Typically, as we've discussed before, two-syllable words from French are stressed on their first syllable in BrE and on the second in AmE -- BALlet versus balLET, BAton versus baTON, etc. (Please see and comment on the linked post if that's the issue you're interested in.)

photo from:

This led me to wonder about shallot because it looks like a French borrowing (so many food words are), but the stress pattern is makes it look like it isn't:  BrE shalLOT versus AmE SHALlot or shalLOT. (You can hear them both in an American accent here.)  American dictionaries tend to list the second-syllable stress version first--apparently considering that as most "correct". But I've always said SHALlot and can't recall hearing an American say shalLOT. For example, here's video of an American editor at a cooking magazine saying it the way I say it. (American and British vowel qualities in the word differ in predictable ways: we are firmly divided by the 'lot' vowel--or vowels, taking into account the variety found. Here I'm just going to focus on the stress pattern.)

So why doesn't it follow the two-syllable French-borrowing pattern? Probably because it's not a two-syllable French word. The French eschalotte has lost its first vowel in its journey into contemporary English.

Eschalotte was borrowed into English with the e at the beginning (at least in writing), though it lost the one at the end. The OED has citations for eschalot(t) in English from 1707 into the 19th century. But was that first e ever pronounced? One of the OED's citations is from Johnson's dictionary:

1755   Johnson Dict. Eng. Lang.,   Eschalot. Pronounced shallot.
The citations for shal(l)ot go earlier than those for the more French-looking version--back to 1664, making it look even more like that first e has been ignored from the (AmE) get-go.

Nevertheless, English seems to have some kind of sense-memory that we shouldn't treat it like ballet or beret or other French two-syllable words, because it isn't one. Nevertheless I see it and my reptilian high-school brain wants me to say 'shalLO' because that -ot reminds me of things like escargot and Margot.

The OED gets a bit judg(e)mental about the spelling:
The spelling shallot, though inferior to shalot because it suggests a wrong pronunciation, is now the more common.
Now, if they want me to come down hard on the 'lot' (as I know they do), I don't really understand that comment. Perhaps they mean that people might say SHALL-ot because they see shall in it. Well, that is what Americans do, but I can't imagine that we'd pronounce it like the dictionaries (and the British) tell us to if it had only one 'l'. I see shalot and I want to say it like chalet with an o.

If you're an American who says shalLOT, let us know--and please tell us where you got it from (i.e. what part of the country you learn{ed/t} the word in, or whether you've been influenced by BrE).

Meanwhile, I'm taking comfort in the fact that eschalotte shares history with (mostly AmE) scallion, since when I want a shallot I usually have to take a few moments to remember that scallion isn't the word for it.


  1. I guess they think 'shallot' looks like it should rhyme with 'ballot'?

    Though that doesn't account for 'allot'.

  2. In other words, they don't like the 'shallot' spelling precisely because it makes it look French?

  3. I'm not clear on how the extra L makes it look more French.

    Also, if you're a British person trying to pronounce it, the more French-looking it is, the more likely you'd be to pronounce it in my American way with the stress on SHALL.

  4. The 'ballot' theory is good. 'Allot' is a verb, and verbs and nouns don't always follow the same stress pattern, so I don't think it would interfere as much as 'ballot' would.

  5. You know that "e" is epenthetic in French, right?

  6. If I had to guess at the spelling, I would write shalott.

    The OED wording is clumsy, but I'm sure they mean that shall is a more suitable spelling for the unstressed syllable — IPA transcription ʃəl.

    John Wells in his Longman Pronunciation Dictionary lists BrE ʃəˈlɒt; AmE ʃəˈlɑ:t, ˈʃælət.

  7. A plausible reason for us Brits not using a spelling pronunciation is that it's a word we hear long before we see it written down.

    I can't remember when I first heard it pronounced. Even today I very seldom see it written down.

  8. The earliest spelling in the OED of the variant eschalot is the satisfying eschalotts.

  9. I myself have learned to say SHALLot, except when reciting W.S. Gilbert's "Rhyme of the Nancy Bell", where it rhymes with forgot.

