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A Northwest Pronunciation Guide

The Northwestern United States and British Columbia are full of place names that are hard to pronounce. Following are a few names with their proper pronunciation, sorted by state (and province). To view pronunciations, click on the name of the state or province you need.

 

Alaska

uh-LASS-ka

Alaska

Aats Bay ahts
Ahtena AHT-na
Aiaktalik eye-AK-ta-lick
Aleut AL-ee-oot
Aleutian a-LOO-shin
Allakaket a-la-KAK-et
Anchorage AYNG-kor-ij
Auke Bay awk
Beaufort BOE-frt
Bering (Strait) BARE-ing
Chitina CHIT-na
Chukchi CHUCK-chee
Chugach CHOO-gatch
Denali deh-NAH-lee
Mt. Edgecumbe EDGE-cum
Eklutna ee-KLOOT-na
Iñupiaq ee-NYOOP-yak
Iñupiat ee-NYOOP-yat
Juneau JOO-no
Kachemak KAT-che-mack
Kasilof ka-SEE-loff
Katmai CAT-my
Kenai KEE-ny
Knik k-NICK
Kotzebue COT-se-byoo
Kuskokwim CUS-ko-kwim
Matanuska mat-a-NOO-ska
Minchumina (Lake) min-CHOO-min-a
Ptarmigan TAR-ma-gin (hard g)
Qiviut TIV-yoot
Titnuk (Creek) TEET-nook (rhymes with "book")
Tlingit KLING-kit
Unalakleet YOO-na-la-kleet
Yakutat YACK-a-tat
Yup'ik YOOP-ick

There is also an excellent Alaska pronunciation guide here.

 

British Columbia

British Columbia (BC)

Agassiz AGG-a-see
Coquitlam coe-KWIT-lum
Kelowna kel-LOE-na
Nanaimo na-NYE-moe
Penticton pen-TICK-ton
Quesnel kwe-NELL
Tlingit KLING-kit
Tsawwassen ta-WAH-sen
Vancouver van-COO-ver
Wycliffe WICK-liff

 

Idaho

EYE-da-hoe

Idaho

Aberdeen ABB-er-deen
Acequia uh-SEEK-wee-uh
Arimo AIR-uh-moe
Basalt BAY-salt
Benewah BEN-uh-wah
Boise BOY-see (note that there is no Z)
Coeur d'Alene core da-LANE 
Feltham FEL-tum
Keogh KEE-oh
Keuterville KYOO-ter-vil
Lapwai LAP-way
Lemhi LEM-high
Kamiah KAM-ee-eye
Kooskia KOO-skee 
Kootenai KOOT'n-ee
Malad ma-LAD
Michaud mish-ODD
Moscow MOSS-co (rhymes with "toe"... does not rhyme with "cow")
Murtaugh MUR-taw
Nahneke (River) nah-NEE-kee
Nez Perce nez purse or nez pierce 
Owyhee oh-WYE-hee
Pahsimeroi (Mountains) pa-SIM-a-roy
Perrine PRINE
Pend Oreille PAWN-do-RAY
Picabo PEEK-a-boo
Ririe RYE-ree
Schweitzer SHWITE-zer
Shoshone sho-SHO-nee or sho-SHONE
Takabe TACK-a-bee
Weippe WEE-ipe
Weiser WEE-zer

 

Montana

mon-TAN-uh

Montana

Absarokee ab-SOR-kee
Butte byoot
Choteau SHO-toe
Dupuyer da-POO-yer
Ekalaka ee-ka-LA-ka
Gallatin (County) GAL-la-tin
Glasgow GLASS-go
Havre HAV-er
Helena HEL-en-a
Ismay IS-mee
Kalispell CAL-lis-pell
Kevin KEE-vin
Kiowa KYE-oh-wa
Meagher (County) mahr
Missoula miz-ZOO-la
Moiese mo-EEZ
Piegan PEE-gun
Piniele pie-NEEL
Quietus kwy-EET-us
Rapelje RAP-ul-jay
Ravalli (County) ra-VALL-ee
Reichle RY-klee
Rimini RIM-a-ny (rhymes with "eye")
Teigen TAY-gun
Theony TOE-nee
Wibaux WEE-bo
Yaak yak

