25 City Names Around the World You’re Mispronouncing
Sound like a native—or at least a savvy tourist—when you learn how to say these place names correctly.
1. Budapest, Hungary
Buda and Pest actually used to be two separate Hungarian settlements, but the two were joined (along with the town of Òbuda) in 1873 and became the official capital of the country. It’s pronounced “booda-pesht.”
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2. Shanghai, China
One of the most well-known cities in China is also one of the most frequently mispronounced places in the world. Many pronounce the name of the “Paris of the East” with a hard “a” in the beginning, when the correct reading is actually something more like “shahng-hi.”
3. Marseille, France
French is a language with many silent letters, so it’s understandable that English speakers wouldn’t get it right, but that’s not enough of an excuse to keep getting it wrong. Depending on the region in France a speaker is from, it’s either pronounced “mar-say” or “mar-sigh.”
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4. Worcester, Massachusetts
Because of the way it’s spelled, it’s natural to assume it would be pronounced “war-chester,” but that’s totally wrong. A real local knows it is “wooster.”
5. Brisbane, Australia
Forget the letter “a” in Brisbane altogether, because Aussies don’t even bother pronouncing it. In Australia, it’s “Bris-bn,” as if there’s no vowel at the end of the word at all. The city’s overwhelming population of 2.2 million people will thank you for saying it correctly.
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6. Phuket, Thailand
Many foreigners take joy in this city’s name because they think it is pronounced just like a certain English curse word, but that’s wrong! In English, “ph” is typically pronounced like an “f” sound, but the correct pronunciation for this Thai city is “poo-ket” or “poo-get.”
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7. Versailles, France
Say “ver-sails,” in France, and you may as well just turn around and go back home right now. The true pronunciation is much more elegant: “ver-sigh.”
8. Assisi, Italy
This is a great instance of how the same letter can be pronounced different ways. Some people are inclined to calling this Italian city “ah-see-see,” but the double consonants are pronounced differently than the single consonant. Instead, it is pronounced “ah-see-zee.”
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9. Pyeongchang, South Korea
The 2018 Olympics were held in this famous city of South Korea, but most foreigners are still pronouncing it the wrong way. Canadians tend to lay into their “a” sounds, making this city sound like “Pyung-chayng.” Koreans pronounce the city by essentially disregarding that letter altogether: “Pyung-chng.”
10. Bataan, Philippines
Read about World War II’s Bataan Death March in the history books and talk about it in history class the correct way! Bataan is commonly pronounced by North Americans as “ba-tan,” but the correct way to say it is “ba-tah-an.” It may not roll well off the English tongue, but that’s the way it is!
11. Port-au-Prince, Haiti
In Haiti, the people speak a type of Haitian Creole or French. It’s no surprise, then, that this Haitian capital is pronounced like some of the other French cities on this list. In French, “prince” sounds more like “prance,” but with a somewhat soft “a” sound.
12. Nottingham, England
Canadians will see “-ham” in the name of this English city and immediately want to pronounce it the same way the meat is pronounced. In England, however, it is pronounced as “notting-hm.” It is the same Nottingham whose sheriff the character Robin Hood so despised in his tales.
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13. Edinburgh, Scotland
This city is another one that is pronounced with more syllables than it looks like it would be. It is not “edin-berg,” like many incorrectly state, but rather, “ed-in-bur-uh.”
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15. Mérida, Mexico
Many Canadians pronounce this beachy Mexican travel destination as if it didn’t have any accent marks, but in many languages, including Spanish, accents are extremely important. It is pronounced as “mare-ee-da,” and it is one of the best places to visit in the Yucatan.
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16. Leipzig, Germany
People commonly mispronounce this German city as either “leap-zig” or “lep-zig,” but what is important to remember about the German language is that it is not a soft one. The correct pronunciation of this city in Saxony is “lipe-zig.”
17. Toledo, Spain
Everyone knows the city of Jerusalem as a point of religious convergence for people of the Islamic, Christian, and Jewish faiths, but Toledo also shares that distinction. In fact, Toledo is an official World Heritage Site for that very reason. It’s probably important, then, to know how to pronounce it. For the record, it’s not “toe-lee-doh” but “toh-leh-doh.”
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18. Porvoo, Finland
One of the first towns to ever be erected in medieval Finland, Porvoo still retains its ancient beauty. Modern visitors should be aware, though, that the correct way to pronounce the city name is “pore-vo.” The double vowels at the end of the city’s name aren’t pronounced as such.
19. Aix-en-Provence, France
Revered post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839 and is one of the main reasons tourists visit this southern French city. The question, however, is if tourists know how to pronounce the name of the city when they get there. The correct way to say it is “x-on-prov-ahnce.”
21. Beijing, China
The Chinese capital is pronounced the exact way it is spelled, and yet plenty of people still get it wrong. “Bei-jing” is the way it is meant to be read, but “beige-ing” is the common mispronunciation. This time it is OK to trust in the letters!
22. Kiev, Ukraine
“Key-ev.” Simple and to the point, right? Wrong. This four-letter Ukrainian city is deceptively simple. There are many disputes concerning how it is actually pronounced. Most Ukrainians agree that it is read as “keev” or “key-eve.”
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23. Cannes, France
The famous film festival that occurs in this French city always stirs up the conversation of how to correctly pronounce it. The way it is commonly pronounced in the United States is the way it absolutely should never be pronounced (i.e. “CANS.”) The French would have you say, “cahn.”
24. Leicester, England
The true pronunciation of Leicester, England is a lot like the pronunciation of Worcester, Massachusetts. It is not “lie-chester,” as it appears, but rather, “lester,” like the male name. The deceptive letters strike again!
25. Tijuana, Mexico
Canadians tend to pronounce this city name as if it has a few extra syllables. However, it is not correct to call it “tee-ah-juan-ah.” Why people pronounce it that way is rather odd, considering the way it is spelled. It is just “tee-juan-ah,” and nothing extra.
Next, read up on the best cities in the world for every type of traveller.
Originally published as 35 City Names Around the World You’re Mispronouncing on ReadersDigest.com.