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Jun 28, 2007 12:30 PM
Discussion to pronounce?

There is no accent on the bottle label, but I often see the word written with an accent over the "e" which makes me believe the emphasis is on the first syllable. A friend in the wine business tells me the emphasis is, instead, on the "trus." Which one of us is correct? Many thanks!

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  1. Pronounce it as you would obtuse, with a downward emphasis on "trus"

    The accent is on the "e" but it is an accent aigu (é), rather than an accent grave (è), meaning an upward and elongated emphasis.

    Petrus (no accent) = very short annuciation of the e, almost like "puh-trùse" with the "puh" extremely short.

    Pètrus (accent grave) = this doesnt make sense in French, since the accent grave is only applicable over the last syllabic vowel, when appropriate.

    Pétrus (accent aigu) = elongated e, resulting in "pay-trùs" or "peh-trùs."

    1. The spelling is a vexing question. There's no accent on the label because the name is printed in capitals and, until recently, it was common practice in France to drop the accents on uppercase letters. Most reliable English-language sources (e.g. The Oxford Companion to Wine, Hugh Johnson's Wine Companion, Parker, Penning-Roswell's The Wines of Bordeaux) spell it Pétrus. Oddly, as a Google search will show, the French seem fairly evenly divided on the question: Bettane & Desseauve and the Hachette are in the Petrus camp, for example, while Phaneuf opts for Pétrus. Also, as a glance at the label will show, the accent is firmly in place on neighbouring Château La Fleur-Pétrus...

      Most francophones and francophiles of my acquaintance pronounce it as though the e were accented: pay-troos, more or less. (All syllables in French words are usually given equal emphasis, regardless of whether one or more vowels have accents.)

      FWIW, anglos, especially Brits, often pronounce it PET-rus.

      1. Actually, there's no accent because it's the Latin for Peter (whose statue is outside the château). But in French, it tends to get bastardized to Pétrus, and pronounced that way (roughly: pay-TROOSE - though the "oo" vowel is the tight French "u"). In French, the tonic accent falls on the last syllable.

        7 Replies
        1. re: sjb7501

          "In French, the tonic accent falls on the last syllable."

          It's not quite that simple. In most situations in French, the tonic accent falls on the last syllable of a "cell" or rhythmic/syntactic group. In individual words, it is for all intents and purposes inexistent except when the words are spoken in isolation.

          "French words are sometimes said to be stressed on the final syllable, but actually French has no word stress at all. Rather, it has a prosody whereby the final or next-to-final syllable of a string of words is stressed. This string may be equivalent to a clause or a phrase. However, when a word is said alone, it receives the full prosody and therefore the stress as well."

          "Alors que dans la majorité des langues romanes elle est très marquée, elle est, en français, relativement faible voire inaudible. En effet, l'accent tonique du français est marqué pour chaque mot (hormis les clitiques) seulement quand ils sont isolés. Dans une phrase, seul le dernier mot de chaque syntagme portera l'accent, d'autant plus dans une diction rapide et courante. On parle alors d'un « accent de groupe de sens »."
          [While in most Romance languages it [the tonic accent] is very apparent, in French it is relatively weak, not to say inaudible. In fact, in French the tonic accent is applied to a given word (clitics excepted) only when it is isolated. In a sentence, only the last word of each syntagma [phrase or syntactic element] will carry the accent, and this is even more true in fast, everyday speech. We can then more properly speak of a "group-of-meaning accent."

          1. re: carswell

            Fascinating! I'm certainly glad you'll all be able to pronounce it correctly when you order a bottle this weekend. I wouldn't want your Wine Steward to be confused. Basically what I'm saying is, if your gonna spend that kind of cash, call it whatever you want, you'll be right at least for the night.

            1. re: winepunkguy

              BRAVO!!! I was enjoying this as an observer, but had to pop in on that one. and sjb gave the most concise, and, btw, correct answer. incidentally, how are you guys getting accents to come up on your screen? keystroke shortcuts are not the same as word processors, and i don't know any html.

              1. re: HeelsSoxHound

                To type accented characters in Windows, you can change your keyboard setting. I keep mine permenently set to Canadian Bilingual but the setting can be changed on the fly.

                Alternatively, click Window's Start button, then Run, then type charmap in the Run box. This opens the Character Map program, which lets you choose a character and copy it to the clipboard, from where it can be pasted into your browser, word processor or other program.

                Another way is to hold down the Alt key to the left of the spacebar while typing the character's Alt code on the numeric keypad. For example, Alt + 137 gives ë. See for a useful list of Alt codes.

                And while I've not tried it, some people swear by AllChars for Windows, an open-source freeware program:

                1. re: HeelsSoxHound

                  Control Panel
                  Regional and Language Options
                  Keyboard - Add : US - International

                  Then you type FIRST the accent, THEN the letter.
                  For character ç you use the accent ( like in é ) followed by the c.

              2. re: carswell

                I know... But good reminders. (I speak French at home.) "The last syllable" was shorthand for "the last syllable in a cluster of words" ; since here, Petrus is one word, it gets it on the "trus", so to speak.

                As quoted above : "l'accent tonique du français est marqué pour chaque mot ... seulement quand ils sont isolés."

                I used to date a Latin American guy named Pablo. He said "PA-blo", everyone French said, "pa-BLO". Except when the sentence was longer: "C'est pablo au téléPHONE..." etc.

                P.S. winepunkguy - great answer!

            2. Thanks for the great, detailed responses. To confuse matters, I just asked a French person in the wine business. He told me that the final "s" is not pronounced. He also said that even in France there is no uniform pronounciation for this particular name...

              6 Replies
              1. re: erica

                According to

                *Petrus Pay-truss
                A Great First Growth in Pomerol

                1. re: erica

                  What? The "s" is always pronounced!

                  The only difference in its pronunciation in France is peh-TROOSE vs. pay-TROOSE.

                  1. re: erica

                    In all my many years of talking (usually in French) with francophone winos -- professional and amateur, from France and Quebec -- I've never heard anyone drop the *s*. Though terminal *s* is usually dropped in modern French, there are lots of proper names, especially old ones and especially in the southwest, that retain it. Cos d'Estournel is one, Petrus/Pétrus is another.

                    1. re: carswell

                      You pronounce the "s." And honestly, the wine steward will understand you whether you say "pay-troos" or "pet-truss."

                      1. re: brendastarlet

                        Why are people going on about wine stewards in this thread? The OP didn't ask about how to make herself understood to a wine steward. She asked what the correct pronunciation of the name was.

                        1. re: carswell

                          Thank you, Carswell! Of course I am not planning on ordering it..I just wanted to know how to pronounce the name. Interesting about the diversity of opinions on something I would think would be cut and dried...