 

Oregon

ORE-uh-g'n
(like "organ" with an "uh" sound in the middle...note that Oregon does NOT rhyme with "gone" and does NOT start with an "ah" sound)

Oregon

Abiqua (Creek) AB-ih-kwa
Aloha a-LO-a (unlike the Hawaiian pronunciation)
Alsea AL-see
Astoria as-STORE-ee-a
Bakeoven BAKE-uv-en (like "bake oven")
Champoeg sham-POO-ee
Clackamas CLACK-uh-mus
Coos Bay coose bay ("Coos" rhymes with "goose")
Coquille co-KEEL (city); co-KWELL (Tribe and River)
The Dalles the DALZ
Depoe Bay dee-poe (neither syllable is stressed, although it is similar to "depot")
Detroit DEE-troyt (notice that emphasis goes on the first syllable, unlike Detroit, Michigan)
Estacada es-tuh-CAY-duh
Eugene yoo-JEEN (the stress goes on the second syllable, not the first)
Gervais JER-vis
Half.com ...well, you probably know how to say that, but I couldn't resist putting it in the list. :-)
Heceta ha-SEE-ta
Imnaha im-NAH-hah
Kaleetan Butte KAL-ee-tan byoot
Klamath Falls CLAM-ath
La Grande la grand (the e is silent)
Madras MAD-russ
Malheur MAL-hyure
Maupin MOP-in
Minam MINE-um
Molalla mo-LAH-lah
Multnomah mult-NO-ma
Nehalem nee-HAY-lem
Netarts NEE-tarts
Nyssa NISS-uh
Ochoco O-chuh-koh
Philomath FILL-o-math
Scio SIGH-oh
Siletz sil-ETZ
Siuslaw sigh-YEW-slaw
Tigard TIE-gurd (like "tiger" with a d at the end)
Tillamook TILL-a-mook (rhymes with "book")
Toketee TOKE-tee
Tualatin too-AWL-a-tin
Ukiah yoo-KYE-uh
Umatilla YOO-ma-TILL-a
Umpqua UMP-kwah
Wallowa wuh-LOW-wa (the second syllable rhymes with "cow")
Wenaha WEN-a-hah (different pronunciation from Wenaha, WA)
Willamette wil-LAMM-met (the second syllable is pronounced like "lamb")
Willamina will-uh-MY-nuh or will-uh-MEE-nuh
Winema why-NEE-muh
Yachats YAH-hots
Yaquina ya-KWINN-a

 

Washington

WASH-ing-ton 
(note that there is no R in "Washington")

