How to pronounce selected London place and street names
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.
In the past, more place names had quirky pronunciations than is the case today – and the list below mentions several ‘lost’ variations. Nowadays, many London localities have relatively transient populations and newcomers often simply pronounce place names as they’re written. Only when a peculiar pronunciation is deeply entrenched is it likely to survive.
The suggested pronunciations are for standard London English rather than hardcore cockney (in which, for example, Rotherhithe becomes ‘Rovverive’), but a few cockney variations are mentioned where they are particularly characteristic.
Some of the listed places 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?
Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind that Londoners were pioneers of the non-rhotic accent, so the ‘r’ is generally not heard at all in place names such as Anerley, Deptford or Earls Court.
Please make contact if you’d like to suggest a place name that should be added to this guide.
In the simplified pronunciation column below, stressed syllables are capitalised.
In both pronunciation columns, a superscript letter indicates one that is optionally or barely articulated and a rotated ‘e’ (ə) indicates a schwa – the indeterminate vowel sound. For the full set of standard phonemic symbols for English (as used here), please see this page.
|Place or street name
|Notes and comments
|Unlike Dulwich, Greenwich and Woolwich, the ‘w’ is pronounced
|Rhymes with ‘mannerly’ – see Edward Lear’s limerick
|‘Arnos’ is pronounced as though it never had an apostrophe – but it did
|Hidden London reluctantly accepts that some residents prefer to pronounce it BEE‑kən‑tree
|Rhymes with ‘go’, and the same applies to the church of St Mary-le-Bow
|Despite the indisputable logic of the ‘BREN-təm’ pronunciation, some locals apparently say ‘BREN-thəm’, which Hidden London finds baffling.
|Like almost every place name ending in ‘ham’ (and London has dozens of them), the ‘h’ is silent in British English
|Cadogan Gate, Lane, Place, Square, etc.
|Formerly case-HOR-tən (apparently)
|Usually pronounced as in ‘neither castle nor city’ but minorities prefer a couple of French-influenced variations
|Some locals prefer CHEZZ-ing-tən
|Cheyne Row, Gardens, Walk, etc.
|Rhymes with ‘physic’
|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’ (‘eyot’ can also be pronounced ‘ite’ but Hidden London believes this makes an already confusing situation even worse)
|Pronounced exactly as it looks – unlike, say, Cockburn’s port (which is pronounced Co’burns)
|Purists say CUN-dit but ordinary people say CON-dwit or CON-dew-it
|Purists insist it should be COALZ‑dən
|COV-ənt GAR‑dən or CUV‑ənt GAR‑dən
|ˈkɒvənt ˈɡɑːdən or ˈkʌvənt ˈɡɑːdən
|It’s posher but less correct (Hidden London believes) to pronounce ‘Covent’ as in ‘coven’ or ‘covenant’
|As in similar place names, such as Tottenham, cockneys barely vocalise the mid-central vowel at all
|The emphasis on the imaginary ‘w’ increases with one’s cockneyness
|Pronounced də BEE-vər by purists but in Anglo-French style by almost all locals
|Strictly, there should be no ‘p’ sound at all, but it has for some while been creeping back in because of the trend towards pronouncing place names as they are spelt
|‘Friern’ is usually pronounced as in ‘friar’, but some locals prefer FREE‑ən
|Gloucester Road, Place, Square, Terrace, etc.
|guːdʒ striːt or ɡʊ̈dʒ striːt
|‘Goodge’ is usually pronounced to rhyme with ‘Scrooge’ – but some opt for a shorter (near-close) ‘oo’ sound, as in ‘good’
|‘Gower’ is pronounced to rhyme with ‘power’
|GRIN-idge or GREN-itch
|ˈɡrɪnɪdʒ or ˈɡrɛnɪtʃ
|… or some blend of the two, as long as it’s never ‘green’ and never ‘wich’
|Grosvenor Square, Street, Hill, etc.
