Pronunciation guide

How to pronounce selected London place and street names

Hidden London: London stock brick wall with Plaahstoh sign

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 nameSim­pli­fied
Phone­mic tran­scrip­tionNotes and com­ments
Agar TownAY-gar townˈeɪɡɑ: taʊn
Ald­wychALL-dwitchˈɔːld­wɪtʃUnlike Dul­wich, Green­wich and Wool­wich, the ‘w’ is pro­nounced
Aner­leyAN-ə-leeˈænəlɪRhymes with ‘man­ner­ly’ – see Edward Lear’s lim­er­ick
Arnos GroveAH-noss groveˈɑːnɒs ɡrəʊv‘Arnos’ is pro­nounced as though it nev­er had an apos­tro­phe – but it did
Beauchamp PlaceBEE‑chəm placeˈbiːtʃəm pleɪs
Becon­treeBECK-ən-treeˈbɛkən­triːHid­den Lon­don reluc­tant­ly accepts that some res­i­dents pre­fer to pro­nounce it BEE‑k​​ən‑​​tree
Berke­ley SquareBAHK-lee squareˈbɑːk­lɪ skwɛə
BowbohbəʊRhymes with ‘go’, and the same applies to the church of St Mary-le-Bow
Bowes Parkboze parkbəʊz pɑːk
Buck­ing­ham PalaceBUCK-ing-əm palaceˈbʌkɪŋəm ˈpælɪsLike 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.kə-DUG-ənkəˈdʌɡən
Car­shal­toncar‑SHAWL‑tənkɑːˈʃɔːltənFor­mer­ly case-HOR-tən (appar­ent­ly)
Castel­nauKAH‑səl‑nauˈkɑːsəlnɔːUsu­al­ly pro­nounced as in ‘nei­ther cas­tle nor city’ but minori­ties pre­fer a cou­ple of French-influ­enced vari­a­tions
Chess­ing­tonCHESS-ing-tənˈtʃɛsɪŋtənSome locals pre­fer CHEZZ-ing-tən
Cheyne Row, Gar­dens, Walk, etc.CHAY-neeˈtʃeɪnɪ
ChiswickCHIZ-ikˈtʃɪzɪkRhymes with ‘physic’
Chiswick EyotCHIZ-ik aitˈtʃɪzɪk eɪtThe 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)
Cock­fos­tersCOCK-foss-təzˈkɒk­fɒstəzPro­nounced exact­ly as it looks – unlike, say, Cock­burn’s port (which is pro­nounced Co’burns)
Col­ney HatchKOH-nee hatchˈkəʊnɪ hætʃ
Con­duit StreetCON-dwit streetˈkɒnd­wɪt striːtPurists say CUN-dit but ordi­nary peo­ple say CON-dwit or CON-dew-it
Couls­donCOOLZ-dənˈkuːlzdənPurists insist it should be COALZ‑dən
Covent Gar­denCOV-ənt GAR‑dən or CUV‑ənt GAR‑dənˈkɒvənt ˈɡɑːdən or ˈkʌvənt ˈɡɑːdənIt’s posh­er but less cor­rect (Hid­den Lon­don believes) to pro­nounce ‘Covent’ as in ‘coven’ or ‘covenant’
Cubitt TownKEW-bit townˈkjuːbɪt taʊn
Dagen­hamDAG-ən‑əmˈdæɡənəmAs in sim­i­lar place names, such as Tot­ten­ham, cock­neys bare­ly vocalise the mid-cen­tral vow­el at all
Dal­stonDAWL-stənˈdɔːl­stənThe empha­sis on the imag­i­nary ‘w’ increas­es with one’s cock­ney­ness
De Beau­voirdə BOH-vwardə ˈbəʊvwɑːrPro­nounced də BEE-vər by purists but in Anglo-French style by almost all locals
Dept­fordDEPT‑fədˈdɛptfədStrict­ly, 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
East­coteEAST-coatˈiːsts-koʊtAlter­na­tive­ly EAST-kət
Friern Bar­netFRY-ən BAR-nitˈfraɪən ˈbɑːnɪt‘Friern’ is usu­al­ly pro­nounced as in ‘fri­ar’, but some locals pre­fer FREE‑ən
Gidea ParkGID-ee‑ə parkˈgɪdɪə pɑːk
Glouces­ter Road, Place, Square, Ter­race, etc.GLOSS-təˈɡlɒstə
Goodge Street[see note]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 StreetGOW‑ə streetˈɡaʊə striːt‘Gow­er’ is pro­nounced to rhyme with ‘pow­er’
Green­wichGRIN-idge or GREN-itchˈɡrɪnɪdʒ or ˈɡrɛnɪtʃ… or some blend of the two, as long as it’s nev­er ‘green’ and nev­er ‘wich’
Grosvenor Square, Street, Hill, etc.GRO‑vəˈgrəʊvə
Hain­aultHAY-nawlt or HAY-noltˈheɪnɔːlt or ˈheɪnəʊlt
Har­mondsworthHARM-əndz-wəthˈhɑːməndzwəθFor­mer­ly often ren­dered with­out the mid­dle syl­la­ble (HARMZ‑wəth) but nowa­days pro­nounced pret­ty much as it looks
Haver­ing-atte-Bow­erHAY‑vəring AT‑tee bowrˈheɪvərɪŋ ˌætɪ ˌbaʊə
Haver­stock HillHAV-ə-stok hillˈhævəstɒk hɪl
Heneage LaneHEN-idge laneˈhɛnɪdʒ leɪn
Hol­bornHO-bənˈhəʊbənSome Lon­don­ers artic­u­late the ‘l’, but Hid­den Lon­don dis­ap­proves
Jermyn StreetJER-min streetˈdʒɜːmɪn striːtThere is also a ‘Ger­man’ school of thought (i.e. JER-mən) while tiny minori­ties advo­cate jer-MAIN and JAR-mən