    WP says that in Australia and anglophone Quebec, shallot refers to green/spring onions or scallions, and Allium cepa var. aggregatum is called eschalot, direct from French.

  10. I think the Irish will object to you claiming scallion as AmE

  11. The ballot theory doesn't hold in the kind of BrE I speak (middle class Londoner), unless I've misunderstood you.

    I pronounce ballot more like bal-ut, ie stress on first syllable but very short o sound (sorry, don't know correct linguistic terms). In my world, shallot has the stress on the first syllable but a longer pure o sound.

    Su Bonfanti

  12. Because I'm only contrasting BrE and AmE here (as ever), 'mostly AmE' doesn't mean 'not IrishE', but rather 'not very BrE'.

  13. I've heard the BrE pronunciation in the US but I think that's down to shallots being a lot less common in American cookery. It's often British people that you hear talking about them on TV or the radio which causes some Americans to adopt that pronounciation

  14. Yes, shallots are closely associated with French cooking but the written word is as remote as can be from French.

    The spelling we came to choose in English is nigh-on impossible in French. Only transplants like shérif, show, shampoo are spelled with sh. The sch in the original French eschalotte was lifted straight from German. Only later was it changed to the more French-looking échalotte.

    Yes, eschaloigne is the word that yielded both shallot and scallion, but that doesn't necessarily make them the same vegetable. In Britain, scallion refers to two distinct members of the onion family: the 'Welsh onion' and the 'spring onion'. According to the OED the 'shallot' meaning is American. I'm not sure what the Irish mean by scallion.

  15. WP says that in Australia and anglophone Quebec, shallot refers to green/spring onions or scallions, and Allium cepa var. aggregatum is called eschalot, direct from French.

    It depends on which state you located are in. But yeah... Shallot, Eschallot, and Spring Onions mean different things to different people down here.

    I definitely dont think of the pictured onion when talking about shallots.

    This seems to cover it really well:

    A quick google seems to find plenty of people being confused :).

    As for pronunciation, its the same as BrE, with the addition of the e- prefix for eschallot

  16. I'm not sure what the Irish mean by scallion.

    Well, I had a shrewd idea. I knew that at least some Irish use the word for what I call a spring onion. A little googling suggests that this is overwhelmingly what they mean.

  17. The sch in the original French eschalotte was lifted straight from German.

    Well, that's what I understood from the OED entry for shallot. But I misunderstood. What they seem to be saying is that the English words was taken from French but possibly affected by the Low German schalotten.

    The French eschaloingne, of which eschalotte was a diminutive, was actually from a Latin word reconstructed as *escalonia from Classical Latin Ascalonia known to us as the ancient port of Ascalon.

    I'm not sure what a eschaloigne was. The French for scallion in the sense of 'Welsh onion' (aka Japanese clumping onion) is ciboule. I think the French for scallion in the sense of 'spring onion' is cébette.

    Somewhere in the dictionaries and Wikipedia, I've seen it sated that Jamaica has the word escallion ('Welsh onion'), and that shallot is sometimes used in AmE to denote 'a leek'.

  18. I keep thinking of The Lady of Shalott.

    The lady of shallot
    Slept on a pallet.
    Not on a cot,
    Filled with a shal-LOT.

  19. I listen to "The Splendid Table" every week, and I've noticed that Lynne Rossetto Kasper always says "shalLOT," but she's the only one I've ever heard it from. She also says "mah-ri-nahd" (sorry, I'm not good at phonetic spellings!) for "marinade," which does sound French to me.

  20. Up until I was 15 I pronounced it as rhyming with ballot, but then my friend misspelled it in the National Spelling Bee when it was pronounced like allot. So I guess that's where I picked it up.

  21. As a speaker of AmEng I'm not helping by admitting I've never pronounced shallot by stressing the second syllable, but I will say if I've ever heard an American pronounce it that way I put it out of my mind as an aberration.

    I was intrigued by John Cowan's observation that 'I myself have learned to say SHALLot, except when reciting W.S. Gilbert's "Rhyme of the Nancy Bell", where it rhymes with forgot.', so I Googled the poem and read it. Interesting to note that Gilbert spelled shallot with one l, and because the poem's rhymes are often whimsical (Gilbert also rhymes appetite with midshipmite) it's easy to imagine that in rhyming forgot with shalot he was highlighting an unusual stress solely for comedic effect.

