Pronunciation of Dahlia

Hi! I'm having a little girl soon and my husband and I are disagreeing over names. Preferably, her name would start with a 'D'. We've gone through Danielle, Davanee, Danica, Donna, Deanna, Dana, Darcie, Daphne, Dacey and probably 100 more, lol. None of them just feel right. My husband really started to like Delia...and I didn't. He suggested her first name as Cordelia and her nickname could be Delia. I don't really mind her first name wouldn't technically start with a D. We had that for a while then we realized we had a (former, not-good) acquantance named Cordelia and the name went down the toilet. Now we really want to avoid it at all costs. We started looking around again and I found the name Dahlia. I was under the impression it was pronounced DAL(like the beginning of Dallas, kind of rhymes with towel)-yuh. My husband thinks it's pronounced DAY-lee-uh. I'm thinking he's might be correct because he is is American while I'm not. I've been speaking and writting it as long as I can rememmber, but sometimes pronouncing gets jumbled up with my 1st language. We've looked online and we've found several different pronunciations of the name Dahlia. We both really like it, but have no clue if that's the actual name that would go with the way we're saying it. I'm so sorry if this is completely confusing, I had no idea how t word it out. So my question is, do you think Dal (rhyming with towel)-yuh goes with the spelling Dahlia? How would you prounounce Dahlia? We really like the name and just want to know how to actually say it/spell it! I guess we're sounding a little stupid, but it's kind of confusing.



July 25, 2016 1:35 PM

I think that in the US, you would have the majority of people saying DOLL-ya/DOLL-ee-a (doll, like the dolls you play with).

Personally, I would say DA-lee-a, like DAD-lee-a without the second D. I'm quite sure that DAY-lee-a would be said by a very small minority, though if her father says it that way, it could be a family thing, a community thing, or idiosyncratic.

It's a beautiful name, a gorgeous flower, and if you aren't bothered if people say it differently, I don't see a problem -- though it's probably better if the two parents say it relatively similarly. There was a television show with a characted named Dahlia. Most of the other characters called her DOLL-ya, but the actress playing her mother called her DALL-ya (like Dad), and I wonder how many people watching the show actually noticed the two pronunciations. I'm guessing very few.

July 25, 2016 2:03 PM

I would pronounce is Doll-ee-uh. I have never encountered anyone with the name before, but it is my impression that this is how the flower is pronounced. 

July 25, 2016 2:13 PM

I have never heard it any other way except DOLL-ya or DOLL-ee-ya. I can see DAL-ya working ok, but DAY-lee-ya seems like a stretch. 

July 25, 2016 2:34 PM

If Forvo is any indication, DAY-lee-a might be a UK thing.

July 25, 2016 2:35 PM

I agree that, in my expereince, the only pronunciation uncertainty with this name is whether it's three syllables Dahl (as in author Roald Dahl, or, yes, dolls one plays with) -- ee-uh, or two syllables Doll-Ya.

By the way, this name is an English noun, as it is the name of a flower. Therefore, it is listed in English dictionaries with pronunciation guides. This cuts down dramatically on the ambiguity.

Day-lee-uh is just weird. I wouldn't expect it from anyone with prior experience with the flower or the girl's name. I'm an American BTW. Dowl-like-towel is also odd, but perhaps you pronounce towel differently than I do. 

By mk
July 25, 2016 2:53 PM

DOLL-ee-ya with the last two syllable kind of mushed together but not quite one. If you wanted DAY-lee-uh, then the best spelling is Daylia, which based on a google search is used as a name. Maybe that is what he is thinking of?


July 25, 2016 2:56 PM

Hmm, this is tough. I've never actually met a Dahlia, but I've heard it both "doll-ee-ah" and "dal-ee-ah", the dal like the cal in California. Have you considered just Delia?

July 25, 2016 3:12 PM

Forvo plus Free Dictionary lead me to believe that the DAY-lee-a pronunciation is a UK thing. I'm quite sure that you wouldn't have to deal with that too much in the US.

Do you associate Delia too strongly with that Cordelia to use it? Because it's much less subject to pronunciation variability and, while it can definitely be used as a nickname for longer -delia names, it's a separate name with a good history.

