How Do You Pronounce Kratom Properly?

There are many words that people disagree about the pronunciation of. Potato, tomato, and many more words can cause a breakout of mostly friendly debates. Often, the difference lies in accents and native languages, but does that mean that one pronunciation is more “right” than others?

Kratom is another word that causes people to disagree about pronunciation. Many people had only read the word to themselves before visiting a shop that sells kratom or tuning in to a video about the substance. When they first heard someone else say the word out loud, they may have been surprised and confused!

In fact, the debate about how kratom should be pronounced is very divided in the community at large. Let’s talk about those differing opinions and try to sort out if there is a “right” and “wrong” answer.

Differing Pronunciations

The two most common ways of pronouncing kratom are “KRAY-tum” and “KRAT-um.” Both of these methods of saying the word appears in the Oxford Dictionary, but there isn’t a specific written rule about which one is proper.


This is the first way that kratom is often pronounced. KRAT-um, which rhymes with “atom,” uses a short “a” sound for the A rather than a long “ay” sound. Most languages use a short “a” sounds rather than a long “ay” sound when pronouncing As, so this is a very common way of pronouncing the word.


This version of pronunciation, which rhymes with “Tatum,” uses the long “ay” sound for the a instead of the short “a” sound. Many Americans are used to pronouncing the word in this way, but it is in no way the majority of people that use this pronunciation.

Which One Is “Right”?

The rules of English pronunciation are complicated. There are many exceptions, so it is nearly impossible to say which pronunciation is “right” and which is “wrong.” The basic rules would point to KRAY-tum, but many other similar words suggest that KRAT-um would be more appropriate. Ultimately, local accents determine how the “a” sound is pronounced, leading to many differences between how people think kratom should be said.

There are veterqan kratom consumers who insist that KRAT-um is correct, while leading advocacy organizations like the American Kratom Association continue to use KRAY-tum when talking about the botanical in their videos and interviews. Does that mean one is more correct than the other?

Another interesting note: many kratom advocates believe that the plant name’s pronunciation in its native countries should be taken into account when deciding how to pronounce the word in English. Let’s see how that might have an effect.

Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asian countries where kratom grows, locals often call the substance ketum – the R is silent in many local pronunciations, particularly in Thailand. The substance even has different names altogether depending on where you are; it is hard to say which pronunciation will be the most accurate.

Calling it ketum is more common in Malaysia than in Thailand. In Thailand, the pronunciation is closer to kruh-tome, but it’s hard to Romanize how it is pronounced accurately. 

Why is that?

Simply put, Thai letters are different from Roman letters, so they cannot always be equated. The “k” in kratom is an unaspirated K in Thai; this means it sounds somewhere between a g and a k in English. Despite that fact, kratom is nearly always pronounced with a hard k sound in English.

So how much does this difference truly matter? And can we say that the pronunciation when speaking English has to follow the native pronunciation, or is that an unreasonable goal?

Even knowing the local pronunciation, it’s difficult for native English speakers with no knowledge of Thai, Malay, or other regional languages to easily use the local pronunciations. While these can certainly be learned and integrated, how do you choose which regional pronunciation should lead the way?

Scientific Name

There are even ways that kratom is referred to that don’t use the word kratom at all. The scientific name for this plant is Mitragyna speciosa, and sometimes people abbreviate that name down to M. speciosa as well. This tropical plant has many names, but all of those names still refer to the same substance.

So what do we do?

Does It Matter Which One Is Used?

Ultimately, there is no right or correct pronunciation that should be considered the be-all, end-all when choosing how to say the word. As mentioned previously, people around the world already refer to the substance with different names.

Additionally, local accents are going to play a big role in pronunciation, and not everyone will have the experience of hearing the word said by someone else before they try to pronounce it aloud. With kratom being a relatively rare substance in the general population, there is going to be a lot of variation in the community about how the word is said.

Does it truly matter which one is used?

In our opinion, no. As long as people know what you are talking about, it is OK for there to be more than one variation of how the word is pronounced. While we tend to lead towards KRAT-um since it is closer to the pronunciation used where kratom is grown (and because we like the way it sounds when paired with the word Kraken!), we don’t see anything inherently wrong with saying KRAY-tum.

Bigger Fish To Fry

Ultimately, there are bigger fish to fry than in worrying about which pronunciation of kratom is correct.

While there is some value in creating consistency across the industry so that kratom can always be equally represented, people are already accustomed to the way that accents can change the pronunciation of the word and how some people simply pronounce words according to different rules.

Kratom doesn’t need to be considered any different from those words, and thus, some variation is okay.

Rather than putting time into correcting others for what you believe is the wrong pronunciation of kratom, it’s better to put time into advocating for the safe use of kratom and safety in the industry at large.

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