    The poem, by the way, deals wittily with cannibalism and, if you believe the introduction on this web page, was for that reason rejected by Punch.

  22. I needed to get some shallots for a recipe and, having never bought them, asked the produce person at the supermarket (Mid-Atlantic region, USA). He called them shal-LOTs, so that's how I pronounce it now.

  23. Pronunciation demonstration by Mr Weebl (British):

  24. I think I've always put the stress on the second syllable, but I'm not entirely sure. I do know that I encountered the word written out years before ever hearing it pronounced or seeing any shallots for sale anywhere so they must be far more common in England than they were in America until recent years; I think the first time the local grocery had them was sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s. My mother and I bought some just for the novelty of it because we'd never encountered them before and had never known exactly what they were when we saw them listed in a recipe. For the record though I live in a small city in the upper Great Plains, hell and gone away from any large cities or from either coast, and someone in any of those places could well have had access to shallots decades earlier than we did here.

    All that said, at least one, maybe two, of the local grocery stores handle them regularly now and have for years, and the ones we get look exactly like the picture at the top of this article. They are smaller and more oval (with pointed ends) than a regular onion and a bit flat on one side, and are nothing at all like what we call a green onion, which is a straight slim wand. I used to grow green onions and while they will get a bit bulbous at the bottom if you don't pick them early enough, they will never develop into a full size onion, or even something as big as the shallot pictured above.

    I've never seen anything called a spring onion, or a Welsh onion for that matter. Here though a leek is definitely not a green onion or a shallot. I'm not sure really what a scallion refers to; I've always thought of it as a synonym for green onions, but it's not a term I've ever seen in printed recipes, though I know I've heard the word, and it may just be that we used green onions as a substitute because that's what we had available. It seems to be a word I associate with my youth, something my mom or her friends occasionally said, which would put it in the era when we had nothing but green onions and regular onions to choose from.

    Good grief -- no wonder it's so hard to make sense of old recipes, when we can hardly make sense of new ones what with there being such disagreement on our word meanings. So sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words -- I found this:

    More to the point, when you buy green onions here (and when you pull your homegrown ones on time for that matter) they look like this:, but if you leave them in the ground too long (like I had a habit of doing) they tended to look more like this at the bottom: -- as you can see, still quite small. Shallots look like this: and -- you see what I mean by flat on one side? These are leeks, I haven't cooked with them often, but my impression is they are milder than any of the onions:

  25. Dark Star

    None of you links work — at least not on my computer.

    Green onions are the same as British spring onions and Irish scallions.

  26. David Crosbie wrote: According to the OED the 'shallot' meaning is American.


    Dark Star in the Morning wrote: I think the first time the local grocery had them was sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

    Huh. While I've heard of people confusing the two momentarily, I've never heard any Americans insisting on — or seen any advertising showing — "shallots" when "scallion" or "green onions" (used interchangeably around where I grew up and where I live now) were meant.

    And shallots (I also stress the first syllable) were always a part of cooking in my home when I was very small — which was in the late seventies and early eighties, I suppose — so perhaps not too far off from Dark Star's experience when one considers geographic differences. The things we called either green onions or scallions, roughly in equal measure as far as I can remember, were also always around.

    Then again, I grew up in a tiny town where people prided themselves on their vegetable gardens (there was little else to do, it seemed), so that might the real cause of the difference.

    —Starting to Consider No Longer Remaining Anonymous in New Jersey

  27. Hi, Dark Star -- indeed, your links don't work when I click on them, although they're fine when I copy-paste them (or, in Safari, I highlight them, right click, and then choose "Open in new tab"). Blogger tricks. But the photos are extremely helpful.

  28. a marvellous discussion to find...thanks Zhoen for leading me here!
    Welsh onion is allium fistulosum, aka japanese bunching onion.
    In Welsh,with the accent on the penultimate syllable, shallots are still probably from French.
    A final Welsh,spring onions are sibwns, or gibbons in Welsh English ...who knows where THAT came from?!!