July 25, 2016 3:37 PM

As to the first part, I totally get what you mean by "Dal" like "Dallas" and "Dal" rhymes with "towel." And this is how I would say it. I can also hear the "doll" version. I have never heard "Day" nor would say it that way unless instructed to do so.

Personally, I agree with you on the ending as well. So Dal-ya would be my instinct.

Names that end in "ia" have been talked about here before. 

I think the consensus is that neither "ya" or "ee ah" is right or wrong.

Some people say they can barely hear the difference. I can, but I think either way is fine. I might say Jul ee a Roberts one day and Julya the next. And Amelia is always Amelya for me.

I do think you have to be ok with the subtle differences.

Good luck.


By rooo
July 25, 2016 3:58 PM

I know a Dahlia who pronounces it somewhere between DAHL-ee-uh or DAHL-yuh, as if its 2.5 syllables. I have also come across the name Dalia pronounced dah-LEE-uh (and sometimes mispronounced DAHL-yuh), which you might like.

Other D names you might like...
Delaney nn Della or Lane
Dolores nn Dotty
Dorothea nn Thea
Dorianne nn Dori or Dora
Dominique nn Mina

July 25, 2016 4:11 PM

I have never heard anyone say Dahlia with 3 syllables like your husband is wanting to do.  I would expect something with 2 syllables, either like Dal-ya (sounds like Dallas) or more like Doll-ya (which is closer to what I would say).  I suspect this is largely going to be influenced by regional accent.  To hear the difference, check out forvo.  My pronunciation is like the 1st & 4th ones listed.  The one that sounds more like Dallas is #2.

I mention this not because I personally am bothered or think it is reason not to use the name.  But it might bother some people, and I do think it is something to be aware if you aren't already.  There is a well-known murder victim known as the Black-Dahlia.  You might want to do a quick Google to make sure this won't be an issue for you.

If you decide Dahlia isn't the name, either becaue of the Black Dahlia or because of the pronunciation issues, I'll suggest Darla.  Very similar sound, the spelling is more straight fortward, and pronunciation isn't ambiguous.

July 25, 2016 8:24 PM

I think the big difference between the OP's and her husband's pronunciations is not the number of syllables, but her husband's very odd vowel in the first syllable. The /ya/ vs. /ee-ah/ difference is one that many people use interchangeably, and possibly don't even notice unless they're paying attention, but saying "day + L" instead of "doll" or "dal-rhymes-with-pal" is not going to go unnoticed. (Well, unless you're in Australia/New Zealand and subject to their crazy shifting vowels, where day sounds like die and deck sounds like deek.)

July 26, 2016 1:19 AM

The Black Dahlia was my first thought, too--this is the context in which I've most often heard the word/name said. A quick YouTube search will find many docudramas and such with various people saying "dahlia". As others have said, American speakers pretty uniformly rhyme the first syllable with either all or Al, never ale.

FWIW, I'm pretty sure the "dale" pronunciation is standard in Britain; the OED lists this pronunciation first, but notes that it should "properly" have the vowel of barn or palm in the first syllable, presumably because the flower was named for a Swedish botanist named Dahl. "Pronunciation:  ( /ˈdeɪlɪə/ , properly /ˈdɑːlɪə/ )" Perhaps the British pronunciation comes from some parallel with the flower day lily?

By Eko
July 26, 2016 3:19 AM

I've never realized Dahlia is named for a Swedish botanist! Thanks for the information. I'm Swedish and I say Dahl with an a like in car.

July 26, 2016 12:59 AM

What is your first language, and how is Dahlia pronounced in it?

I wonder whether the Hungarian version, Dália, is a common pronunciation in other languages, because that could account for your use of "towel" as a sounds-like word.

English pronunciation is impossible to unambiguously describe using written English words: dialects differ too much. I'm therefore going to resort to the International Phonetic Alphabet. (Wikipedia has a chart with audio: .) I'm also going to use a vocabulary word: diphthong. It just means a combo vowel, that is, one that starts out as one sound and ends as another. Most English vowels are actually diphthongs, and many vowel sounds only occur in English as part of such combinations.

