14 January, 2015

A Handy Pronunciation Guide To Names

A friend of mine on Facebook (thanks, Monte!), commenting on a pic I'd posted of Rievaulx Abbey, suggested that I should write a blog post showing readers how certain British place-names, especially ones relating to Edward II, and family names of the fourteenth-century nobility should be pronounced.  If there are any names I've missed and you're unsure about, do feel free to ask in the comments :-)

Berkeley (Castle): barkly.  Absolutely not 'burkly'

Caernarfon: the English pronunciation is 'kuh-nar-vun', with emphasis on the 'nar'; the Welsh pronunciation is a bit different.

Gloucester(shire): gloster(shuh). The word 'shire' on the rare occasions when it's used as a stand-alone word is pronounced with a long I, as it's spelt, but in county names is always pronounced 'shuh' by English people. Yorkshire is thus 'york-shuh', Cheshire is 'cheshuh' and so on.

Worcester(shire): wuster(shuh)

Leicester(shire): lester(shuh)

Warwick(shire): worrik(shuh)

Berkshire: bark-shuh

Hertfordshire: hart-fud-shuh

Hereford: herra-fud

Arundel: ah-run-dul, with the stress on the A at the beginning.

Norwich: norritch

Reading: redding, not as in 'reading a book'

Leominster: lemster

Durham: durrum

Norfolk/Suffolk: the names end with an 'uck' sound, not 'ohk' as in the word 'folk'

Scarborough: scar-buh-ruh or scar-bruh

Marlborough: marl-buh-ruh or marl-bruh

Boroughbridge: buh-ruh-bridge

Windsor: win-zer or wind-zer

Rievaulx (Abbey): ree-voh

Jervaulx (Abbey): jair-voh (I think! Someone please correct me on this if not)

Beaulieu (Abbey): byoo-ly

Tewkesbury: chooks-bree or chooks-buh-ree (with a long oo as in 'woo', not as in 'book')

Derby: darby

Pembroke: pem-bruk

(River) Thames: temz

Thame (town in Oxfordshire): tame

Loughborough: luff-buh-ruh or luff-bruh, emphasis on the 'luff'

Carlisle, or the name Lisle: ly-ul, with a silent S and a long I.

Southampton: pronounced as though it's spelt with two H's: south-hamp-ton. Northampton, however, isn't: north-amp-ton. (Though actually a lot of English people drop their H's and pronounce Southampton as something like 'sarf-am-ton', but let's not get into that discussion.)

Royal Leamington Spa: the second element is 'lemming-ton' not 'leeming-ton'

Toucester: toaster

Knaresborough: nairs-buh-ruh or nairs-bruh, emphasis on the first syllable.

Keighley: keeth-ly

Uttoxeter: you-tox-it-er

High Wycombe: wiccum

Shrewsbury: nowadays mostly pronounced as it's spelt, though you still sometimes hear people pronouncing the first syllable as 'shroze' not 'shrooz'.

Wisbech: wiz-beech

Weobley: web-ly

Plymouth: plimmuth

Bournemouth: born-muth

Salisbury: solz-bree or solz-buh-ree

Southwark: suthuk ('th' as in 'the')

Birmingham/Nottingham/Eltham/Hexham/Cheltenham etc: the last syllable is pronounced 'um', not 'ham' like the meat.  Nottingham when spoken fast by some English people comes out something not far off 'no-ih-num', with the T replaced by a glottal stop.  Cheltenham is often pronounced 'chelt-num'.

Westminster: pronounced with the emphasis on 'west', not on 'min' as I've sometimes heard people say it.

Cinque Ports: sink ports, i.e. with an anglicised pronunciation.

Tintagel: the G is soft as in 'gin' or 'jelly', and it's emphasised on the second syllable, i.e. TinTAJul.

Belvoir (Castle): beaver

Ely: like 'freely' without the 'fr', emphasised on the first syllable, not like the names Eli or Ellie.

Tonbridge: tun-bridge

Greenwich: grennitch

Yeovil: yoh-vill

Alnwick: annick (yes, the L and W are both silent)

Bicester: bister

Cirencester: siren-sester (i.e. one of the few names ending in -cester which is pronounced as spelt)

Manchester/Lancaster: pronounced as spelt

Slough: rhymes with cow

But, Brough: bruff, as is Burgh-by-Sands, where Edward I died in 1307

Cambridge: first syllable is pronounced 'came' not 'cam'

Lewes: like the name Lewis, not 'looz'

Savernake (a forest in Wiltshire): savver-nack

Ouse (a river in Yorkshire): ooze

Cherwell ( a tributary of the River Thames): char-well

Caerphilly: car-filli, emphasis on the 'fil' (English pronunciation)

Berwick: berrik

Edinburgh: edin-bruh or edin-buh-ruh

Dumfries: the second syllable is pronounced 'freess', i.e. with a soft S sound, not like the words 'fries' or 'freeze'

Magdalen College, Oxford/Magdalene College, Cambridge: maudlin

Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge: Caius is pronounced 'keys'

Bohun: boon

Beauchamp: beecham

Despenser: duh-spenser, emphasis on the 'spen'

Interesting facts: Lincoln in fourteenth-century documents was called Nicole, York was Everwyk, and Stirling was Strivelyn. Warwick was spelt Warrewyk or similar.


