The term ao dai refers to the beautiful traditional Vietnamese long dress, a combination of a long gown and trousers. In Vietnamese, áo means “upper body cloth” and dài means “long”. Today, it is still customary to wear it for formal occasions and special events within the Vietnamese community.
Not surprisingly, English language dictionaries such as Oxford Dictionaries indicate ao dai as the pronunciation.
However, the original Vietnamese word, áo dài, actually has two different pronunciations:
- In the North of the country, it is ao zai
- In the South, it is ao yai
Of course, Northerners say that their pronunciation is correct, while the Southerners have a different opinion. Maybe some Vietnamese linguists can help us decide?
Meanwhile, you have the choice between ao zai, ao yai and ao dai, depending whom you are talking to!
For a complete history of this piece of garment, please refer to the Ao Dai Festival website.