One of the sounds that only occurs in combination is [a]. Most English dialects have this sound in words like 'price, my, mice' and 'mouth, now, trout' -- and 'towel'. It is also exactly the sound represented by á in Hungarian spelling: the aforementioned Dália can be written ['da: li jɑ] in IPA. (The apostrophe indicates stress, and the colon indicates longer duration.)

The "Dally" (like 'dilly-dally' or 'dalliance') pronunciation of Dahlia uses the vowel called "ash", which is written in both Old English and IPA as [æ], and occurs in most dialects in words like pal, lad, cat.

The "Daily" pronunciation uses the diphthong [eɪ]; [e] is another combo-only vowel, often called "eta" (like the Greek letter), and occuring in words like face, date, pain, dale. I've never heard this pronunciation for the name or flower, and I think Karyn is right that it's a British thing.

In terms of origins, the "Dolly" pronunciation is probably the most "correct", but it's kind of hard to describe reliably. The vowel is one of the ones in the bottom right-hand corner of the standard IPA vowel chart, but transcriptions vary between unrounded [ɑ] and rounded [ɒ] or even [ɔ], and the words it occurs in vary. In my dialect, all of the following words have [ɑ]: palm, lot, not, wasp, cloth, off, loss, long, dog, thought, law, caught, all, halt, talk. (Other dialects put these words into two or three distinct groups, with no two dialects grouping all of them the same way.)

I identified the "doll" pronunciation as "correct" because the name of the flower is derived from the name of a Swedish botanist, Anders Dahl, and this name is pronounced [dɒ:l] by all three Swedish speakers on Forvo. (The surname is fairly well-known in English because of the children's author Roald Dahl.)

In all of the above, I've totally ignored the pronunciation of the -ia. As others have commented, this will vary by person and region, with some people unable to even hear a difference between [jə] (-ya) and [ɪə] (-iya). You may be able to predict local pronunciation tendendies based on other -lia names, such as Julia.


July 26, 2016 2:53 AM

This is when my head spins. Dallas and pal are totally different than lad and cat to me. I have tried to say Catas (sub for Dallas) out loud to hear what you're saying, and it's not at all the same to me.

Ugh - and towel, Dal, pal and now all rhyme. 

First language is Texan! But do know a little American.

Oh, I was watching a British show recently and the book of Isaiah was mentioned. The actress pronounced it "I-zye-ah" not "I-zay-ah."

I don't think I'll ever be fluent in the English language! :)



July 26, 2016 9:49 AM

I've replaced Dallas with dally and dalliance, does that help at all?

EYE-zye-ah? Ouch. That's almost worse than "ball" pronounced like "bowl"....

July 26, 2016 10:55 AM

I'm trying to wrap my head around towel and pal rhyming. Are you saying towel as 1-1.5 syllables instead of 2? What about dowel? Trowel? Is trowel said like trawl? Is pal said like Paul? Is towel said like the first syllable of tally? This site needs a voice function :)

July 26, 2016 3:09 PM

Right? When people say "a as in cat", they may say cat totally different than me, so it's not helpful.

Speaking of cat, mine thinks I've lost it sitting here saying towel a hundred times.

I think I use one syllable - "towl" rhymes with owl. And they both rhyme with pal. 

Too hard to explain this way! Will hop on a plane and head north!

July 26, 2016 3:17 PM

Oh! I get it! I say towel and owl the same way, too (I'm pretty sure that they're both two syllables), but if I make the vowel really broad, I can get them to sound like pal, and that sounds like people I've heard on television :)

July 26, 2016 3:30 PM


And they all rhyme with the first part of Dahlia.

July 26, 2016 4:14 PM

Oy. I can see towel sounding like owl, but how the heck does 'pal' come into the picture? And then smushing Dahlia into the same boat just totally hurts my brain.

At some point, wouldn't it be easier for y'all to just learn Hungarian so we could converse semi-intelligently? :)

July 26, 2016 11:15 AM

OK, I want everyone participating in this discussion to go over to Forvo and record themselves saying Dahlia, Dallas, lad, cat, towel, Daria, and Azalea. Right now! Go!

July 26, 2016 12:30 PM

I would, gladly, but my computer has decided not to allow Forvo to use the microphone, and I don't know how to fix it.

