Is the G in 'Guacamole' Silent?

Homemade avocado guacamole dip with fresh ingredients on gark grey background with copy space
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How do you pronounce the word guacamole in Spanish? The quick answer: It depends.

This word is often a minor source of confusion for Spanish students because the "official" pronunciation of guacamole given in dictionaries is something like gwa-ka-MOH-leh, but quite a few native Spanish speakers use the pronunciation wa-ka-MOH-leh. Note the difference in the first syllable.

Pronunciation Details for Guacamole

The fact is both pronunciations of the initial g in guacamole and some other words that begin with g are common. Although the g can be silent or close to silent in these words, when it is pronounced it is somewhat softer (or pronounced further back in the throat) than the "g" in English words such as "go."

Here's a partial explanation of what is happening. In general, the Spanish g is pronounced much as it is in English, although softer. When it comes between vowels, it typically becomes soft enough to sound like an aspirated "h," the same as the Spanish letter j. For some speakers, the sound, even at the beginning of a word, can become so soft as to be unnoticeable to English speakers, and perhaps even inaudible. Historically, that's what happened with the Spanish h. Succeeding generations made its sound softer and softer, eventually causing its sound to disappear.

The "standard" pronunciation of guacamole would be to sound out the g. But pronunciation does vary with region, and speakers in some areas often do drop the sounds of some letters. 

Here's another explanation of what's happening with the Spanish pronunciation: Some speakers of English pronounce words that begin with "wh" using an aspirated "h." For them, "witch" and "which" are not pronounced the same. For those who do distinguish the two sounds, the "wh" is something like the way some Spanish speakers pronounce the first sounds of gua, güi or güe. That's why some dictionaries give güisqui as a variant spelling of the Spanish word for "whiskey" (although usually the English spelling is used).

Origin of the Word Guacamole

Guacamole came from one of the indigenous languages of Mexico, Nahuatl, which combined the words ahuacatl (now aguacate in Spanish, the word for avocado) and with molli (now mole in Spanish, a type of Mexican sauce). If you noticed that aguacate and "avocado" are vaguely similar, that's no coincidence — the English "avocado" is derived from aguacate, making them cognates.

Nowadays, of course, guacamole is also a word in English, having been imported into English because of the popularity of Mexican food in the U.S.