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Pronounce it for me: Sikh
A shirt at a New York vigil honoring victims of the Wisconsin temple shooting.
August 9th, 2012
02:00 PM ET

Pronounce it for me: Sikh

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - As terror struck the heart of the Sikh community with Sunday's mass shooting at a Wisconsin gurdwara, a Sikh house of worship, the tiny American Sikh population was thrust into the spotlight.

Many Americans were hearing about the faith for the first time.

Among all the questions surrounding the 500-year-old faith, one stood out.

Do you pronounce it like "sick" or like "seek?"

On Sunday, as the events were unfolding during live coverage of the event, CNN's anchors and reporters were asking the same question. So which one was correct?

A word about the word's history helps shed light on the question and the answer. The term "Sikh," like the faith itself, originated in India.

The word "evolved from the Sanskrit term shishya, a disciple or devoted follower," Patwant Singh writes in his landmark book "The Sikhs."

That's why followers of the faith often refer to themselves as devotees, as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did after the Wisconsin shooting. Singh called for an investigation into "who was behind this dastardly attack on these devotees."

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Sikhism emerged in Punjab, a region between India and Pakistan. To this day, Punjabi remains the common language of the faith.

"If you read the Punjabi, in which the word is written, the characters used use that short 'i' sound," says Navdeep Singh, a policy adviser for the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

So that would be sick, as in rhymes with click.

Singh said that the "seek" pronunciation in the United States "comes from the Anglicization of the word."

"Unless of course they were brought up in a British English," he continued. He said those who grew up speaking Punjabi and British English - who are relatively commonplace, since Indian is a former British colony - will use the "sick" pronunciation when speaking Punjab and "seek" in English.

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"If someone says 'seek,' no one is going to get upset with you," Singh said. "If you say 'seek' that's OK, but the proper term is 'sick.'"

Bottom line: If you're living in the United States, you should pronounce Sikh as "sick," adding a hard "H" at the end of the word.

If you live in the United Kingdom or a place where British English is spoken, either the "seek" or "sick" pronunciation s OK.

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- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Sikh • TV

soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. iluv_USA

    Message to Sikh Leadership: I am a US-based Sikh. Our Sikh leadership has failed us at all levels. It is a matter of utmost shame that it has been 100 years since we first came to the US & still we have not been able to get the most basic FACT across the Americans that – We are NOT Muslims. We were born out of Hinduism as a part of anti-fanatic-Muslim movement in India 5 centuries ago. This is a FACT & by revealing a FACT you are NOT giving a message that it is OK to kill Muslims. Killing any human is wrong – whether Muslim or Sikh or any other.

    Sikh leadership should have propagated the message that Sikhs & Muslims are poles apart. Our Sikh Gurus as well as the Sikh masses have suffered tremendously at the hands of fanatic Muslims. The underlying reason of the formation of Sikhs was to oppose the fanatic Muslims & to Stop the Conversion of Hindus into Muslims. Sikh leadership should have divulged by now (100 years for God sake) that if there were no Sikhs, Rajputs or Marathas in India, then the entire sub-continent of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka and Nepal – these nearly 1.6 BILLION people would have been Muslims today. It is sad that our Sikh leadership believes in cementing gold to Sikh temples & has never risen to the occasion.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  2. iluv_USA

    Message to Sikhs. USA is a great country & we Sikhs love this country. Sikhs need to play their role in removing Ignorance prevailing amongst racist or militant groups by reaching out to militant groups, connecting with them & informing them – that i) We are NOT Muslims. We were born out of Hinduism as a part of anti-fanatic-Muslim movement in India 5 centuries ago. This is a FACT & by revealing a FACT you are NOT giving a message that it is OK to kill Muslims ii) Killing any human is wrong – whether Muslim or Sikh or any other.

    Daily prayer of Sikhs calls for “good, well-being, benefit, welfare, benevolence for EVERYONE i.e. all humans, animals, birds, nature etc. We believe in community service. Many Sikhs wear turban & have beard. Sikh turban is NOT Taliban or Muslim turban. Sikhs served in World Wars I & II. Just like American people, Sikhs have suffered at the hands of fanatic Muslims; from 15th century till now. Hindus suffered at the hands of fanatic Muslims since the last 11 centuries. It is real tragic that we Sikhs are misunderstood & mistaken as Muslims. Sikhs have no enmity with mainstream peaceful Muslims or any other religion.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  3. Vietnam Medic

    I have a rather unique perspective here. As a former atheist for over 20 years, I had a life changing experience in 1996 that made me a believer in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. It really doesn't matter much to me whether atheists think it was all hogwash or not...it happened to and for me, not them. Their opinion only applies to their experience. Their ignorance of my experience is their burden. I am fine.
    Interestingly enough, the chronic argument that organized religion has caused so much death and destruction is transparent. So people who are not believers who have killed and maimed...is that attributable to agnosticism or atheism? Extremes in the name of organized religion are the acts of extreme people who have used religion to carry out their extreme acts. Go behind their "proof" of holy purpose and you will usually find that what they espouse is a gross distortion of the Bible. It would be similar to someone learning and becoming a student of the martial arts and determining that because it can be used to maim or kill, one was mandated to kill by the art form. Ridiculous! Atheists, you have a right to your opinions but I remember how my main thrust was to make believers look ridiculous and how purposeless that was! If you don't believe that God can help you or that there is a God, so be it...but don't lay that rap on believers that we don't believe in helping ourselves. That point of view comes from your totally inadequate understanding of what Christians really believe.