Washington

Aberdeen ABB-er-deen
Aeneas EE-nee-us
Alki AL-kye (rhymes with "pie" - common pronunciation) or AL-kee (proper Chinook pronunciation)
Anacortes ann-a-COR-tiss
Asotin a-SOE-tin
Bellevue BELL-vyoo
Blewett (Pass) BLOO-it
Bothell BAW-thel
Bremerton BREMM-er-ton
Brier BRY-er (rhymes with "higher")
Buena boo-EE-na (3 syllables)
Burien BYUR-ee-en
Camano (Island) ca-MAY-no
Camas CAMM-us
Cathlamet cath-LAM-met
Centralia sen-TREL-ya
Chehalis sha-HAY-lis
Chelan sha-LAN
Cheney CHEE-nee
Chewelah chew-WEE-la
Chimacum CHIM-a-cum
Chinook shin-NOOK (rhymes with "book"...note that the "proper" Salish pronunciation is with a hard "ch", but it is commonly pronounced with a soft "sh") 
Cle Elum clee ELL-um
Colville CAHL-vil
Connell cah-NELL
Coulee COO-lee
Coupeville COOP-vil
Covington CUV-ing-ton
Cowiche cow-ITCH-ee
Cowlitz (County) COW-litz
Darrington DARE-ing-ton
Deschutes dez-SHOOTS
Des Moines de MOYN or de MOYNZ *
Dosewallips doe-see-WALL-ips
Duwamish doo-WAH-mish
Elbe ELL-bee
Elochoman (River) ee-LOCK-uh-mun
Entiat EN-tee-at
Enumclaw EE-num-claw
Ephrata ee-FRAY-ta
Everett EV-rit
Guemes GWEE-mis
Hoquiam HOE-kwee-um
Ilwaco il-WAH-co
Inchelium in-CHEE-lee-um
Issaquah ISS-a-kwah
Strait of Juan de Fuca wahn de FYOO-ca
Kahlotus kuh-LOE-tus
Kalalach CLAY-lock
Kalama ka-LAM-a
Kennewick KEN-ih-wick
Kiona kie-OH-nuh
Kittitas (County) KIT-it-tass
Klickitat (County) CLICK-it-tat
Leavenworth LEV-en-wurth
Lilliwaup LILL-ih-wop
Machias ma-CHY-us
Makah ma-KAW
Mattawa MATT-a-wa
Mazama ma-ZAM-a
Mesa MEE-sa or MAY-sa (I've gotten conflicting reports on this, so I'm putting both pronunciations)
Methow MET-how
Montesano MON-ta-SAY-no
Mukilteo muck-il-TEE-o
Naches NAT-cheese
Naselle nay-SELL
Neah Bay NEE-a bay
Napavine NAPP-uh-vine
Nespelem nes-PEE-lum
Niawakum (River) nigh-uh-wah-kum
Nisqually nis-KWAHL-lee
Ohanapecosh oh-HAN-uh-puh-cosh
Okanogan O-ka-NOG-gan
Olalla o-LAH-la
Olequa OH-la-kwa
Orcas (Island) OR-cuss
Oso OH-so
Palix (River) PAY-lix
Palouse pa-LOOSE
Pasco PASS-coe
Pe Ell pee el
Pend Oreille (County) PAWN-do-RAY
Peshastin peh-SHAS-tin
Poulsbo PAULS-bo 
Puget (Sound) PYOO-jit
Puyallup pyoo-AL-up
Pysht pisht
Quilcene KWILL-seen
Quileute KWILL-ee-oot
Quillayute KWILL-a-yoot
Quinault kwin-ALT
Mt. Rainier ray-NEER
Roche Harbor rohsh
Salish SAY-lish
Sammamish sa-MAM-ish
San Juan (County) san wahn
Satus SAY-tis
Sauk sock
Seattle see-AT-tl (named after Chief Sealth, who was also known as Chief Seattle)
Sedro-Woolley SEE-dro WOOL-ee
Selah SEE-la
Sekiu SEE-kyoo
Sequim skwim
Mt. Si sigh
Skagit (County) SKAD-jit
Skamokawa ska-MOCK-a-way
Skykomish sky-KOE-mish
Snohomish sno-HOE-mish
Snoqualmie sno-KWAHL-mee (only 3 syllables)
Spanaway SPAN-a-way
Spokane spo-CAN
Sprague sprayg
Stehekin sta-HEE-kin
Steilacoom STILL-a-cum
Stillaguamish (River) still-uh-GWAH-mish
Strait of Juan de Fuca wahn de FYOO-ca
Suiattle soo-AT-tl
Suquamish soo-KWAH-mish
Swinomish SWINN-oh-mish (note that this does not follow the normal pattern of the other "-omish" cities)
Tacoma ta-COE-ma
Teanaway tee-ANN-a-way
Tekoa TEE-ko
Tenino teh-NYE-no
Tieton TIE-eh-tun
Tlingit KLING-kit
Tonasket ta-NAS-kit
Toppenish TOP-pen-ish
Touchet TOO-she
Toutle TOO-tl
Tshletshy Creek ta-LEE-chee
Tukwila tuck-WILL-a
Tulalip too-LAY-lip
Utsalady ut-sa-LADD-ee
Vancouver van-COO-ver
Vashon VASH-on
Wahkiakum (County) wah-KYE-a-cum
Wahkiakus wah-KACK-us
Walla Walla WAHL-a WAHL-a
Wapato WOP-a-toe
Washougal wash-OO-gull
Wellpinit WELL-pin-it
Wenaha wa-NAH-hah (different pronunciation from Wenaha, OR)
Wenatchee wen-NAT-chee
Willapa WILL-uh-puh
Yacolt YACK-olt
Yakama (Tribe) YACK-uh-mah
Yakima (city) YACK-uh-mah