  29. Drat! I have no clue why my links aren't working. I put in the HTML tags, I must have messed something up, but I'm not sure what. Drat, drat, drat!!!! I usually get it right......

    Total apologies....

  30. Anonymous (of New Jersey)

    Huh. While I've heard of people confusing the two momentarily, I've never heard any Americans insisting on — or seen any advertising showing — "shallots" when "scallion" or "green onions" (used interchangeably around where I grew up and where I live now) were meant.

    The past is another country.

    Most recipes that have ever been compiled were never written down. And of the written minority, they vast majority until recently were handwritten for the use of family and close friends.

    When people moved house — even over relatively short distances in the British Isles, let alone across the Atlantic — they sometimes found that particular ingredients weren't grown, or particular baking apparatus wasn't available.

    The evidence is overwhelming that what many cooks did was to modify the recipe with local substitutes without necessarily modifying the names. Names like scallion travelled widely; the reference changed according to what allium vegetable was adopted. This obviously happened to a laser extent with the name shallot.

    We've seen this before on Lynne's blog with food-words of long standing. The same names ended up with different baked good, for example. Although neep looks like the same word as turnip the names are attached to different vegetable which used to be grown in different parts of Britain. Where both root vegetable were grown (or where one was easily imported) a second name was adopted — swede in much of Britain, rutabaga elsewhere.

    In recent years, green onion has become standardised in America, while spring onion has become standardised in Britain. Scallion has been lost in Britain, but not in America, while in Ireland it has been standardised as the only name.

  31. Dark Star

    Try this — removing the spaces that I've had to insert

    < a href = " PASTE IN THE LINK " > GIVE IT A NAME < / a >

    The only space you should leave is between a and href.

  32. Oh, and I'm an American, complicated dialect background (more mid-Atlantic than anything, but with bits of Seattle, North Dakota, Texas, and New York thrown in). I had only ever heard the SHALL-ot pronunciation until I was in high school at a public-speech competition. One of my adversaries chose the Tennyson poem, which was bad for both Tennyson and him.

    I think I knew shallots mainly from cooking shows, which my family liked to watch on Sunday afternoons on PBS. This was in the 1980s, well before the Food Channel inflicted Emeril and Rachel Ray on the world. I'm sure I was in my 20s before I'd ever actually used a shallot.

  33. For me "scallion" is definitely Irish - I had never heard the word until I met my husband, and, conversely, he had never heard them called "spring onions". I tend to say "scallion" nowadays! I had never heard them called "green onions", though, until I started meeting Americans on line.

    I don't really care for shallots (which I pronounce with the stress on the second syllable, as I do the Lady of!), finding them too fiddly to peel and the end result not worth it - I tend to substitute red onions, which my supertaster friends would probably shudder at, but hey....

  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

  35. @David

    It's worse. I forgot the (damn) href altogether. Headdesks through the keyboard, the desk and then continues to headdesk on through the floor. No wonder my links aren't working. I don't think I can edit them either. (Swears and headdesks some more. I know how to do this, but I haven't done it in so long I just plain spaced out how.)

  36. Okay, trying to make working links this time.

    First one: Pictures of Green onions, Spring onions, Shallots, and Leeks.

    Second one: Picture of storebought green onions in the Northern High Plains, specifically South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, but also probably at least Montana and Colorado, and very possibly a much larger area of the Rocky Mountain West and Great Plains.

    Third one: Picture of the same green onions if you grow them yourself and don't pull them as soon as you should, showing how they get a bit bulbous, but nowhere as much so as the spring onion shown in the first picture. I've never seen anything quite like the spring onion here; it looks like a regular onion, only in miniature. They do sell something in cans (tins) called (I think) a cocktail onion which is tiny and round, and put into, exactly that, cocktails, but I've only seen them canned. I suspect they may just be immature onions? Anyone know about this?

    Fourth and fifth ones: Shallots unpeeled and Shallots peeled.

    Sixth one: Leeks.

  37. For me (Massachusetts) the terms scallion, spring onion, and green onion are interchangeable, all denoting the same type of onion, except that last year our local fancy healthy supermarket started calling a particular oversized large-bulbed sub-type of that type a spring onion. This sub-type looked exactly like the onions which in a seaside community not far from here where we go for vacation are called "rareripes".

