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Does Canada say zed or zee?

This is a debate that has lingered in Canada for decades – do Canadians say “zed” or “zee” when pronouncing the last letter of the alphabet? While both terms are commonly used across the country, there are some clear regional divides on this issue. Here’s a deeper look at whether Canadians say zed or zee.

Quick Summary

In short:

  • “Zed” is more common in Canada overall, especially in Eastern and Central Canada.
  • “Zee” is more common in Western Canada, particularly in British Columbia.
  • This regional divide stems from the mix of British and American influences across the country.
  • Both “zed” and “zee” are considered acceptable pronunciations in Canada.
  • Younger Canadians are more likely to use “zee” due to American media/pop culture influences.

Zed vs Zee by Region

Here’s a breakdown of how common “zed” and “zee” are by region:

Region “Zed” Usage “Zee” Usage
Eastern Canada (Ontario, Quebec, Maritimes) Very Common Uncommon
Central Canada (Manitoba, Saskatchewan) Common Less Common
Western Canada (Alberta, BC) Less Common Very Common (especially BC)

As the table shows, “zed” dominates in Eastern and Central Canada, while “zee” is prevalent out West, particularly in British Columbia.

British vs American Influences

This regional divide stems from the mix of British and American influences across Canada.

In Eastern and Central Canada, which were first settled by the British and French, the traditional British pronunciation of “zed” prevailed.

In Western Canada, which saw more American settlers, the American pronunciation of “zee” took hold and remains prominent today.

So in many ways, the “zed vs zee” debate mirrors the lasting impact of British and American immigration/colonization patterns across the country.

Both Are Considered Acceptable

It’s important to note that both “zed” and “zee” are widely considered acceptable pronunciations for the letter Z in Canada.

Unlike some word pronunciation differences between Canada and the US (e.g. “sorry”), there is no right or wrong answer in the “zed/zee” debate.

Canadians understand both terms nationwide. Using “zee” in Toronto or “zed” in Vancouver won’t raise any eyebrows.

Younger Canadians Say Zee More

While regional patterns still hold strong, younger Canadians today are more likely to use the American pronunciation of “zee” than older generations.

This is largely driven by the influence of American media, movies, TV, music, etc. in the internet age. Young Canadians have grown up exposed to more “Americanized” English.

One 2016 survey found only 26% of Canadians aged 18-24 used “zed”, compared to 69% of those 55 and over.

Zee Usage by Age Group

Age Group Say “Zee”
18-24 years old 74%
25-34 years old 61%
35-44 years old 48%
45-54 years old 38%
55+ years old 31%

As American media/cultural influences continue to spread, we may see the dominance of “zee” expand across Canada over time.

Accents and pronunciation

Regional accents and dialects also play a role in the zed/zee divide. Here are some key points:

  • English speakers with British-influenced accents (e.g. Ontario, Atlantic Canada) are more likely to say “zed”.
  • Those with American/Western accents are more likely to say “zee”.
  • Quebec French speakers often maintain their accent when speaking English, leading many to favor “zed”.
  • Indigenous languages like Cree and Ojibway use “zee”, influencing English speakers in those communities.

So your accent and linguistic environment growing up can play a subtle role in whether “zed” or “zee” sounds more natural.

Other Commonwealth Countries

Beyond Canada, this same zed/zee divide exists in many other Commonwealth countries that have been influenced by both British and American culture, such as:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • India
  • Singapore

The UK, Ireland and other wholly Anglo/Commonwealth countries use “zed”, while the US exclusively uses “zee”.


So in summary, while both pronunciations co-exist in Canada, “zed” remains dominant in the East and “zee” in the West. This reflects wider historical patterns and cultural influences.

The regional zed/zee divide is deeply embedded in Canadian English and seems unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Canadians understand both terms, leaving people free to say the Z how they please.