These Are the Most Mispronounced Cities in the U.S.

Chelsea Bengier
·3 mins read

There's nothing more embarrassing than getting to a new city and mispronouncing its name in front of a local—especially if you butcher the regional accent, too. To avoid that whole awkward encounter, we've researched the most commonly mispronounced cities in America, so you never have to worry about these tongue-twisters again. And for more confusing small town names, This Is the Most Mispronounced Town in the U.S.

1

Louisville, Kentucky

The skyline of Louisville, Kentucky with a blue bridge in the foreground
The skyline of Louisville, Kentucky with a blue bridge in the foreground

Locals will be the first to correct you if you call Louisville, the famous Kentucky Derby destination, "LOO-iss-vill." But even residents disagree about the right way to say their city. According to the Courier-Journal, two acceptable pronunciations are "LOO-a-vul" and "LOO-ee-vill." And for more tricky terms, This Is the Most Commonly Misspelled Word in the Country.

2

Spokane, Washington

Stock photograph of the downtown Spokane, Washington skyline and the Spokane River at sunrise.
Stock photograph of the downtown Spokane, Washington skyline and the Spokane River at sunrise.

Spokane is the second largest city in Washington state. It's pronounced "Spo-CAN" not "Spo-CANE" and comes from a Salish tribe word that means "children of the sun." It was incorporated as a city in 1881, after traders and trappers settled in the area in the early 19th century.

3

Boise, Idaho

boise idaho
boise idaho

The capital of Idaho was named after the French term meaning "wooded," which was coined by French-Canadian fur hunters in the 19th century. Just don't make the mistake of calling it "Boy-ZEE" instead of "BOY-see." And for more dictionary surprises, here are 25 Everyday Words That Used to Have Different Meanings.

4

Poughkeepsie, New York

Poughkeepsie, New York skyline
Poughkeepsie, New York skyline

New Yorkers have a very distinct accent, which gets especially tricky when they're talking about their hometowns. If you're heading to Poughkeepsie, a small city on the Hudson River just north of the Big Apple, make sure you ask for directions to "Puh-KIP-see" and not "Poh-KEEP-see" or "Poh-KIP-see."

5

New Orleans, Louisiana

bourbon street in new orleans
bourbon street in new orleans

We don't blame you if you're slurring your words down on Bourbon Street. But even with a few hurricanes in your system, it would be pretty embarrassing to mess up the pronunciation of New Orleans. While you may have heard rumors that it's called "NOO Or-LEENZ," "NAW-lins," or "NAWR-lins," they're all technically wrong. To fit right in, say "Noo OR-lins."

6

Raleigh, North Carolina

Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, USA Drone Skyline Aerial
Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, USA Drone Skyline Aerial

Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and part of a trio of university towns, including Durham and Chapel Hill, that make up the so-called Research Triangle. Before you head to this city, take a lesson on how to pronounce it: "Rah-lee." Aced it! And for more regional terms you should know, check out the 60 Words People Pronounce Differently Across America.

7

Des Moines, Iowa

des moines iowa
des moines iowa

This Iowa city has the same issue as the state of Illinois. The silent "s" tends to throw visitors off. The real pronunciation is actually "DUH Moin."

8

Helena, Montana

capital building in helena, montana
capital building in helena, montana

You may want to be modest when pronouncing the capital of Montana as "Hel-AY-nuh" or "Hel-EE-nuh." However, the emphasis is actually at the start of the city's name, "HEL-en-uh," despite it sounding like a swear word. And for more up-to-date information delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

9

Mobile, Alabama

mobile alabama skyline
mobile alabama skyline

While this Southern city may look like it's pronounced similarly to a mobile phone, that's not quite right. Instead of emphasizing the first syllable, such as "MOH-bull," "MOH-bill," or "MOH-bile," it's actually pronounced "Moh-BEEL."

10

Tucson, Arizona

The skyline of Tucson, Arizona with cacti in the foreground
The skyline of Tucson, Arizona with cacti in the foreground

The "c" in Tucson tends to trip people up. Luckily, it's an easy thing to fix. The Southwestern city is actually pronounced "TOO-son."

11

Bethesda, Maryland

image of downtown bethesda, maryland at night
image of downtown bethesda, maryland at night

This port city in Maryland is tricky because when you spell it out, it sounds like "Beth-es-duh." In reality, residents refer to it as "Buh-THEZ-duh."