Pronun­ciation guide

How to pronounce selected London place and street names

Cubitt (kew-bit) Town library

KEW-​​bit Town library

The correct pronun­ci­ations of some London place names are totally unguessable. For example, outsiders can’t reasonably be expected to know how to pronounce Southwark or Beauchamp Place or those Thames islets called ‘eyots’.

Even official sources make mistakes. When they were first introduced, the recorded announcements on the tube got east London’s Plaistow wrong. A chorus of cockney complaints prompted London Under­ground to implement a swift correction.

Some pronun­ci­ations that are obvious to Brits can be baffling to everyone else. The American writer Jean Hannah Edelstein has blogged about her time as a London resident: “The first place I lived was Great Dover Street, an LSE hall of residence in Borough, which was pronounced ‘burra’, which I only learned when I got to the tube stop and heard it announced. Which I couldn’t quite believe.”

Certain well-​​known London addresses can be famously difficult for foreign visitors to articulate properly. Leicester and Grosvenor Squares are classic instances. And this author has eastern European friends who speak excellent English yet are incapable of saying ‘Thames’ right.

A handful of the places listed below may seem curious inclusions. For example, how else could ‘Cheam’ be pronounced? Guidance in such apparently unambiguous cases is usually given because the author has noticed people arriving at Hidden London via a search for something like “how to pronounce Cheam”, without at that time being able to find the answer they sought. Aldersgate, Fitzrovia and Leadenhall are other examples of inclusions based on past user searches. And given the many quirks of London speech, who can be blamed for wanting to check whether some place name is really pronounced as it’s written?

Please make contact if you’d like to suggest a place name that should be added to this guide.

