Special Report

Most Americans Will Struggle to Pronounce These 50 Town Names

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Most people probably know how to pronounce Des Moines or Boise. That’s because these are well-known American cities. But people might have mispronounced them when they came across them for the first time. There are a lot more obscure places with strange names that people have a hard time with.

The United States Geological Survey recognizes 35,000 cities and towns in the 50 states. Some began as Native American settlements, while others were founded by immigrants from different parts of the world. Some were named for geographic features and others were named after tribes or individuals. A few were even given made-up names. These are the most common town names in America.

North America (excluding Mexico) has almost 300 indigenous languages, and waves of immigrants from non-English speaking countries added their own. Often, the names immigrants gave to people and places were anglicized. Meanwhile, English itself has been evolving — as all languages do — and pronunciations changing. As a result, there are many towns across the country with names that are difficult to pronounce — and that may even be pronounced differently by the locals. 24/7 Tempo set out to identify the most difficult-to-pronounce town name in each state.

Click here for some of the most difficult town names to pronounce. 

To identify the most difficult-to-pronounce town name in each state 24/7 Tempo reviewed the names of more than 29,000 towns as they are listed in the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey (ACS). We used editorial discretion to decide which ones are among the most difficult to pronounce.

Source: Faustus37 / Wikimedia Commons

1. Acequia, Idaho
> Total characters: 7
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 170

Acequia is named after the Spanish word for irrigation ditch — the area has an extensive irrigation system — and is pronounced the same way: “uh-SEEK-we-uh.” If you don’t pronounce it correctly, don’t worry, as the town only has a population of 124.

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Source: mdesigner125 / Getty Images

2. Ahwatukee, Arizona
> Total characters: 9
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: N/A

Ahwatukee, an urban village in south Phoenix, is pronounced “ah-wuh-too-kee.”

Source: Joshua McDonough / Getty Images

3. Aiea, Hawaii
> Total characters: 4
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 9,332

Aiea gets its name from the Hawaiian language and is pronounced “ah-ee-ay-ah” or “eye-ay-ah.” It’s part of Honolulu and close to Pearl Harbor, so there’s lots to see nearby.

Source: Flory / Getty Images

4. Arapahoe, Wyoming
> Total characters: 8
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 1,586

Arapahoe is situated within the Wind River Indian Reservation, which is home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. It’s not as difficult to pronounce as it might seem — simply “a-RAP-a-hoe.”

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Source: 63875512@N04 / Flickr

5. Auxier, Kentucky
> Total characters: 6
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 850

This one’s a challenge: Auxier is named after a family who also used the spelling “Axer,” “Oxer,” and “Auxer.” They pronounced their name “ok-sur,” but some locals use “ox-yer.” Either way, it’s two syllables, not three.

Source: krblokhin / Getty Images

6. Basye, Virginia
> Total characters: 5
> Total vowels: 3
> Population: 834

This town is named after Edmond Basye, an early settler. It is pronounced “BAS-see,” with the accent on the first syllable. It was originally pronounced “bas-SAY,” with the accent on the second syllable.

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Source: Richard Wellenberger / Getty Images

7. Bayou Gauche, Louisiana
> Total characters: 11
> Total vowels: 7
> Population: 2,557

Bayou Gauche is one of the most remote towns in Louisiana, surrounded by water. A bayou is a marshy lake or wetland, and gauche means left in French — meaning the town is on the left side of boats travelling downstream. It is pronounced “bi-YOU” or “bi-OH gosh.”

Source: afiler / Flickr

8. Beaulieu, Minnesota
> Total characters: 8
> Total vowels: 6
> Population: 37

Beaulieu is named after brothers Henry and John Beaulieu, who served in the Civil War and later settled there. It is pronounced “bohl-yuu.” The English pronounce this “BEW-lee”.

Source: juggernautco / Flickr

9. Bucyrus, Ohio
> Total characters: 7
> Total vowels: 3
> Population: 11,950

Bucyrus was founded by Col. James Kilbourne in 1821. He may have come up with the name by combining “beautiful” and Cyrus, the Persian ruler, or he may have named the town after the ancient Egyptian city of Busiris. Whatever the case, it’s pronounced “bew-sy-rus.”