Unknown said...

As someone who is often embarrassed trying to pronounce words I have only encountered via reading - I thank you for this reference!

Kathryn Warner said...

I can only imagine how tricky it must be for non-British people to pronounce these correctly! There's no logic to it at all ;)

Nicoletta said...

There is no logic at all, the madness and the beauty of english language! Thank you for your work

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Nicoletta! Totally bonkers, isn't it? :-)

Joansz said...

I live in New England and quite a few of the cities are pronounced the same as you have, such as Norwich=norritch. However, the Thames river in Connecticut is pronounced like it's spelled instead of Tems. Since words were spelled as they were pronounced before standard spelling, I'm left to wonder if the Thames was originally pronounce like it's spelled. (New England was first settled in the 17th-century pre-spelling standards.)

Kathryn Warner said...

Joan, I've seen the name Thames spelt in documents of Edward II's era as 'Tamyse'. Hmmm, still not that close to the modern pronunciation of 'temz' though, so I do wonder where that comes from.

Unknown said...

Lincoln = Nicole, York = Everwyk? Not the least bit obvious! Please, more examples like these! I may have been reading about places I knew in original sources, and didn't even realise it.

Kathryn Warner said...

That's about all I can think of at the moment, Monte - other names are pretty well as they are nowadays, sometimes with rather different spellings, e.g. Warrewyk for Warwick. They sometimes used French spellings for names in documents written in French, so that Newcastle-on-Tyne was Noef Chastel sur Tyne, Westminster was Westmoustier, and Bury St Edmunds was Bourg Seint Esmon.

Karen M said...

That is probably an evolution from the roman name for the Thames which was Thamesis

Anonymous said...

I'm based in Staffordshire and some older (i.e. even older than me and I'm in my 60s) people pronounce Uttoxeter "Ucheter", though I've always pronounced as indicated in your article.

My email - or the one I use most frequently at least - is a Yahoo one so I have to comment as "Anonymous". I tried to create a gmail account calling myself "Desperate Doggesbody" but Google wouldn't let me.

Patricia O

Unknown said...

Other items (some of these I may know but confirmation would be nice): Mohun (same as Bohun?), Badlesmere, Burghersh, Geneville, Ufford, Argyll, Winchelsea, and Aymer de Valence.

Anerje said...

The joys of the English language - there is no rhyme or reason. We don't have a 'transparent' alphabet apparently:)

Anerje said...

Btw, the ability to roll your Rs in Welsh is vital.

Joansz said...

When I tried to understand how words were pronounced in the late 15th-century England, I came across a factoid that as best I can remember, there was a great vowel shift that started around 1450 and was pretty much in effect by 1480. If people spelled words the way they said them, there would not only be differences in spelling from region to region, but also differences over time. I learned from someone whose info I trust that when Caxton returned to England in 1476 after a decade+ abroad of learning the print trade, he could barely understand English as it was then spoken in London because not only had he been away for so long, but it had changed considerably because of the great vowel shift.
I looked up Thames at the online etymology diction (etymonline.com): river through London, Old English Temese, from Latin Tamesis (51 B.C.E.), from British Tamesa, an ancient Celtic river name perhaps meaning "the dark one." The -h- is unetymological (see th). (I remember reading somewhere that the "th" comes from a symbol that meant thorn. Here's part of what the online etymology dictionary has: A sound found chiefly in words of Old English, Old Norse or Greek origin, unpronounceable by Normans and many other Europeans. In Greek, the sound corresponds etymologically to Sanskrit -dh- and English -d-; and it was represented graphically by -TH- and at first pronounced as a true aspirate (as still in English outhouse, shithead, etc.). But by 2c. B.C.E. the Greek letter theta was in universal use and had the modern "-th-" sound. Latin had neither the letter nor the sound, however, and the Romans represented Greek theta by -TH-, which they generally pronounced, at least in Late Latin, as simple "-t-" (passed down to Romanic languages, as in Spanish termal "thermal," teoria "theory," teatro "theater").

