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’