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Source: Isaactraut / Getty Images

10. Cayuga, Indiana
> Total characters: 6
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 1,179

Cayuga is pronounced “kye-OO-gah.” It’s named after the Native American tribe that lived in New York State and was forced to migrate westward and northwest.

Source: RoschetzkyIstockPhoto / Getty Images

11. César Chávez, Texas, Texas
> Total characters: 11
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 1,442

Sharing its name with the famous farm worker and activist, this town is pronounced “SEH-sahr CHAH-vess.”

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Source: AnkNet / Getty Images

12. Damariscotta, Maine
> Total characters: 12
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 1,222

Damariscotta reportedly comes from a Native American word meaning “river of little fish.” It is pronounced “dam-ahr-ihs-KOTTA,” although locals sometimes add an extra r to the first syllable.

Source: Vasiliy Meshko / Wikimedia Commons

13. Duryea, Pennsylvania
> Total characters: 6
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 4,886

Duryea was named in honor of Hiram Duryea, a Civil War general and landowner in the area. The name is of Irish origin and is pronounced “dur-ee-ay.”

Source: olin_gilbert / Flickr

14. Eufaula, Alabama
> Total characters: 7
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 12,467

Eufaula is named after a Native American tribe and is pronounced “you-fall-uh.”

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Source: Ser Amantio di Nicolao / Wikimedia Commons

15. Eutawville, South Carolina
> Total characters: 10
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 312

The first two syllables of Eutawville are pronounced like Utah, and there is less stress on the third, so the result is “YOO-TAH-vil.”

Source: Coolcaesar / Wikimedia Commons

16. Fontainebleau, Florida
> Total characters: 13
> Total vowels: 7
> Population: 59,255

Fontainebleau (also spelled Fountainebleau) is in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The word originated in French, where it is pronounced “fawn-ten-bloh.” In the United States, it can be pronounced “fon-tin-bloh,” although in Florida locals call the hotel of the same name the “Fountain Blue.”

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Source: Jessica Warner / Getty Images

17. Fort Duchesne, Utah
> Total characters: 12
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 685

Duchesne is pronounced “dushayne.” It is a common French name meaning “of the oak tree.”

Source: Mjrmtg / Wikimedia Commons

18. Hahira, Georgia
> Total characters: 6
> Total vowels: 3
> Population: 2,894

Hahira (“hay-HI-ra”) has perhaps the most obscure origin of any town on this list. Some say the name was created by the town’s first postmaster, but it remains a mystery.

Source: Magnolia677 / Wikimedia Commons

19. Iaeger, West Virginia
> Total characters: 6
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 307

Take a trip to Iaeger (“YAY-ger”) and you might be lucky enough to run into one of the 302 people who live there. Named for Col. William G. W. Iaeger, this town has had some easier-to-pronounce names over the years, including “WIlliamsburg” and “Forks on the River.”

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Source: Library of Congress Prints Photographs Division AK5-IGIU1A--4 CT / Wikimedia Commons

20. Igiugig, Alaska
> Total characters: 7
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 46

Igiugig is a tiny village with a population of only 69, consisting mainly of Yupik Eskimos, Aleuts, and Athabascan people. According to the Department of Community and Economic Development, it’s pronounced “ig-ee-UH-gig.”

Source: afiler / Flickr

21. Karlsruhe, North Dakota
> Total characters: 9
> Total vowels: 3
> Population: 71

Karlsruhe is one of the smallest towns on our list, with a population of less than a hundred. (Its German namesake is thousands of times bigger.) In North Dakota, it’s pronounced “karls-ROO.”

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Source: davidwilson1949 / Flickr

22. Keosauqua, Iowa
> Total characters: 9
> Total vowels: 6
> Population: 916

Keosauqua (“KEE-o-SAW-qua”) is the Native American word for “Big Bend.” The town indeed lies on the bend of the Des Moines River. The town’s website boasts that there is “virtually no crime (and literally not a traffic light in town)”!