July 26, 2016 8:44 PM

Ah! Some combination of fiddling with audio settings and Flash player settings, plus a page refresh or three, seem to have done the trick: it now not only records, but also plays it back, instead of the dead silence or chirping it was doing before.

My username is my maiden initials and a sound a cat makes. I did all of the words on the list except Daria, which wasn't coming up as English, and I wasn't up to dealing with Forvo in that much detail.

July 26, 2016 11:06 PM

...except it looks like someone at Forvo decided to do some cleaning up or something: all of your pronunciations have disappeared, as well as most of mine (and all of the relevant ones). I guess in the future we need to use Karyn's method, except I don't have Dropbox or anything else where I could post stuff.

Also, I tried to add "pal" (as in the normal word that means "friend"), but it keeps conflating it with the acronym PAL.

July 27, 2016 9:32 AM


I re-did Dahlia: I think my pronunciation is closer to 3 syllables than any of the other English ones. I'm not going to re-do any of the rest, to hopefully not trigger the overzealous whoever-it-was.

July 27, 2016 10:20 AM

Yes, much closer to three syllables than the others (except the British guy, with the clear Day- pronunciation). I got a kick out of listening to your Hungarian, too.

I'm really curious now about how similar our pronunciations are (and also how similar your voices are!). We clearly need something more stable for this; I can appreciate Forvo not wanting a bunch of same-sounding pronunciations, but actual audio really does make these conversations so much better.

July 26, 2016 2:16 PM

I don't have time to start with Forvo, so I just made a voice recording on my cell phone and uploaded it to my public Dropbox folder. You should be able to hear me saying all those words here!

July 26, 2016 2:20 PM

Kind of cool to hear your voice! Your Dahlia is so very different from mine. My first syllable rhymes with all, whereas yours sound more like Dallas, for sure. So interesting. 

July 26, 2016 2:25 PM

I hope that other people do the same! I can't believe that I never thought of doing this before!

I'm sure that my Dahlia is related to the Hebrew name Dalia, which is pronounced with that sound of Dallas much more than doll. I know that it's a separate name, but I still say them as though they are different spellings of the same name -- as do the people I have know with the name.

July 26, 2016 5:25 PM

Errr!  No mic. If I can bum one tonight, I'll gladly do it.

Good idea.

EDIT: Duh! Couldn't do it on cell and it seemed to be asking for a mic on laptop - of course I knew I had one built in...

Long story short - it's on there. Duh, again did not use this user name - starts with an l - ends in a 1 on that site. 

If we do this again, I'll create a new account.  Too lazy today.

Has anyone else done this? I only got Karyn's she attached here. Didn't recognize anyone on Forvo.

Had to create an English Daria??? Seemed weird. Maybe I'm having a brain dead day...

July 26, 2016 5:39 PM

I clicked on your username and was able to see all your recordings at once. So much fun!

So, you say Daria the way that most Americans say Dahlia. Replace the R with an L and there you go. Your Dahlia sounds like an American version of mine, which amuses me greatly, for some reason.

I burst out laughing when I heard your towel. No wonder we're having so much trouble using comparisons! And your "lad" had that strong diphthong that I think of as being wholly American, too. (Not that all Americans say it, but that it screams American :)) I really enjoyed hearing your recordings!

July 26, 2016 7:26 PM

So much fun! And you sound like a narrator!

July 26, 2016 7:47 PM

That's because of how I enunciate -- in particular my stop consonants, I think. And thank you!

July 26, 2016 7:44 PM

Your 'towel' blows my mind. It sounds almost like 'tell'. I just tried, and I can't read the word that way; I have to transcribe it into IPA and then read that instead: [taʊ̯l].

I couldn't find your list at first, because I was using 'azalea' as my search term, and you have it spelled as 'azalia'. (You're not the only one, but it's not the standard spelling.)

July 26, 2016 8:05 PM

Hey girls, I added "tell" - so you can "tell" the difference between tell and towel ha ha.

Quick note -used to have a crazy Texas drawl - moved to the only blue part of the state and kinda lost it. Now that I'm back in the "red" it came back!

Also, it's really extreme when I'm around certain people, but still not like it was when I was younger.

