PayPal™ (I’ll drop the trademark symbol from here on) has become a ubiquitous name in online shopping. For many years, I had never thought much about the pronunciation of PayPal. However, since I encountered a different pronunciation recently on German television, and could not find a satisfactory answer online, I decided to explore this topic.
The most obvious pronunciation (and the one I believed in for years) is [‘peɪpæl], practically a combination of the words ‘pay’ and ‘pal’ (meaning a friend that helps you pay). You can listen to the pronunciation of these words here and here. I have been reassured by a number of native speakers that this is how PayPal is pronounced, and the same pronunciation is also used by the people at PayPal, as proved by the following video:
The same pronunciation is also listed in Well’s Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd Edition), a standard reference for questions of pronunciation.
The alternative pronunciation I came across is [‘peɪpɔːl], with the second part pronounced like Paul, listen here. According to the poll below, this version is known to and used by a significant number of people, although they are not necessarily native speakers.
For the German speaking countries, PayPal itself uses the Germanized pronunciation [‘peɪpa:l], as can be heard in the following video:
While I agree that is makes sense to simplify the pronunciation by adopting the rules of the (in this case German) language (for example, Amazon is often pronounced in a German way, similar to the River Amazonas), the pronunciation in the video is inconsistent: pay is pronounced as in English, whereas pal is pronounced as in German.
Conclusion: This post is about the native pronunciation of PayPal. I believe that the most sensible thing to do is to listen to the people at PayPal, and to pronounce the name as [‘peɪpæl], that is, a concatenation of pay and pal.