Agar Town   AY-​​gar town
Aldersgate   ALL-​​dəz-​​gate
Anerley   AN-​​ər-​​lee
Aperfield   AP-​​ər-​​field
Arnos Grove   AR-​​noss grove, i.e. as though it never had an apostrophe
Beauchamp Place   BEE-​​chəm place
Becontree   BECK-​​ən-​​tree
Berkeley Square   BARK-​​lee square
Bermondsey   BER-​​mən-​​dzee
Borough   BURRa
Bow   to rhyme with go
Bowes Park   boze park
Brentham   BREN-​​təm
Brondesbury   BRONDZ-​​bəry
Buckingham Palace   Like almost every place name ending in ‘ham’ (and London has dozens of them), the ‘h’ is silent in British English
Cadogan Square   kə-​​DUG-​​ən square
Carshalton   Nowadays car-​​SHAWL-​​tən but formerly case-​​HOR-​​tən (apparently)
Castelnau is usually pronounced as in ‘neither castle nor city’ but minorities prefer a couple of French-​​influenced variations
Cheam   cheem
Cheyne Walk   CHAY-​​nee wark
Chiswick   CHIZ-​​ik
Chiswick Eyot   CHIZ-​​ik ait
Clapham   CLAP-​​əm, despite the jokey, mock-​​posh claahm occasionally affected by some residents
Clerkenwell   CLARK-​​ən-​​well
Cockfosters is pronounced exactly as it looks – unlike, say, Cockburn’s port (which is pronounced Co’burns)
Colney Hatch   CONE-​​ee hatch
Conduit Street   Purists say CUN-​​dit; ordinary people say CON-​​dwit or even CON-​​dew-​​it
Coulsdon   Widely pronounced COOLZ-​​dən but purists insist it should be COALZ-​​dən
Croham   CROW-​​əm
Cubitt Town   KEW-​​bit town
Cudham   KUD-​​əm
Dalston   DAWL-​​stən
De Beauvoir is pronounced də BEE-​​vər by purists but à la française by most locals
Deptford   DEPT-​​fəd
Dulwich   DULL-​​itch
Eastcote   EAST-​​kət
Eltham   EL-​​təm
Erith   EAR-​​ith
Euston   YOO-​​stən
Feltham   FEL-​​təm
Fitzrovia   fitz-​​RO-​​veea
Friern Barnet   ‘Friern’ is usually pronounced as in friar by locals, but some prefer FREE-​​ən
Fulham   FULL-​​əm
Gidea Park   GID-​​ee-​​ə park
Gower Street   ‘Gower’ is pronounced to rhyme with power
Greenwich   GREN-​​itch (Queen’s English) or GRIN-​​idge (local preference)
Grosvenor Square   GRO-​​vənə square
Havering-​​atte-​​Bower   HAY-​​vəring AT-​​tee bour (as in sour)
Haverstock Hill   HAV-​​ə-​​stok hill
Heneage Lane   HEN-​​idge lane
Holborn   Usually HO-​​bən, though some articulate the ‘l’
Homerton   HOM-​​ə-​​tən
Isleworth EYE-​​zəl-​​wəth
Islington   IZ-​​ling-​​tən
Jermyn Street   Hidden London believes it is perfectly acceptable to pronounce ‘Jermyn’ as it looks, i.e. JER-​​min; however, there is also a ‘German’ school of thought (i.e. JER-​​mən), while tiny minorities advocate jer-​​MAIN and JAR-​​mən
Lamorbey   LAM-​​ə-​​bee
Lansbury   American readers may pronounce Angela Lansbury’s surname as LANZ-​​beh-​​ree but in London English it’s more like LANZ-​​bree – and the same applies to this estate in Poplar, which is named after her grand­father
Leadenhall   LED-​​ən-​​haul
Leamouth   Like almost all British place names ending in ‘mouth’, the second syllable is pronounced with the indeterminate vowel sound, so it’s LEE-​​məth
Leighton House   LAY-​​tən house
Leman Street   LEM-​​ən street (locally preferred, as in ‘lemon’) or LEE-​​mən street
Leicester Square   LESS-​​tə square
Lewisham   LUI-​​shəm nowadays, formerly LEWIS-​​həm
Leyton   LAY-​​tən
Maida Hill and Maida Vale   Although these localities indirectly take their names from Maida in Calabria, there is no hint of Italian in their London pronun­ciation, which is simply as in ‘made a hill and made a vale’
Marylebone   MA-​​ree-​​li-bən (Marrylibun) or MAR-​​lee-​​bən (NB  Some guides do not accept the validity of the Marrylibun pronun­ciation; Hidden London finds this baffling as it’s the one most people use)
Millwall is pronounced exactly as it looks – but cockneys tend to put more emphasis on the second syllable than might be expected
Nower Hill   ‘Nower’ is pronounced to rhyme with slower
Osidge rhymes with sausage
Pall Mall   Usually as in pallet and mallet but it was formerly pronounced pell mell
Petrie Museum   ‘Petrie’ is pronounced as in ‘peach tree’ (but without the ‘ch’)
Penge   penj
Pield Heath   peeld heath
Plaistow (Bromley)   Usually PLAY-​​stoh
Plaistow (Newham, the better-​​known Plaistow)   PLAR-​​stoh
Platt’s Eyot   The words ‘eyot’ and ’ait’ are used inter­changeably to denote the small islands of the Thames and the two are pronounced identically, as in eight
Ruislip   RICE-​​lip
St Martin’s-le-Grand is pronounced English style, with no French influence
St Pancras   sənt PANK-​​rəss
Savile Row   SAV-​​əll row
Smitham   as in with ’em
Southall   SOUTH-​​all
Southwark   SUTH-​​ək (as in southerly)
Streatham   STRET-​​əm
Somers Town   SUM-​​mərs town
Spital­fields   Once you know that this place was originally the ‘hospital fields’, it’s easy to remember how to pronounce it
Stroud Green   ‘Stroud’ rhymes with ‘cloud’ not ‘clued’
Surrey Quays   SURR-​​ee keys
Thames   temz
Theobalds Road   Apparently, TIB-​​aulds is strictly correct, but everyone pronounces it as it looks
Tottenham   TOT-​​ənəm (the same applies to Tottenham Court Road, although the names of the district and the street possess only an incidental etymo­logical connection)
Twickenham TWIK-​​ənəm
Vauxhall   VOX-​​hall
Walthamstow   WALL-​​thəm-​​stoh
Warwick Avenue   WORR-​​ick AV-​​in-​​nyu
Woolwich   WOOL-​​idge or WOOL-​​itch
Yeading   YED-​​ing
Yiewsley   YOU-​​zly, to rhyme with muesli

Stressed syllables are capit­alised
A rotated ‘e’ (ə) indicates a schwa – the indeterminate vowel sound
A super­script letter indicates one that is optionally or barely articulated
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