How to Pronounce "Kamala Harris," Once and for All

People are constantly getting it wrong (lookin' at you, Trump).

Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Kamala Harris Attends Campaign Events In Las Vegas
(Image credit: Getty Images/Ethan Miller)
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was a presidential candidate in the 2020 election (opens in new tab) and is now Joe Biden's vice president pick for the 2020 election.
  • She is the first Black woman to run on a major political party's presidential ticket.
  • Over the years, people have pronounced her name wrong (opens in new tab).
  • It's "COMMA-LAH," not "KUH-MAL-UH."

When Sen. Kamala Harris announced she was running for president (opens in new tab), the nation began to pay more attention to the Democratic senator from California, including on-air reporters discussing her political background and the issues she plans to focus on during her campaign.

However, as most of us know, when women are leading the way—specifically women of color—there tends to be a lack of respect for common courtesies like learning how to pronounce the person's name. President Trump is a prime example of someone who butchered her name, reportedly pronouncing it as "Kameela" (opens in new tab) in a New York Times interview.

Harris, who is now Joe Biden's pick as vice president (opens in new tab) in the 2020 election, has struggled with the public pronouncing her name over the years, so much that she even created a video having kids pronounce her name when she was campaigning for her senate seat in 2016.

As the kids say, it's not "CAM-EL-UH." It's not "KUH-MAL-UH." It's not "KARMEL-UH."

It's pronounced, "COMMA-LAH."

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Here's another video that explains where Harris' name is derived from, and how not to pronounce it:

Harris' name is actually derived from the Sanskrit word for "lotus," and the explanation sounds gorgeous and meaningful. "The symbolism is that the lotus flower sits on water, but never really gets wet," she explained (opens in new tab) at a book event at George Washington University. "Its roots are in the mud, meaning it is grounded. One must always know where they come from."

The View host Whoopi Goldberg actually asks Harris how to pronounce her name at the beginning of this video, after initially mispronouncing it in her introduction—but, the effort to get it right helped her advocate for the right way to say it, particularly among media professionals. She also gave them the handy "comma" plus "la" mnemonic to help people remember.

Mispronunciation and questions about her name are apparently so common that Harris wrote an entire paragraph about it in The Truths We Hold (opens in new tab), her memoir written in January 2019.

Now that we've established how to properly pronounce Harris' name, prepare to see her a lot more, front and center, leading up to the November election. (Harris is the first Black woman, first South Asian woman, and the first person from west of Texas selected for a Democratic ticket (opens in new tab).) Tomorrow, Harris and Biden will appear in Wilmington, DE (opens in new tab) for one of their first official appearances together since the VP news broke.

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