When we learned the ABC song and English alphabet, we pronounced Z as [zed]. But in the practical usage, I never heard people say [zed], but they always say [zi:]

So when shall we say [zed]?

Or such pronunciation is totally archaic and not used in the modern English.

  • 2
    Also asked on English.SE – mkennedy Jan 4 '16 at 23:44
  • They actually did an extended joke on this in a TV series, where some of the characters were American and some Canadian. As far as I know only Americans (and those who copy Americans) say "zee". – Andrew Jan 16 '18 at 22:04
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    The abbreviations don't make a difference, unless the pronunciation clearly depends on it. For example, even we in Canada pronounce La-Z-Boy "Lazy Boy". – Luke Sawczak Jan 16 '18 at 23:12
  • British people would never say zee in an abbreviation, unless there is a good phonetic reason (like Luke's example). A demilitarized zone (or DMZ) is an American concept, hence the -iZed spelling, applied in Vietnam and Korea. Most British people would spell it in full the American way, but all would say the abbreviated form as dee-em-zed. – JavaLatte Jan 17 '18 at 0:07

Very simple.

Br Eng is 'zed'.

Am Eng is 'zee'.

Martha added the very salient point that this is only when spelling words or reciting the alphabet, never in the pronunciation of a word itself….
though there is a hint of it in a word like zebra, where Am E will say zeebra, rather than the Br E zebra.

  • WOW, really?! I didn't have a clue. Even more, I've never heard younger British speakers to say zed. Could they moved to zee as well? – sandalone Dec 4 '14 at 17:12
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    It's possible - the transpondian shift is strong. TV & the net are narrowing the gap all the time. – gone fishin' again. Dec 4 '14 at 17:13
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    @sandalone I've never heard younger British speakers say "zee"! :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Dec 4 '14 at 20:05
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    me neither, but I don't hang out with very many of them, so I couldn't say really. I do remember in my youth, finding the concept of an 'EZ bar' [in weight training] very confusing until I eventually figured out EZ was supposed to be pronounced 'easy' not 'ee zed'. – gone fishin' again. Dec 4 '14 at 20:14
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    @Tetsujin That would have foxed me too! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Dec 4 '14 at 20:30

You never pronounce Z as "Zed". In British English, the name of the letter is "Zed", but it's pronounced /z/. In American English, the pronunciation is the same, but the letter is called "Zee", not "Zed". Thus, the only context where you're likely to hear "Zed" is if you're reciting the alphabet or spelling a word that contains a 'z' in British English.


Zed is the pronunciation of the letter Z in the UK and some other Commonwealth countries (if not all of them), also the letter is still pronounced zed in abbreviations, and when spelling a word out in letters. I'm British (Scottish) and would never pronounce the letter Z as zee, under any circumstances.

Zee is the name of the letter Z in the US, and it's the same pronunciation in abbreviations and when spelling a word out in letters.

So both are correct!

As for LZ, you might find a pilot is the best person to ask. The answer might be different in your particular example if there is an internationally accepted pronunciation in the aviation industry. I'd like to think all pilots speak the same lingo! There's a distinct possibility that pilots might use the ICOA Spelling Alphabet, sometimes called the NATO Alphabet, to pronounce abbreviations - so that would be Lima Zulu. I am not a pilot, but I did find this link. Another possibility is that pilots would say "landing zone" in full, and perhaps might not abbreviate it.

In the UK, the police use the ICOA/NATO alphabet for abbreviations, and spelling out car number plates.

  • It's usually /zed/ in Canada. – snailcar Jan 16 '18 at 20:08
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    Small children in Canada tend to say "zee" from exposure to "Sesame Street" and other US children's programming; but in school they are taught "zed" and that is what is used exclusively by adults, sometimes as a point of pride in being different from the American usage. – Canadian Yankee Jan 16 '18 at 21:26
  • @CanadianYankee I see. I didn't want to assume anything, which is why I though a Canadian would be best placed to address that particular query. I'll remove that reference from the US section. – Billy Kerr Jan 16 '18 at 21:40
  • The same thing as @Canadian Yankee describes happens in Australia –– or it did. I have heard lots of people in their twenties saying 'zee'. If they are teachers, they will take this pronunciation into the classroom. Eventually, Australians may all be saying 'zee'. – Livrecache Jan 17 '18 at 0:14

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