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Name Pronunciation Guides
August 28, 2021

Take a virtual road trip and pronounce US city and state names

Saif Cheval
Saif Cheval
Marketing Lead
8
min read

We talk a lot about the names of people, and what they mean.

But what about the names of places? They can often carry a rich history, a specific story, or even a humorous background in their letters.

As fans of language, we feel it’s important to look at all kinds of names and phrases, whether it’s differences in colloquialisms or the common names of a region.

And for this new series, we’re going to do a deep dive into the names of states and cities in the United States, some of which are surprisingly difficult to pronounce.

Our Picks: How to Pronounce US City and State Names

martha's vineyard, a popular destination in massachusetts

Massachusetts:

Up high on the list is a classic choice: Massachusetts has a complicated spelling, and leaves a lot of people confused as to how it should be pronounced.

The state that’s home to Boston may have a lot of letters in it, but don’t let that fool you: the pronunciation is still pretty simple. Our phonetic respelling has it as “mah-seh-choo-sits.”

Missisippi:

Mississippi is another big one for folks unfamiliar with US Geography, and often more because of its unique spelling. The pronunciation is simpler than it looks: "mih-sih-sih-pee."

One way many have come across this word is in its usage for counting seconds: a helpful mnemonic device for spacing out time.

Connecticut:

Though spelling out connect-i-cut is an easy way to remember how to spell the name of this state, the pronunciation is a bit simpler, and can trip the unprepared speaker up: "kuh-neh-tih-kit."

Connecticut is named after the Connecticut river that flows through it, and the name itself is derived from anglicized spellings of an Algonquin word for “long tidal river.”

a desert scene from outside of tucson arizona

Tucson, Arizona:

Perhaps one of the simplest, yet most confusing, capitals in America is Tucson. An easy way to remember the pronunciation for this city is just switching the letters around to “Tuscon.”

The name Tucson is derived, via Spanish, from the Oʼodham language: it's pronounced "too-sawn". It refers to the basalt-covered Sentinel Peak near the city.

Sioux Falls and Sioux City

These two cities in South Dakota and Iowa, respectively, have pretty unique names. They are part of what is often referred to as Siouxland, a region of common history, language and identity.

The name Sioux originates from the Sioux rivers (Big and Little), which in turn were named after the Sioux people. It is pronounced quite simple: "soo."

Poughkeepsie, New York:

This city, north of New York City, has a particularly complex spelling. However, it is one of the simpler US city and state names to pronounce: “puh-kip-see.”

Poughkeepsie is home to both the Culinary Institute of America’s main campus and Vassar College, a renowned liberal arts school.

photo of arkansas river to visualize how to pronounce arkansas

Arkansas/Kansas

Perhaps one of the most well-known distinctions in state pronunciations, Kansas is pronounced as you’d imagine it to be, while Arkansas switches out the “sas” for “saw:" "ar-ken-saw."

To add to the confusion, the Arkansas river, which flows through both states, is actually pronounced “Ar-kan-zus!”

Boca Raton, Florida:

The mayor of this city in Florida actually wanted to change the spelling to Boca Ratone, as outsiders constantly mispronounce it. The pronunciation itself is pretty simple once you've figured that out: "boh-kuh-rah-tohn."

The name itself comes from Spanish explorers, who often used the word Boca to describe inlets on maps. The city is often referred to simple as Boca to avoid confusion.

Cairo, Illinois

This city in Illinois may be named after the Egyptian capital, but it’s pronounced a bit differently: “key-roh.” Cairo is a key city in Southern Illinois, which is to this day still referred to as “Little Egypt.”

The name itself comes from a minister in the 18th century, who dubbed the area as “the land of Goshen.” Several events throughout American history reinforced the connection between the history of Egypt and the events occurring in Southern Illinois itself.

Mobile, Alabama

Mobile’s simple name is rather misleading. Established by the French in the 18th century, Mobile is actually pronounced "mohb-eel."

Mobile is considered one of the cultural capitals of the US Gulf Coast, with the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the country. It’s one of the many US cities featured in a Bob Dylan song!

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