Carmel vs. Caramel: What’s the Difference?

There are many delicious desserts and drinks that feature the taste of a familiar sweet treat. Most people know what it looks and tastes like, but many writers aren’t sure how this sugary brown ingredient should be spelled.

Is the word caramel, pronounced with three syllables, or carmel, pronounced with only two syllables? Both of these are real words, but only one of them refers to something that tastes good. If you use the wrong one at the wrong time, you risk confusing your readers.

What is the Difference Between Carmel and Caramel?

In this post, I will compare caramel vs. carmel. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence. Plus, I will demonstrate a technique for remembering which word is which, so you will never have to worry whether caramel or carmel is correct again.

When to Use Caramel

carmel versus caramelWhat does caramel mean? Caramel is a noun. Caramel is a crystalline, sugary substance that is used as an ingredient in cooking and baking, and eaten by itself as a sweet treat.

The sentences below are examples of its proper usage.

  • I would not have thought I would enjoy the taste of salted caramel, but enjoy it very much.
  • Drizzle hot caramel over your ice cream for additional deliciousness.
  • “Don’t forget to buy caramel!” Ondine shouted after her husband.
  • All I have to do is toast and coat the bread, set a layer of caramel in the soufflé dish and assemble the dessert. –The Wall Street Journal

Caramel should be pronounced with three syllables, like carousel.

When to Use Carmel

Definition of caramel definition and definition of carmel definitionWhat does Carmel mean? Carmel is a proper noun. This word refers either to a place in California or a mountain in Israel. The word carmel never refers to a food item, and to spell it this way in such a context amounts to a spelling error.

These sentences illustrate the proper usage of the word Carmel.

  • Moses climbed up Mount Carmel to speak with God, and realized God was angry.
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea, a city in California, has many dog-friendly hotels.
  • Clint Eastwood was once mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
  • The original prints that acclaimed photographer Ansel Adams gave Rep. Sam Farr of Carmel are carefully wrapped up for the trip back to California. –LA Times

Carmel should be pronounced with two syllables, like marvel.

Pronunciation of Caramel

Define caramel and define carmelHow do you pronounce caramel? There are three common pronunciations for the dessert treat caramel, and they range from best to worst.

The best pronunciation of the word is three syllables kar-a-mul.

The second best pronunciation of the word is also three syllables, but it is slightly different kar-a-mel.

The worst pronunciation is just two syllables kahr-mul. The city and California and mountain in Jerusalem probably cause some of the confusion with this pronunciation.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Here is a helpful trick to remember carmel vs. caramel.

Caramel and Carmel are both nouns. Carmel is a proper noun that refers to specific places, whereas caramel is a common noun.

You can remember that caramel is a common noun since it has 3 syllables, like the common noun aerogel. Likewise, Carmel and Arnold are both proper nouns with two syllables.


Is it Carmel or caramel? Carmel and caramel are nouns. The former is a proper noun that refers to one of at least two place names. The latter is a sugary brown food item, and it is a common noun.

  • Carmel is a city in California.
  • Caramel is a type of dessert.

Caramel is pronounced with three syllables. Carmel, the city, is pronounced with two syllables. You can use the number of syllables in each word to link it with other nouns of the same type: caramel and aerogel are both three-syllable common nouns, while Carmel and Arnold are both two-syllable proper nouns.

These two words are confusing because they are so similar. Rather than make a mistake that could be easily avoided, you should check this article for a refresher if you still need help.