    August 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • narfzort

      you clearly have some serious mental issues.

      August 12, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • sparky

      Why did you have to post that here? It has nothing to do with the article.

      August 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • J Singh

      Geez Medic, what are you inhaling dude!??

      March 19, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things

    August 11, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • kindless

      Actually, atheism is wonderful for children and all people! Prayer as it turn out, is just a time-sucker-upper. Who would've thought. Meditation is ok for collecting one's thoughts, but it's best to keep all the make-believe characters to one's self.

      Atheists have strong minds and encourage people to take responsibility for their actions within society instead of having their misdeeds excused and often hidden within their religion (comforting their weak minds, but simultaneously disserving society).

      Break the matrix of deception by all religions. Break the fallacy of revelation.

      If the thought leaving your imaginary friends behind is just too much, or makes you want to go p00py, then try Atheism Lite™ (agnosticism) for a period of time to ease your way into a much more rewarding, peaceful life.

      It is written. RIF

      heavenSnot

      August 11, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!* .

      August 12, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  5. GC Singh

    The pronunciation for Sikh is NOT .Sick or Seek . The last part in the siKH is spoken like the the first sound in KHrushchev.
    or the KH sound is just like KHakis, or KHan, or KHalifa etc

    August 10, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • J Singh

      I usually say Seck, with a gentle 'h' at the end.

      March 19, 2013 at 11:31 am |
  6. Jack Deth

    No matter how you pronounce it, all organized religions are sick.

    August 10, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      you are so right, Jack. organized religion is responsible for so much hatred, wasted time & energy, and poor judgment. And, as we've seen, it allows people to feel comforted about their misdeeds, often allowing their religion to hide those misdeeds, which is an affront to society. I know religions also do good works in the communities of the world, but extremism is just way too rampant these days, and christianity, in the usa, is by far no exception imho.

      August 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • J Singh

      Sikhism is more of a philosophy about organized religion. If you are aware, it is an AGNOSTIC faith. No sons of God, no stone worship, no to statue worship, no to castes...basically 'God' is bigger than all that stuff.

      March 19, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  7. Surya Ajrawat

    Sikh means Learner.
    It is common Sanskrit term:

    > Sikh of Biology
    > Sikh of Botany
    > Sikh of Technology
    > Sikh of Islam Theology
    > Sikh of Christian Theology
    > Sikh of Vedas

    Though Term used Commonly/Generally for people who were followers of Teachings of Saints like Kabir, Raidas, Namdev, Farid, Nanak, Arjun, Gobind Singh etc. whose Hymns are present in Book called Adi Granth(Adi Book – The Book of Beginning ), commonly Sikh call it Guru Granth Sahib.

    –British/american accents eats up KH feeling ang give feeling of K...
    –KH should pronounce as KH with small A sound at back SIKH-A
    ______

    I got a call from friend at UK he was speaking me ...There is a MOE of doing this ...... i got confuse what MOE....he say MOE MOE.. M O D E.... MOE......it strike oh MODDDE.... similarly some accent eat up T, some D and some put too much pressure on words that word farts, especially Indian pronunciations.

    and i feel let people pronounce as they feel comfortable....
    The main thing is this that they should know what they are speaking :)

    Sick -> SEEK -> SIKH-A :P

    August 10, 2012 at 6:28 am |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 10, 2012 at 6:07 am |
    • kindless

      Actually, atheism is wonderful for children and all people!

      Atheists have strong minds and good at helping weak-minded people work through their struggles with other people or the imaginary forces or obstacles that men have made up. Atheists encourage people to take responsibility for their actions within society instead of having their misdeeds excused and often hidden within their religion (comforting their weak minds, but simultaneously disserving society).

      Break the matrix of deception by all religions.

      If the thought leaving your imaginary friends behind is just too much, or makes you want to go p00py, then try Atheism Lite™ (agnosticism) for a period of time to ease your way into a much more rewarding, peaceful life.

      It is written.

      heavenSnot

      August 10, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • atheism is

      sh it on a stick, only the deranged pick it up, only the adherents eat it

      August 10, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! ,

      August 10, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • kindless

      atheism is wrote: "sh it on a stick, . . ."

      Is Christianity causing people to sh it on sticks from praying too much?

      August 10, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  9. Cq

    I'm not sure if anyone has picked up on this yet, but my handle is also pronounced "seek". :-)

    August 10, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • no one gives a sh it

      what your stupid alias sounds like

      August 10, 2012 at 6:08 am |
    • Cq

      Judging from your posts, you don't seem to care about much at all. Sad.

      August 11, 2012 at 2:06 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.