Source: ERoss99 / Wikimedia Commons

23. Kiowa, Colorado
> Total characters: 5
> Total vowels: 3
> Population: 797

Kiowa (pronounced like “Iowa” with a K) is a small town southeast of Denver. The town is named for the Native American people who lived in the region.

Source: patrick_nouhailler / Flickr

24. Leipsic, Delaware
> Total characters: 7
> Total vowels: 3
> Population: 129

Leipsic (“LIP-sick”) is named for the German city of Leipzig (pronounced LYPE-zick). Situated on the banks of the Leipsic River, the town is known for its delicious oysters and crabs.

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Source: Farragutful / Wikimedia Commons

25. Leitersburg, Maryland
> Total characters: 11
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 520

Leitersburg is pronounced like “lighters burg.” The early settlers in the area were almost exclusively German and used German pronunciation.

Source: highmountainphotography / Getty Images

26. Lindisfarne, Montana
> Total characters: 11
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 165

Lindisfarne (“LIN-dis-FARN”) is located on Flathead Lake near the Flathead Reservation and Glacier National Park. The town is named after Holy Island of Lindisfarne, a tidal island in England.

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Source: ghornephoto / Getty Images

27. Moweaqua, Illinois
> Total characters: 8
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 1,854

A farming community in the middle of the state, Moweaqua (“moh-WEEK-wuh’) is known for its corn and soybean production.

Source: Isaac Church / Getty Images

28. Neahkahnie, Oregon
> Total characters: 10
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 72

Neahkahnie (“NEE-uh-kah-nee”) is a small town located along the Oregon Coast, at the foot of Neahkahnie Mountain. Legend has it that Spanish sailors buried a treasure in the mountain in the 16th century.

Source: Ammodramus / Wikimedia Commons

29. Ohiowa, Nebraska
> Total characters: 6
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 164

Ohiowa is pronounced like Ohio with a “wa” added. When the town was established, settlers from Ohio wanted to name it after their state, while those from Iowa preferred theirs. The dispute was settled by combining the two state names.

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Source: Famartin / Wikimedia Commons

30. Owyhee, Nevada
> Total characters: 6
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 1,104

This is another town name with an odd history — it’s an anglicization of Hawai’i and is pronounced the same way.

Source: Ente75 / Wikimedia Commons

31. Picayune, Mississippi
> Total characters: 8
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 10,528

This town has an unusual history — it was named after the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, which the founder liked. It derives from a Spanish coin and is pronounced “pi-kuh-yoon.”

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Source: rkramer62 / Flickr

32. Ponshewaing, Michigan
> Total characters: 11
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 38

Ponshewaing (PON-she-wang) was a railroad stop before it was a town. Some say it means “peaceful waters,” others say “winter home.”

Source: Jennifer Wan / Getty Images

33. Port Hueneme, California
> Total characters: 7
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 22,262

Port Hueneme (“wy-nee-mee”) is a seaside community in Ventura County. The name derives from a Chumash word (“wene’mu”) meaning “resting place.”

Source: flashbacknyc / Getty Images

34. Quechee, Vermont
> Total characters: 7
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 339

There isn’t just a town called Quechee (“kwee-chee”) in Vermont, there’s also Quechee State Park and the Quechee Gorge, and the equally hard-to-pronounce Ottauquechee River.

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Source: ChrisBoswell / Getty Images

36. Qui-nai-elt Village, Washington
> Total characters: 16
> Total vowels: 8
> Population: 79

Qui-nai-elt is a variation of Quinault and is pronounced “kwi-nail.” The town in the southeastern part of the Quinault Indian Nation.

Source: library_of_congress / Flickr

37. Quinebaug, Connecticut
> Total characters: 9
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 1,545

Quinebaug (“quinn-a-bog”) is a town in northeastern Connecticut. The name comes from a southern New England Native American term meaning “long pond.”