  38. Shalots (or Shallots) were always pronounced to sound like 'The Lady of..' (a LOT)... and in our house, that is what they were called. We spoke Middlesex/W London/BrE although the family came from the west country.
    It led to varieties of Tennyson's poem being cited in our house as 'The Lady of Pickling Onion'....

  39. Re. the Welsh names. Sialot is an adaptation of shallot into Welsh spelling. Though there are a number of Welsh words which were adapted directly < French in the medieval period (and sometimes appear earlier than the Middle English equivalents), this one seems not to be borrowed directly from Middle French. The stress pattern has stayed with the source rather than conforming to normal Welsh rules, as you say.

    Sibwn is a variant of the older Sibol/sibwl, which is a borrowing of a northern French variant of ciboule (the variant form also gave English chibol) < Latin cepulla < cepa 'onion'. This word (and its relatives in other languages) seems to have referred to Allium fistulosum from the 1500s, but whether it referred to different alliums or cultivars at an earlier date is uncertain (the word is known in Anglo-French from the 13th century and Middle English from the 14th). "Gibbon" looks like an adaptation of sibwn back into Welsh English, but theoretically the direction of travel could be the other way round. In the English Dialect Dictionary are recorded SW English dialect forms of chibol such as jibble, gibbal, chibbole, etc, though it doesn't have the form gibbon. Just to be clear, all the gib- forms are pronounced with /d3/ and have nothing to do with primates! Sadly, chibol seems to have become obsolete in mainstream English by the early 19th cent.

    "Eschalotte" is no problem as a spelling in pre-modern French, and TLF gives several instances from the seventeenth and eighteenth centures. Re. the Middle German form, when a first edition OED entry (as this one) says "Compare X..." it is not implying that the English word is borrowed from or influenced by X, unless it explicitly says so. The editors were just hedging. In this case it seems pretty straightforward that the word was borrowed into German (and cf. Dutch sjalot, etc.) from French, just as it was into English.

  40. When I grew up in Montreal in the year dot, we said shalLOT and meant green onions! Now much older and wiser I still say shalLOT but mean those look-like-tiny-onions. pronounces it shalLOT and also mentions "green onion". What a mess.

  41. The irony is that the American SHALL-ot actually sounds closer to the French (échalote) than shal-LOT does. The stress is wrong but the vowels are closer. Not that that makes it any more or less "correct", of course.

  42. I am a Ontario/western Canadian who has never lived in another country.
    Shallot is a word I have rarely, if ever, heard, and rarely seen. Cooking with vegetables is a foreign world to me, but I don't think I've seen such a label in the supermarket's produce section. I see cooking onions, white onions, purple onions and "green onions," which resemble reeds, not spheres. I have no idea what a scallion is – a mischievous child, perhaps?

    I have assumed it was pronounced sha-LOT. As poster Zhoen suggests, it makes me think of Tennyson's poem/ballad (ba-LAD?) The Lady of Shalott, which we studied in school 50+ years ago; I believe Shalott was pronounced with the second syllable stressed.

  43. Scallions are the things that you say resemble reeds (I see what you mean), if they have a white bulb on the end. If they don't, they are chives (ciboulette in French, to come full circle).

    They are basically all alliums - onions in various colours and flavours (some suitable for eating raw, others a bit too strong), shallots, spring onions/scallions/green onions, leeks, garlic.... and a meal without at least one of them, whether in it or as a separate vegetable, is rare in my house!

  44. Late to this blog and thread, but I thought I'd add a Scottish perspective to this, just to confuse things further!

    The term scallion was historically used in the Scots language to mean shallot (shall-OT), or could also be used to mean spring onion. The more traditional Scots term for a spring onion was "syboe", from Fr. "ciboule".

    Although scsllion is long out of use, syboe is still alive and well in Scottish English, and was used by greengrocers etc. right up until the mid-70s when national supermarkets became the norm. That's when the word "spring onion" first became known and widely used.

    Syboe is pronounced *sigh-bay*.


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OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)