Names with different pronunciations in different places

Inspired by the thread: “Have you ever loved a name and then realised you were pronouncing it wrong?

What are names that are pronounced differently in different places?

[name_m]Five[/name_m] that come quickly to mind:

  • [name_m]Craig[/name_m] = with the vowel in bait or the vowel in bet
  • [name_f]Dawn[/name_f] = with the vowel in bot or the vowel in bought (which is the same vowel for many people)
  • [name_f]Sara[/name_f] = like [name_f]Sarah[/name_f] or like [name_f]Zara[/name_f]
  • [name_f]Lara[/name_f] = like [name_f]Laura[/name_f] or like [name_f]Zara[/name_f]
  • [name_m]Isaac[/name_m] = ending in zick or in zack

Most of these are [name_u]North[/name_u] [name_u]America[/name_u] vs Commenwealth (not-incl [name_f]Canada[/name_f]) distinctions. But I’m sure there are scads of names that differ in other ways too.


I have no idea what the other way to pronounce [name_f]Dawn[/name_f] would be! Bot and bought are the same for me, so I guess I don’t know how other people would say them differently.

A few others I can think off…
[name_f]Clara[/name_f] (claire-uh vs clahr-uh)
[name_f]Cara[/name_f]/Kara (cahr-uh vs cair-uh)
[name_u]Lionel[/name_u] (lye-nuhl vs leo-nell)
[name_u]Eden[/name_u] (ee-dehn vs eh-dehn)
[name_f]Eleanor[/name_f] (eh-leh-nor vs eh-leh-ner/nuhr vs eh-len-uh)


One of the biggest:
[name_m]Ralph[/name_m] - ending in alf or in afe

@EagleEyes - For some people, the names [name_m]Don[/name_m] and [name_f]Dawn[/name_f] sound identical, and for others very different. You’d have to find an audio clip, if bot and bought are the same vowel for you. Sorry for being lazy and not finding one for you… off to milk the cow.

Love this!!

Genevieve – jen-uh-veev vs jahn-vee-ev


Probably more linguistic difference than geographical difference, but [name_m]Magnus[/name_m]!
I pronounced it “MAG-nus,” but in Denmark I met a boy who pronounced it like “MAW-ness” or “MOW-ness.” (“Ow” like cow, not blow)


I realise how hard it is to type phonetically in [name_f]English[/name_f]. The IPA (international phonetic alphabet) is awesome if you know how to use it. Though phone keyboards don’t make it easy.

Below are fifteen standard vowel sounds and diphthongs common to many [name_f]English[/name_f] dialects. I’ll put the IPA symbol and then an example word. And I’ll start with the purer sounds in the front of your mouth and work backwards, and then I’ll add the diphthongs.

(Note that the symbols sometimes look the same as normal [name_f]English[/name_f] letters. But they always mean only one sound in IPA):

  1. i — beet
  2. ɪ — bit
  3. e — bait (the initial pure sound)
  4. ɛ — bet
  5. æ — bat
  6. a — bot
  7. ɔ — bought
  8. o — boat (the initial pure sound)
  9. u — boot
  10. ʊ — put
  11. ə — but
  12. ai — bite
  13. au — bout
  14. oi — boy
  15. ju — butte

Some dialects also have
16. ʏ — book

A final letter ‘r’ also does very different things in different dialects, so I’m not going to approximate that here.

And every dialect says these basic vowels in slightly different ways. But hopefully this helps.


Yeah, I have to google the symbols if I remember to use them. Thanks for listing them out!

Thanks! I accidentally listed a word twice but fixed.

Also, don’t feel like you have to use the IPA. It’s fine to write phonetically in other ways.

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I love this thread! I didn’t know that about [name_m]Craig[/name_m], but that definitely makes sense now! And thank you, @tp_b for posting the IPA reference! And you make a great point on how hard it can be to type phonetically, so sometimes I just attach audio recordings of myself! :slight_smile:

Sometimes, I pronounce some names that have the “air” sound (e.g. [name_f]Cara[/name_f], [name_f]Tara[/name_f], [name_m]Harrison[/name_m], [name_m]Garrett[/name_m]) almost like how people in the Northeast USA pronounce it, even though I’m from the Midwest. They have more of a flat “a” (æ) sound whereas people around here say it like the word air.

Speaking of the “air” sound, I’ve heard that the various spellings of [name_u]Carey[/name_u]/Cary/Carrie/Kerry/Kari/etc. are pronounced differently in some areas and the same in other areas (like where I’m from).

I think some people around NYC also have a flat “a” sound with names that have an emphasized short “a” (e.g. [name_u]Addison[/name_u], [name_u]Hadley[/name_u], [name_u]Paxton[/name_u]), but I think around here, the flat “a” tends to come out most when there’s an “l” after the “a” (e.g. [name_m]Calvin[/name_m], [name_f]Hallie[/name_f], [name_m]Malcolm[/name_m]).

