I erase her ‘Solfege’ from the board and replace it with ‘Solfeggio.’

    3. Neesh with the sole exception of biologists who can speak of an ‘ecological nitch’

    Keep up the good work, Kathleen, and thanks for keeping us on our metaphorical toes. Recalling the great malaprop-comedian Norm Crosby who often started his routine with, “Dear brethren and cistern….” and would no doubt have said “metphysical toes.”

    1. Kathy WatsonKathy Watson Post author

      William, thanks for your feedback. As if the English language were not challenging enough, words from French and Italian (and other tongues) add a new dimension of difficulty from both a spelling and pronunciation perspective. Yes, I remember Norm Crosby and his malapropisms and made-up words. George Carlin also has offered some funny perspectives on American English.

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