People can argue about almost anything, from the color of a viral gown to the proper pronunciation of “archipelago.” Some folks will swear on a stack of Bibles that it’s “ar-chi-pill-ay-go,” while others will argue till they’re blue in the face that it gets appropriately pronounced, “ar-chi-pell-ago.” These differences of opinion typically come down to a person’s manner of speaking.
Kratom is a word that has left many people stumped, and this confusion has led to no small amount of bickering between users. Most Western kratom users have only read the term “kratom;” they have not heard it spoken in its native tongue. They get taken aback when they finally hear someone else say it.
As it happens, the argument around kratom pronunciation has gotten waged for many years. There are several ways that people choose to pronounce kratom. Today we’ll look at the different forms of pronouncing kratom and the elocution required for proper native pronunciation.
The two most popular pronunciations of kratom are “KRAY-tum” and “KRAT-um.” Before you choose sides, it is worth noting that both articulations of the word have found their way into the Oxford Dictionary. Unfortunately, the latter did not take a definitive stance on which was correct.
Both of these pronunciations get widely accepted across Canada, and the U.S. A third pronunciation has cropped up in pockets of the United States, with some speciosa enthusiasts referring to the herb as “KRAH-Tom.”
As you can see, the pronunciation of kratom varies mainly by region and often gets bastardized by English pronunciation. It isn’t just kratom that English speakers struggle to pronounce correctly. Some users also struggle with its scientific name—Mitragyna speciosa—to laughable degrees. Our staff have heard everything from “MY-tro JY-na SPECKY-osa” to “MIT-ra GUY-nah SPEAK-I-osa.”
For the record, it gets appropriately pronounced “MIT-ra GEE-na SPEE-SEE-osa.” The root word here is species, as in the species of coffee plants that the kratom tree represents. Still, the word itself means something entirely different. “speciosa” is Latin for magnificent, which is apt given kratom’s natural qualities.
Let’s break down the different ways kratom gets pronounced before discussing the one widely accepted as universal pronunciation. We trust you’ll agree there is more than one valid pronunciation of kratom.
This is the original English pronunciation and also the most widespread. In this word version, the term rhymes with “pat, um.” A short “a” sound is employed. It may be the most accurate pronunciation as the quick “a” is multilingual across many disparate dialects.
This variation of kratom gets pronounced like “rate ’em,” employing an extended “ay” sound rather than a typical “a.” Think of the Fonz doing his thing on Happy Days, and you’ve got it in the bag. Although it isn’t as prevalent as the first pronunciation, this variation is standard on the Eastern coast of the U.S.
This bastardized version of kratom is a relatively recent discovery that has attenuated the word to some extent. This pronunciation’s origins can get traced back to Kentucky, where smoke shop proprietors added their Southern drawl to the word. Over the years, the accent has gotten adopted by individuals in Maryland, Massachusetts, and even Northwestern New York.
So, how do you pronounce kratom correctly?
The truth is, no one pronunciation is correct. Southeast Asian regions have their variations on the name anyway. You haven’t even heard the most accurate terms for kratom. Southeast Asian countries typically refer to kratom as “keton,” although this is most common among Indonesian speakers.
In some parts of Indonesia, farmers refer to their kratom crop as “kadambra” or “puri,” while others call it “ketum.” Meanwhile, Malaysians call kratom “biak-biak” or “kutum.” Interestingly, Thailand has the most names for kratom of any country; you can alternately refer to it as “bai krathom,” “ketum,” “katuan,” “krataum,” “taum,” “ithang,” and “kakuan.”
In Vietnam, kratom gets called “giam,” while the inhabitants of Myanmar call kratom “beinsa” or “beinsaywat.” The latter is most accurately pronounced, “BE-in SY-wot,” not the more obvious, “Bein’ Say What.” Most Southeast Asian countries use some variation of “ketum” as a nickname, the R being silent in most local pronunciations.
In short, there is no correct pronunciation of kratom since kratom is a word that Westerners came up with to market the plant matter from the Mitragyna speciosa tree. If anything, kratom is an adulteration of the native “ketum,” which gets correctly pronounced “KATE-um.”
Part of the confusion surrounding correct pronunciation owes to merchandising. The kratom industry is to blame for perpetuating misinformation. For example, several e-commerce kratom vendors have claimed that Maeng Da Kratom translates as “Pimp Grade Kratom.” That is merely a marketing ploy.
Contrary to popular belief, “Maeng Da” is not a native term. In Indonesian, “maeng” means “play,” while “da” has no meaning. It is an invention of the crafty American kratom industry. A domestic vendor cleverly took the term from an obscure military offensive in July 1970 referred to as Operation Maeng Da.
Operation Maeng Da took its name from the Lao slang for “pimp,” contemptuously used by CIA trainers during this military offensive. Later, it became a point of pride for a farmer to offer Maeng Da Kratom as it became shorthand for OG (Old Growth) Horned Leaf Kratom, the most potent strain on Earth.
The Southeast Asian regions where kratom grows also serve as the best window into kratom slang terms. Thailand has the most names for kratom of any country; you can alternately refer to it as “bai krathom,” “ketum,” “katuan,” “krataum,” “taum,” “ithang,” and “kakuan.”
From Thailand, Americans likely got their own slang terms for the herb. In the United States, several users refer to kratom as “thang,” which probably comes from the Thai slang term “ithang.”
There are no formal rules of etiquette when ordering or discussing kratom, more generally. Some individuals short a sound when pronouncing kratom, while others call it “kray” as a shorthand. As kratom use becomes increasingly ubiquitous, new slang terms will likely appear.
The kratom community doesn’t agree much, but most agree that kratom should only come from Southeast Asia. The general population may think Florida-grown kratom is okay, but kratom grows naturally only in the Asian territories mentioned above. The tropical rainforests of SE Asia offer the M. speciosa tree the sun and nourishment it needs to reach peak maturity.
At the end of the day, the cultivation, harvesting, and manufacturing of kratom products matter far more than how you choose to pronounce the name. Indonesia is among the largest exporters of kratom and is also the most trusted source of quality products. In short, people are cray about kray-tum.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER: The content on this page is strictly for entertainment purposes only. The content below has not been medically reviewed and is not intended to offer advice for use or intended use. For more information about kratom and its potential dangers, please visit the fda.gov site.