Down south, I think many people have a changing long “a” sound whereas people here are flat with it (e vs. ei). So names like [name_u]Cade[/name_u], [name_f]Katie[/name_f], [name_f]Amy[/name_f], [name_u]Taylor[/name_u], and [name_f]Hailee[/name_f] might sound different in different areas.

I think in most areas of the US, names like [name_f]Hannah[/name_f], [name_u]Cameron[/name_u], [name_f]Amber[/name_f], and [name_u]Anne[/name_u] have more of a changing vowel sound, almost like it has two syllables, whereas people in the UK would probably say it with more of a flat short “a” (æ) sound.

I’ve decided to post an audio clip of myself saying these names in various dialects to clarify!


I love the audio clip. And you’ve taught me a number of things about US regionalisms!


Thank you! Also, @sweetcaroline taught me some Spanish/Mexican dialects ranging from native names to American names. She has multiple ways of pronouncing different names depending on the situation.


@w8src A lot of it is contextual for me too. I try to use the pronunciation the person uses. So, to pick on [name_m]Isaac[/name_m] again, I’ve friends with different pronunciations and use both.

I think your [name_u]Addison[/name_u], [name_u]Hadley[/name_u] and [name_u]Paxton[/name_u] examples are more about nasalisation than the vowel location. I’ve listened through a few times and from my phone speakers, I don’t notice a difference in vowel placement. But I do notice a difference in the nasal sound of the vowel. So one version using æ and the other using æ̃. But I could be hearing wrong.

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@tp_b For that example, I’ve heard that most Northerners use the former pronunciation in my recording while a lot of people from the NYC area say it the latter way, but I could have heard wrong. I almost always say the latter.

Also, I have a friend in Seattle who says names like [name_f]Agatha[/name_f] and [name_f]Maggie[/name_f] with the ei (long A) sound rather than æ like I say it.

The one that always gets me is [name_m]Graham[/name_m]! I see it mentioned in posts as being 1 syllable and I’m like “:thinking:” and then I remember that in the US it’s pronounced like gram. In the UK it’s pronounced grey-um.


@w8src Always happy to help, I actually loved recording audios of name pronunciations and really enjoyed hearing other people’s too!


Yeah [name_m]Graham[/name_m] is a big one - whenever I’m speaking about it, I mean [name_u]Grey[/name_u]-um.
[name_f]Clara[/name_f] too - I like our Clar-uh pronunciation but not [name_f]Claire[/name_f]-uh. (And [name_f]Zara[/name_f] and [name_f]Sara[/name_f] for that matter)

@EagleEyes pronouncing bot and bought the same is part of the cot/caught merger. Video here (still with US vowel sounds)
I pronounce [name_f]Dawn[/name_f] like the introduction of this video

I struggle with people writing pronunciations out because I realise half way through trying to say it that I just don’t pronounce vowels as the writer intended. (And yet I’ve still used them further up… it does make it tricky)

Carey would be cair-ee (and cary maybe?)
[name_f]Carrie[/name_f] would be ca (like the start of cat) - ree (and [name_u]Kari[/name_u])
[name_u]Kerry[/name_u] would rhyme with berry

r/britishproblems :laughing:


Thanks for finding good video links! And well said.

I find it funny when folks from the US and from the UK confuse each other over homemade phonetic spellings.

UK: I pronounce it Tar-lee-uh
US: Wait, there’s an “r” in there?

Something about that, every time, makes me chuckle.

Also, when people use totally inappropriate words in different dialects. Having lived in four different [name_f]English[/name_f] speaking countries on three continents — two of them for over a decade — it’s sort of this enjoyable train wreck in miscommunication. (And I’m sure I still do it myself also. You are free to laugh when I do.)


I just did it with [name_f]Clara[/name_f] (Clar-uh) [name_f]Non[/name_f]-rhotic r and all that. C’est la vie.

I was trying to find the unmerged cot-caught in a British accent - best I can find is this: (it is standard southern [name_f]English[/name_f], no regional accents) I now just ignore recommendations that don’t fit (EG: [name_m]Graham[/name_m] for a 1 syllable middle) rather than starting arguments over pronunciation.

TL;DR - our cot sound is very similar to the merged US sound. Caught is longer (closer to the sound Canadians use for coat in a very stereotyped accent). IE: [name_m]Don[/name_m] is short, [name_f]Dawn[/name_f] is long.


Well said again.

Though, I reckon everyone says the r in Clara. It being intervocalic. Even South Africans with no r insertion (in classic examples like “law and order”) would. Surely, you do, eh?

As @emelfem said, this is the cot-caught merger, and another common one is the pin-pen merger - for some accents (like my wife’s, haha), the vowel sounds are identical. (Which makes, for example, [name_m]Jim[/name_m] and [name_f]Gem[/name_f] exactly the same.)

I did my PhD in linguistics, and this thread is making me really nostalgic for teaching phonetics seminars. :heart: I love reading about the mixture of accents here.

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