Luc D. said...

"I've seen the name Thames spelt in documents of Edward II's era as 'Tamyse'. Hmmm, still not that close to the modern pronunciation of 'temz' though, so I do wonder where that comes from"

The word "Tamyse" comes from the French. We still use this word today but we spell Tamise with an "i" not an "y".

Sami Parkkonen said...

I got some totally wrong and some spot on. Interesting stuff indeed.

Sami Parkkonen said...

"Jervaulx (Abbey): jair-voh (I think! Someone please correct me on this if not)"

Could it be che-voh/cher-voh?

In french J sounds often as Ch.
Jet aime = chö tem.

Just an idea. I have no basis for this.

Kathryn Warner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathryn Warner said...

Joan, thanks for the info!


Mohun: moon

Badlesmere: I say baddels-meer, not sure if that's correct!

Burghersh: as spelt, burg-hersh

Geneville: jen-vill

Ufford: uf-fud ('u' sound as in 'duck' not as in 'you')

Argyll: ar-gile, with a hard G as in 'go' and rhymes with 'pile', emphasis on second syllable

Winchelsea: win-chul-see, emphasis on first syllable.

Aymer de Valence: Aymer, first syllable as in 'play' then muh; de: duh, Valence: vall-uns

Jerry Bennett said...

Carlisle was often referred to locally as "Carel" up to the last century. It is still pronounced that way at local agricultural shows, when commentators are speaking in the Cumberland dialect. Presumably that was how it was also known in Scotland, as Sir Walter Scott refers to it as Carel in some of his Border Ballads.

Just out of interest, is Lochmaben pronounced as Lock-mar-ben or Lock-may-ben?

Kathryn Warner said...

That one I don't know. Scottish (and Welsh) place names are often a mystery to me.

Anonymous said...

Leicester is Les-tah.

Kathryn Warner said...

To me it's lester. I've never pronounced it with an A sound.

chris y said...

There may be some dispute over Cirencester, as a few posh older people still prefer "Sissister". Locals are likely to refer to it as "Zoyren".

Did Edward ever get to Bamburgh ("Bamber")? Excellent castle.

Kathryn Warner said...

Bamburgh, there's a good addition! I should have remembered that one.

If I'd got into variant local pronunciations, the post would never have been finished! There's a place near me called Gawthwaite, which some locals pronounce 'gor-thut' and others pronounce as spelt. Some locals call Barrow-in-Furness 'ba-ruh' not 'ba-roh' but I and others don't. That's just two examples of probably thousands.

Gabriele Campbell said...

I learned that Alnwick is pronounced something like Annick, when I last visited the UK. And don't get me started on some of the Scottish place names. :-)

Well, I rise you a Vernawahlshausen and some dukes of Sachsen-Meiningen-Hildburghausen. :-P

Gabriele Campbell said...

you can thank the Romans for Everwyk. It was called Eboriacum then, or Caer Ebrauc by the locals, later Eoforwik by the AngloSaxons, which the Vikings changed to Jorvik. Looks like Everwyk still has traces of the AngloSaxon name.

Unknown said...

Gabriele - thanks for the extra info on York/Everwyk. The Anglo-Saxon connection does make sense. But I wonder, how did the residents of York and England in the 14th century refer to the city? 'York' when speaking, but 'Everwyk' when chronicled in rolls and documents? I mean, it was known as York then, by some, wasn't it?

Unknown said...

Kathryn - this is not a place or family name, but a pronunciation that I have not been sure of in conversasions. When I speak of the English Chancery and how it issued letters "patent", how is that pronounced?

Kathryn Warner said...


Subhradeep Chatterjee said...

Awesome post! Really helpful!

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Subhradeep! :)

Paul said...

Jervaulx is pronounced 'Jarvis' locally, if it's any help.

Kathryn Warner said...

Ah, thanks, Paul!

D1010 said...

A bit of research shows that the traditional pronunciation is 'jarvis'.

D1010 said...

The local and traditional pronunciation of Rievaulx is 'Rivers'. The faux French Reevo is described in Wikipedia as 'posh'.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks! :-)

D1010 said...

I haven't see Happisburgh (Norfolk) appear yet. That's 'Hazebruh', of course.

D1010 said...

Then there's Slaithwaite ('slowit' - ow as in cow).

Kathryn Warner said...

Awesomeness! I'd forgotten about Happisburgh - knew it once, I think.

Unknown said...

To people who live there Tewkesbury is Chocksbree or almost T'ocksbree. I live sixty miles away in Bristol and always thought it was Chewksbree until I met some locals.
George MacDonald Fraser mentions both Carel and Peyrith in mid late '45 from Cumbrians.