|HAY-nawlt or HAY-nolt
|ˈheɪnɔːlt or ˈheɪnəʊlt
|Formerly often rendered without the middle syllable (HARMZ‑wəth) but nowadays pronounced pretty much as it looks
|HAY‑vəring AT‑tee bowr
|ˈheɪvərɪŋ ˌætɪ ˌbaʊə
|Some Londoners articulate the ‘l’, but Hidden London disapproves
|There is also a ‘German’ school of thought (i.e. JER-mən) while tiny minorities advocate jer-MAIN and JAR-mən
|American readers may pronounce Angela Lansbury’s surname as something like LANZ-beh-ree but it takes a more contracted form in London English – and the same applies to this estate in Poplar, which is named after her grandfather
|Like almost all British place names ending in ‘mouth’, the second syllable is pronounced with the indeterminate vowel sound
|Many locals prefer LEM-ən, as in ‘lemon’
|Leicester Square, Street, Place, Court, etc.
|Hidden London doesn’t object to the alternative ending ‘-stən’ instead of ‘-stone’, but some people do
|Nowadays pronounced exactly as it looks but formerly rendered by locals as LIE-məss, according to Hidden London reader Jim Golden
|LOW-tən (LOW to rhyme with COW)
|Loughton isn’t in London but it’s on the London Underground
|Maida Hill and Maida Vale
|MAID‑ə hill and MAID‑ə vale
|ˈmeɪdə hɪl and ˈmeɪdə veɪl
|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’
|MA-ree‑li-bən (Marrylibun) or MAR-lee-bən
|ˈmærɪlɪbən or ˈmɑːlɪbən
|Some authorities do not accept the ‘Marrylibun’ pronunciation but Hidden London finds this baffling as it’s the one most people use
|Pronounced exactly as it looks – but cockneys tend to put more emphasis on the second syllable than might be expected
|‘Nower’ is pronounced to rhyme with ‘slower’
|Rhymes with ‘sausage’
|Nowadays pronounced as in ‘pallet’ and ‘mallet’
|Some say otherwise but Hidden London believes ‘Petrie’ should be pronounced as in ‘peach tree’ (but without the ‘ch’)
(or the posher PLASS‑toh, but never PLAY‑stoh)
|This is the better-known Plaistow, in Newham, but there is also a Plaistow in Bromley, which is usually pronounced PLAY-stoh
|See the note on Chiswick Eyot, above
|‘Rother’ to rhyme with ‘bother’ and ‘hithe’ to rhyme with ‘scythe’
|sənt MAR-tinz lə GRAND
|sənt ˈmɑːtɪnz lə ˌɡrænd
|Pronounced English style, with no French influence
|Some say SAV-ill but Hidden London prefers the rhyme with ‘gavel’
|Rhymes with ‘rhythm’
|Pronounced as in ‘southern’
|Pronounced the same as Wandsworth’s Summerstown
|Once you know that this place was originally the ‘hospital fields’, it’s easy to pronounce it
|‘Stroud’ rhymes with ‘cloud’ not ‘clued’
[‘the-’ as in ‘theory’]
|TIB-auldz is (or was) strictly correct – as in the nearby Tybalds estate – but nowadays everyone pronounces it as it looks
|THAY-dən boyz or boyce
|ˈθeɪdən bɔɪz or bɔɪs
|Theydon Bois isn’t in London but it’s on the London Underground
|The same applies to Tottenham Court Road, although the names of the district and the street possess only an incidental etymological connection
|Articulation of the ‘h’ ranges from distinct to nonexistent
|The London Borough of Waltham Forest also takes a ‘th’ sound [as in ‘thanks’ not ‘them’], unlike almost every other London place name ending (or indeed beginning) with ‘tham’, where the ‘h’ is ignored
|Rhymes with ‘topping’
|WOOL-idge or WOOL-itch
|ˈwʊlɪdʒ or ˈwʊlɪtʃ
|Rhymes with ‘bedding’
|Rhymes with the British pronunciation of ‘muesli’