You’re Probably Pronouncing ‘IKEA’ Wrong

Ellen Gutoskey
There's no 'eye' in IKEA.
There's no 'eye' in IKEA. / SOPA Images/GettyImages

For people who don’t speak Swedish, a trip to IKEA may feature a mispronounced word or two at the least. Sure, BILLY bookcases and PAX storage units aren’t much trouble (to utter, that is—not necessarily to assemble). But you’d be forgiven for just saying “that high-backed swivel office chair with armrests” instead of mucking your way through the consonant-packed JÄRVFJÄLLET without hearing someone else say it first. (For the record, it’s easier than it looks: yarf-YAL-ett, rhyming with scarf palette.)

The actual name of the company, on the other hand, isn’t typically a word that non-Swedish speakers stumble over. It’s simple: eye-KEE-uh. Or is it?

Unlike many other IKEA product names, the word IKEA isn’t a real Swedish word: It’s an acronym. The first two letters are the initials of founder Ingvar Kamprad; the E is the name of the farm where he grew up, Elmtaryd; and the A is for his hometown, Agunnaryd. But there is a real Swedish way to pronounce it—and it doesn’t match what we say in English. As Quartz explains, it should be more like this: ee-KEH-yah.

That said, not even IKEA itself is pressuring people to change it. “It’s only natural that people pronounce ‘IKEA’ and the Swedish names of its products with a local accent,” a company spokesperson told Quartz. “That’s absolutely ok!”

In fact, it’s pronounced eye-KEE-uh in American IKEA commercials. (UK commercials use the Swedish pronunciation, though.)