Lans­buryLANZ‑bə-reeˈlænzbəAmer­i­can 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
LeamouthLEE-məthˈliːməθLike almost all British place names end­ing in ‘mouth’, the sec­ond syl­la­ble is pro­nounced with the inde­ter­mi­nate vow­el sound
Leighton HouseLAY-tən houseˈleɪtən haʊs
Leman StreetLEE-mən streetˈliːmən striːtMany locals pre­fer LEM-ən, as in ‘lemon’
Leices­ter Square, Street, Place, Court, etc.LESS-təˈlɛstə
LewishamLOO-ish-əmˈluːɪʃəmFor­mer­ly LOO-iss-həm
Ley­ton­stoneLAY-tən-stoneˈleɪtənˌs­toʊnHid­den Lon­don doesn’t object to the alter­na­tive end­ing ‘-stən’ instead of ‘-stone’, but some peo­ple do
LoughtonLOW-​​tən (LOW to rhyme with COW)ˈlaʊtənLoughton isn’t in Lon­don but it’s on the Lon­don Under­ground
Mai­da Hill and Mai­da ValeMAID‑ə hill and MAID‑ə valeˈmeɪdə hɪl and ˈmeɪdə veɪlAlthough 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’
Maryle­boneMA-ree‑li-bən (Mar­ryli­bun) or MAR-lee-bənˈmærɪlɪbən or ˈmɑːlɪbənSome author­i­ties do not accept the ‘Mar­ryli­bun’ pro­nun­ci­a­tion but Hid­den Lon­don finds this baf­fling as it’s the one most peo­ple use
Mill­wallMILL-wallˈmɪl­wɔːlPro­nounced exact­ly as it looks – but cock­neys tend to put more empha­sis on the sec­ond syl­la­ble than might be expect­ed
Now­er HillNOH‑ə hillˈnəʊə hɪl‘Now­er’ is pro­nounced to rhyme with ‘slow­er’
OsidgeOSS-idgeˈɒsɪdʒRhymes with ‘sausage’
Pall MallPAL malˈpæl ˌmælNowa­days pro­nounced as in ‘pal­let’ and ‘mal­let’
Petrie Muse­umPEE-tree muse­umˈpiːtrɪ
Some say oth­er­wise but Hid­den Lon­don believes ‘Petrie’ should be pro­nounced as in ‘peach tree’ (but with­out the ‘ch’)
Pield Heathpeeld heathpiːld hiːθ
(or the posh­er PLASS‑toh, but nev­er PLAY‑stoh)
ˈplɑːstəʊThis is the bet­ter-known Plais­tow, in Newham, but there is also a Plais­tow in Brom­ley, which is usu­al­ly pro­nounced PLAY-stoh
Platt’s Eyotplats aitplæts eɪtSee the note on Chiswick Eyot, above
Rother­hithe[see note]ˈrɒðəhaɪð‘Rother’ to rhyme with ‘both­er’ and ‘hithe’ to rhyme with ‘scythe’
St Martin’s‑le-Grandsənt MAR-tinz lə GRANDsənt ˈmɑːtɪnz lə ˌɡrændPro­nounced Eng­lish style, with no French influ­ence
St Pan­crassənt PANK-rəsssənt ˈpæŋkrəs
Sav­ile RowSAV-əll rowˈsævəl rəʊSome say SAV-ill but Hid­den Lon­don prefers the rhyme with ‘gav­el’
Smitham[see note]ˈsmɪðəmRhymes with ‘rhythm’
South­wark[see note]ˈsʌðəkPro­nounced as in ‘south­ern’
Somers TownSUM-mərs townˈsʌməz taʊnPro­nounced the same as Wandsworth’s Sum­mer­stown
Spi­tal­fieldsSPIT-əl-feeldzˈspɪtəlfiːldzOnce you know that this place was orig­i­nal­ly the ‘hos­pi­tal fields’, it’s easy to pro­nounce it
Stroud Greenstrowd greenstraʊd ɡriːn‘Stroud’ rhymes with ‘cloud’ not ‘clued’
Sur­rey QuaysSURR-ee keysˈsʌrɪ kiːz
Theobalds RoadTHE-ə-bauldz road
[‘the-’ as in ‘the­o­ry’]
ˈθɪəbɔːldz rəʊdTIB-auldz is (or was) strict­ly cor­rect – as in the near­by Tybalds estate – but nowa­days every­one pro­nounces it as it looks
They­don BoisTHAY-dən boyz or boyceˈθeɪdən bɔɪz or bɔɪsThey­don Bois isn’t in Lon­don but it’s on the Lon­don Under­ground
Tot­ten­hamTOT-ən‑əmˈtɒtənəmThe same applies to Tot­ten­ham Court Road, although the names of the dis­trict and the street pos­sess only an inci­den­tal ety­mo­log­i­cal con­nec­tion
Vaux­hallVOX-hallˈvɒk­sˌhɔːlArtic­u­la­tion of the ‘h’ ranges from dis­tinct to nonex­is­tent
Waltham­stowWAWL‑thəm‑stohˈwɔːlθəm­stəʊThe 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
War­wick AvenueWORR-ick AV‑in‑yuˈwɒrɪk
Wap­pingWOP-ingˈwɒpɪŋRhymes with ‘top­ping’
Wool­wichWOOL-idge or WOOL-itchˈwʊlɪdʒ or ˈwʊlɪtʃ
Yead­ingYED-ingˈjɛdɪŋRhymes with ‘bed­ding’
YiewsleyYOU-zleeˈjuː­zlɪRhymes with the British pro­nun­ci­a­tion of ‘mues­li’