* Note on Des Moines: I have received more messages on whether or not Des Moines, WA is pronounced with the S at the end. Based on my research, the original settlers wanted to differentiate it from Des Moines, IA by pronouncing the S. However, according to this page and this page from the Des Moines City Council archives, the S was officially silenced by Des Moines' City Council on September 22, 1975. However, according to Wikipedia and the Des Moines Police Department, the S is still pronounced. I have also heard people in the area pronounce it both ways. Due to the disagreement, I am taking a neutral stance and putting both pronunciations.

 

Northwest Vocabulary

americano a-mare-ih-KAH-no

    a blend of espresso and water..."americano" is Italian for "American"
Bellaccino bell-a-CHEE-no
    a cold drink made by Tully's that is a mixture of milk, crushed ice, flavor (your choice), and their special syrup (most flavors also include espresso)
café au lait cah-FAY oh LAY
    coffee with milk added..."café au lait" is French for "coffee with milk" (not to be confused with "caffè latté", which is Italian for "coffee milk", and is an entirely different drink [see latté, below])
cappuccino CAPP-a-CHEE-no
    a foamy blend of espresso and milk, named for the monks of the Capuchin monastic order in Italy
Chinook shin-NOOK (rhymes with book)
    a breed of salmon
Coho COE-hoe
    a breed of salmon
espresso ess-PRESS-o
    a strong pressed coffee that is the base for most of the coffee drinks..."espresso" is Italian for "pressed," not "express"...thus, there is no X in "espresso"
Frappuccino FRAPP-a-CHEE-no
    Starbucks' cold blend of espresso and milk
geoduck GOO-ee-duck
    a kind of clam with a really long neck
grandé GRAHN-day
    16 ounces of coffee (or other drink)
Kalakala ka-LOCK-a-la
    one of Seattle's first ferries
latté LAH-tay
    a blend of espresso and milk, not as foamy as cappuccino (if served cold, the ice is added last)..."latté" is Italian for "milk"

Lushootseed luh-SHOOT-seed

the language of the Swinomish tribe

macchiato mah-kee-AH-toe

    like a latté, but not stirred (if served cold, the ice is added first)..."macchiato" is Italian for "marked" or "stained"
ventí (sometimes spelled "veinte") VEN-tee

    20 ounces of coffee (or other drink)...Starbucks calls it venti; Tully's calls it veinte; Seattle's Best Coffee calls it large. Venti and veinte (vay-een-tay) mean "20" in Italian and Spanish, respectively.

     

Credits

Flags courtesy of http://atlasgeo.span.ch/flags/index.htm

Thanks to Pat Owen, Michael Hoaglin, Jan Johnson, Duane Walter, Dylan Lawrence, Eric Summerer, Nick Kennedy, Charles Brockman, Cliff Curtis, Greg Carroll, Jeff Orr, Dale Sanderson, Cindy Morabito, Keri Weaver, Kevin Patfield, Chuck Branstetter, Sylvia Allen, Tom Schaefer, Caryn Bloomberg, Chris Reinhart, Jennifer Handley, Megan McGrath, Anne Potter, Andy Nash, Lianne McNeil, Randy Bennett, Eric & Rosie Medford, John Schleg, Paulina Publishing, Veronica Schnidrig, Dave Kruger, Mariah Z, William Simon, Dawn Koester, Chris Davis, Dave Patterson, Gary Howe, John Smoots, Cathern, bpal, Marie, CeeJay, Anne and ScubaCat (Jer) for help with some of the cities. Some helped by giving me correct pronunciations, and others helped by asking me how to say the names of different places, and I added those places.

Thanks to Becky Ziebold for her help with coffee drink definitions.



If you know of any places I've missed, e-mail me at webmaster at stevensauke dot com. (Be sure to replace the words "at" and "dot" with the appropriate symbols, of course.) You might even see it added to this page.