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Source: 2thirdsphoto / Getty Images

38. Quiogue, New York
> Total characters: 7
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 728

Quiogue is pronounced “kwi-og.” The first syllable rhymes with “why,” and the second rhymes with “bog.” To complicate things, it’s next to Quogue, which is simply pronounced “kwog.”

Source: JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ, M.D. / Wikimedia Commons

39. Quonochontaug, Rhode Island
> Total characters: 13
> Total vowels: 6
> Population: 606

Quonochontaug, which means black fish, is pronounced “KWAHN-ah-kahn-tawg,” although even locals have difficulty with it. Rhode Island has many hard-to-pronounce names, legacies of five Indian tribes that lived there: the Narragansetts, Niantics, Nipmucks, Pequots, and Wampanoags.

Source: Famartin / Wikimedia Commons

40. Runnemede, New Jersey
> Total characters: 9
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 8,391

Runnemede (pronounced “RUN-a-meade”) was most likely named after Runnymede in England, though there is a story, most likely apocryphal, that the name comes from the chant at a local tavern for: “Rum we need!”

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Source: eekim / Flickr

41. Saxapahaw, North Carolina
> Total characters: 9
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 1,370

Saxapahaw is named for the Sissipahaw tribe and is pronounced “sax-uh-puh-haw” (although some locals shorten it to “sax-p’haw”).

Source: miroslav_1 / Getty Images

42. Sayre, Oklahoma
> Total characters: 5
> Total vowels: 3
> Population: 4,625

Sayre isn’t too much of a challenge — you flip the final letters and say “say-er.”

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Source: KenWiedemann / Getty Images

43. Scituate, Massachusetts
> Total characters: 8
> Total vowels: 4
> Population: 5,749

Scituate (“sit-choo-it”) derives from an Indian word, which the early settlers understood as satuit, meaning “cold brook.” It’s situated just south of Boston.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

44. Seboyeta, New Mexico
> Total characters: 8
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 47

Seboyeta is a variation on the Spanish word cebolleta, which means spring onion or scallion and is pronounced “seb-oh-YET-oh.”

Source: Kruck20 / Getty Images

45. Sevierville, Tennessee
> Total characters: 11
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 16,387

Sevierville is pronounced like “severe-ville.” It’s named after Gen. John Sevier, first governor of the state of Tennessee. Sevier was originally the French name “Xavier.”

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Source: JuliScalzi / Getty Images

46. Suissevale, New Hampshire
> Total characters: 10
> Total vowels: 5
> Population: 205

Suissevale, pronounced “Swiss vale,” is on Lake Winnipesaukee, which deserves its own place on our list.

Source: Jimmy Emerson DVM / Flickr

47. Tulare, South Dakota
> Total characters: 6
> Total vowels: 3
> Population: 256

Tulare (“too-LAYR”) is in Spink County, South Dakota. This name derives from the Classical Nahuatl (a language spoken by the Aztec) word “tōllin” (“sedge” or “reeds”), by way of Spanish.

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Source: marekuliasz / Getty Images

45. Weaubleau, Missouri
> Total characters: 9
> Total vowels: 6
> Population: 545

This is pronounced “WAH-bloh,” according to a Missouri pronunciation guide, although some maintain it is “we-bah-low” or “we-blow.”

Source: John Jackson / Flickr

48. Weir, Kansas
> Total characters: 4
> Total vowels: 2
> Population: 528

Weir, pronounced “WEER,” is a coal- and zinc-mining town named after an early landowner, T.M. Weir.

Source: Royalbroil / Wikimedia Commons

49. Weyauwega, Wisconsin
> Total characters: 9
> Total vowels: 6
> Population: 1,790

Weyauwega means “here we rest” because the location was a stopping between two rivers where Native Americans had to portage their canoes. It’s pronounced “wy-a-WEE-ga,” but the locals just call it “Wega.”

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Source: Jaya D / Yelp

50. Wiederkehr Village, Arkansas
> Total characters: 17
> Total vowels: 7
> Population: 35

Wiederkehr is the name of a winery as well as a village. Locals say it’s pronounced “witter-kur” or “wee-da-kuhur,” depending on how much you’ve had to drink.

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