Easily Confused Spoken Words: Saké vs. Sake

Saké and sake are easily misread words. They are homographs, words spelled the same, but pronounced differently.

Saké (pronounced “sock + kay,” sometimes “socky”) is a noun. It means a rice-based fermented beverage that hails from Japan. It may or may not be written with an accent on the “e.” [Sometimes you may see it spelled “saki.”]

Sake (pronounced “say + ck”) is a noun. It means a reason, purpose, cause, benefit belonging to someone or something. A popular idiom is, “for goodness sake,” meaning for the purpose of goodness or righteousness. Other idioms meaning about the same thing include for heaven’s sake, for Pete’s sake (meaning St. Peter), and for Christ’s sake (or the run together, “Chrissake.”)

The following story uses both words correctly:

Sakarias poured five glasses of saké for himself and his four best friends. It was the night after college graduation. Sergei swaggered into the room moments later, followed by Joel and Dave. He gulped his shot down as his friends reached for theirs. “Let’s get this party started for Pete’s sake!”  he shouted as he poured another glass.