UK Place Names Glossary

Great Britain has some of the craziest pronunciations for place names on the planet! It’s especially maddening for Americans, Canadians and other English speakers… since we supposedly speak the same language and all. But remember: England is the country where “Featherstonehaugh” is pronounced Fanshaw, and even though the city of Cirencester has existed since at least 70 A.D., it wasn’t until the 1980s that British people agreed on a single pronunciation.

The list below is not exhaustive. Although place names from all over England and parts of Scotland are included, I decided to emphasize on places in the London area, as that’s where first-time tourists are likely to go. Keep in mind that the English language is fluid and that pronunciations may change over time. Remember that not everyone might pronounce the same place the same way; although most Americans pronounce the 50th state as “Huh-why-yee”, many older Americans call it “High-why-ya” instead.

Since Welsh place names are next to impossible for anyone but the Welsh to figure out, I’ve left them off the list.

Place Pronunciation
Notes
   
Belgravia Bel-grave-ee-ya  
     
Berkeley (Square) Bark-lee  
     
Barugh Bark  
     
Bethnal Green Beth-null  
     
Bicester Bister Like “blister” without the L.
     
Birmingham Buhr-ming-um Some Londoners say “Bir-min-um”; this is neither official nor common.
     
Bloomsbury Blooms-bree  
     
Brixton Bricks-ton  
     
Bury Boory Subtle difference: the ending is pronounced -oorey and not the American -erry
     
Charing Cross (Road) see notes Rhymes with sharing; the -ch sound at the beginning is soft, as in church
     
Chippenham see notes Chipnam (locally) or Chipenum
     
Chiswick Chizzik  
     
Cholmondley Chum-lee  
     
Cirencester Syren-sester May also be pronounced as Sis-etter or Sis-sester, especially by locals.
     
Clerkenwell Clarken-well  
     
Coulsdon Cools-don Some locals apparently pronounce it Coals-den
     
Derby Dar-by  
     
Ealing Eee-ling  
     
Edinburgh Edin-burrah  
     
Euston Ewston Like Houston, Texas without the “h”.
     
Finsbury Fins-bree  
     
Gloucester Gloster Same as the city in Massachusetts; in Gloucestershire (Gloster-sheer)
     
Greenwich Gren-itch  
     
Grosvenor (Square) Grove-na  
     
Hampstead Ham-stead  
     
Happisburgh Hayes-bruh Unlike Edinburgh, the second half of the word is pronounced bruh, not burrah
     
Holborn Ho-bun  
     
Horsmonden Horms-dun  
     
Islington Iz-ling-ton  
     
Keswick Kez-ick  
     
Keynsham Kane-shum  
     
Launceston Lawns-ton  
     
Leicester Lester Applies to the city (Leicester) as well as London’s Leicester Square
     
Leominster Lems-ter  
     
Marylebone Marley-bun May also be pronounced as Marrybun or Marleybone
     
Mousehole Mowze-ul  
     
Norwich Norr-idge  
     
Plaistow Plars-toe  
     
Putney see notes The first syllable is similar to putt (as in golf); it’s not “pootney”
     
Reading Redding  
     
Ruislip Ryeslip  
     
Salisbury Sawls-bree  
     
Shoreditch see notes Sounds like shortage when spoken by a Londoner.
     
Shrewsbury see notes Either Shrowsbree or Shrewsbree is correct.
     
Slough see notes Rhymes with cow.
     
Southwark Suth-uk Pronounced as if it were one syllable: suthuk, not suth-uk.
     
St. Paul’s (Cathedral) San Paul’s Correct to pronounce it as it’s spelled; Londoners slur it slightly so that the first word is San
     
Thame (City) Tame  
     
Thames (River) Temz  
     
Torquay Tor-key  
     
Tottenham Tot-nam  
     
Uxbridge Ucks-bridge  
     
Vauxhall Vocks-hall Originally “Falkes’ Hall”, which is why it sounds like two words instead of “Vocks-ul”.
     
Wapping Whopping NOT pronounced like “wrapping” without the “r”.
     
Wemyss Weems  
     
Willesden Wills-den  
     
Woolwich Woolitch  
     
Worcester Woo-ster Just like the town in Massachusetts; rhymes with rooster.
     
Wrotham Root-um  
     
Wymondham Windum Like the American hotel chain.
     
Yiewsley Youz-lee  

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