I do believe that you lose or get an accent depending on where you are from.

So much fun.

To OP: Sorry to take your space. Check out our actual pronunciations.

July 26, 2016 6:38 PM

OK, I know I said "right now" but I was mostly's sooo cool that some of you took me seriously! I love hearing all your voices.

So I finally got a Forvo account of my own and a working mic, so you can hear me now. I also added in "pal" to my list of words I was pronouncing. My username there is Megan with some numbers and a letter.

July 26, 2016 7:11 PM

I was all set to test my mic with Forvo, and then I saw your account (identified mostly by the set of words you happened to have listed), played your recordings, and came to the conclusion that adding my own pronunciations would be wholly redundant.

In other words: what she said. :)

July 26, 2016 7:43 PM


1) Then we don't get to hear what you sound like!

2) It's possible that there are differences you aren't even aware of. 

July 26, 2016 8:56 PM

OK, OK... except my sister seems to have gotten her computer and Forvo on friendlier terms, so I'm truly feeling superfluous now. I did get in "Daria", though.

Basically, the difference between my sister's (and my) pronunciations and nedibes' is that we're more likely to pronounce things as multiple syllables. N's Dahlia, for example, is about 2.5 syllables, while my sister's is more like 2.9.

July 26, 2016 7:45 PM

I'm so intrigued by the distinct diphthongization of many of your vowels. It's quite soft but so there. I wish that we had thought of doing this years ago! It would have made so many of our discussions clearer.

I still don't have time to start fiddling with Forvo, but I will do it eventually. I figured that the voice memo was an easy and quick solution for the purposes of this discussion.

July 27, 2016 10:35 AM

Well, I'm from the heart of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, but not really the "white" part, and have parents from elsewhere and a grandmother who took elocution (my in-laws thought she was British when they first met), so I'm never quite sure what I sound like. It's possible that I'm saying "melk" when I think I'm saying milk, for example. So maybe my vowels just can't make up their mind?

It's funny, all of your pronunciations sound "right" to me, in the sense of being the way I would say them...except for the names! Makes me wonder how often on the board we (the collective we) think we're talking about the same name, but aren't, really.

July 26, 2016 7:45 PM

OMG - you sound like a page in an airport. So sophisticated! But why are you paging a cat?

July 26, 2016 9:09 PM

Maybe it's just how I hear it, but your pal and towel sound like mine.

Is it that I hear it as expected?

Frankly, my dear, it was a GREAT idea! 

July 26, 2016 10:56 PM

Nobody's 'towel' sounds like yours. You could take out a patent on that 'towel'. ]:)

But 'pal' apparently has the same vowel for nedibes, me, and some gentleman from the UK. What are the chances of that?

July 27, 2016 4:03 AM


Playing around again. I don't know about how the words sound as much as how LOUD I am. Guess I really wanted to make sure I was heard.

I still think my towel sounds fine. :)


July 27, 2016 10:04 AM

Hee, I want to be a page, now :).

One of my best friends is from Houston, and your towel sounds just like her mom's (probably also like hers did when we first met, but that's twenty years ago now and she hasn't lived in Texas any of that). I would totally have pegged you as Texan based on that word, but not any of the others (maybe tell, now that you've added it). I think, in the sentence that I said, my first towel (the verb) sounds more like yours--much closer to one or 1.5 syllables instead of two, but I think our vowels are still somewhat different. It's possible that I picked up a bit of Texas from all my years talking to Michelle--I know I say "might could/should" where I never did before.

They took down both our pals, but I do think we have very similar vowels in Dallas, lad, and cat, and our Azali/eas sound almost the same to me. Your tell is very different, I think, but I'm terrible at "hearing" my own accent.

July 26, 2016 3:53 AM

I would say Dahlia as Dah-li-a, but I have heard people pronounce it as Day-li-a - I'm in Australia so that could be the British influence here.

Pronunciation aside (Because my distant location isn't going to help you find out how your local community say the name!), would Daria be a suitable alternative? Similar flow, but fewer pronunciation issues. 

July 26, 2016 10:51 AM

DA-ree-a like dat; DAW-ree-a like father; DARE-ee-a like, well, dare. Nope, not less ambiguous :)