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 name Simpli­fied
Phonemic tran­scrip­tion Notes and comments
Agar Town AY-gar town ˈeɪɡɑ: taʊn
Alder­s­gate ALL-dəz-gate ˈɔːldəzɡeɪt
Aldwych ALL-dwitch ˈɔːldwɪtʃ Unlike Dulwich, Greenwich and Woolwich, the ‘w’ is pronounced
Anerley AN-ə-lee ˈænəlɪ Rhymes with ‘mannerly’ – see Edward Lear’s limerick
Aperfield AP-ə-feeld ˈæpəˌ­fiːld
Arnos Grove AH-noss grove ˈɑːnɒs ɡrəʊv ‘Arnos’ is pronounced as though it never had an apos­trophe – but it did
Beauchamp Place BEE‑chəm place ˈbiːtʃəm pleɪs
Becontree BECK-ən-tree ˈbɛkən­triː Hidden London reluc­tantly accepts that some residents prefer to pronounce it BEE‑k​​ən‑​​tree
Belgravia bel-GRAY-vee‑ə bɛlˈɡreɪvɪə
Berkeley Square BAHK-lee square ˈbɑːklɪ skwɛə
Bermondsey BER-mən-dzee ˈbɜːmənd
Borough BURRa ˈbʌrə
Bow boh bəʊ Rhymes with ‘go’, and the same applies to the church of St Mary-le-Bow
Bowes Park boze park bəʊz pɑːk
Brentham BREN-təm ˈbrɛntəm Despite the indis­putable logic of the ‘BREN-təm’ pronun­ci­a­tion, some locals appar­ently say ‘BREN-thəm’, which Hidden London finds baffling.
Bron­des­bury BRONDZ‑bəry ˈbrɒndzbə
Buck­ingham Palace BUCK-ing-əm palace ˈbʌkɪŋəm ˈpælɪs 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. kə-DUG-ən kəˈdʌɡən
Carshalton car‑SHAWL‑tən kɑːˈʃɔːltən Formerly case-HOR-tən (appar­ently)
Castelnau KAH‑səl‑nau ˈkɑːsəlnɔː Usually pronounced as in ‘neither castle nor city’ but minori­ties prefer a couple of French-influ­enced variations
Cheam cheem tʃiːm
Chess­ington CHESS-ing-tən ˈtʃɛsɪŋtən Some locals prefer CHEZZ-ing-tən
Cheyne Row, Gardens, Walk, etc. CHAY-nee ˈtʃeɪnɪ
Chiswick CHIZ-ik ˈtʃɪzɪk Rhymes with ‘physic’
Chiswick Eyot CHIZ-ik ait ˈtʃɪzɪk eɪt 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)
Clapham CLAP-əm ˈklæpəm
Clerken­well CLAHK-ən-well ˈklɑːkənwɛl
Cock­fos­ters COCK-foss-təz ˈkɒk­fɒstəz Pronounced exactly as it looks – unlike, say, Cock­burn’s port (which is pronounced Co’burns)
Colney Hatch KOH-nee hatch ˈkəʊnɪ hætʃ
Conduit Street CON-dwit street ˈkɒndwɪt striːt Purists say CUN-dit but ordinary people say CON-dwit or CON-dew-it
Coulsdon COOLZ-dən ˈkuːlzdən Purists insist it should be COALZ‑dən
Covent Garden 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’
Cubitt Town KEW-bit town ˈkjuːbɪt taʊn
Cudham KUD-əm ˈkʌdəm
Dagenham DAG-ən‑əm ˈdæɡənəm As in similar place names, such as Tottenham, cockneys barely vocalise the mid-central vowel at all
Dalston DAWL-stən ˈdɔːlstən The emphasis on the imaginary ‘w’ increases with one’s cockneyness
De Beauvoir də BOH-vwar də ˈbəʊvwɑːr Pronounced də BEE-vər by purists but in Anglo-French style by almost all locals
Deptford DEPT‑fəd ˈdɛptfəd 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
Dulwich DULL-itch ˈdʌlɪtʃ
Eastcote EAST-coat ˈiːsts-koʊt Alter­na­tively EAST-kət
Eltham EL-təm ˈɛltəm
Erith EAR-ith ˈɪərɪθ
Euston YOO-stən ˈjuːstən
Feltham FEL-təm ˈfɛltəm
Fitzrovia fitz-RO-veea fɪtsˈrəʊvɪə
Friern Barnet FRY-ən BAR-nit ˈfraɪən ˈbɑːnɪt ‘Friern’ is usually pronounced as in ‘friar’, but some locals prefer FREE‑ən
Fulham FULL-əm ˈfʊləm
Gidea Park GID-ee‑ə park ˈgɪdɪə pɑːk
Gloucester Road, Place, Square, Terrace, etc. GLOSS-tə ˈɡlɒstə
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 Street GOW‑ə street ˈɡaʊə striːt ‘Gower’ is pronounced to rhyme with ‘power’
Greenwich 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. GRO‑və ˈgrəʊvə
Hainault HAY-nawlt or HAY-nolt ˈheɪnɔːlt or ˈheɪnəʊlt
Harmondsworth HARM-əndz-wəth ˈhɑːməndzwəθ Formerly often rendered without the middle syllable (HARMZ‑wəth) but nowadays pronounced pretty much as it looks
Havering-atte-Bower HAY‑vəring AT‑tee bowr ˈheɪvərɪŋ ˌætɪ ˌbaʊə
Haver­stock Hill HAV-ə-stok hill ˈhævəstɒk hɪl
Heneage Lane HEN-idge lane ˈhɛnɪdʒ leɪn
Holborn HO-bən ˈhəʊbən Some Londoners artic­u­late the ‘l’, but Hidden London disapproves
Homerton HOM-ə-tən ˈhɒmətən
Hounslow HOWNZ-loh ˈhaʊnzləʊ
Isleworth EYE‑zəl‑wəth ˈaɪzəlwəθ
Islington IZ-ling-tən ˈɪzlɪŋtən
Jermyn Street JER-min street ˈdʒɜːmɪn striːt 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 ˈlæməbɪ
Lansbury LANZ‑bə-ree ˈlænzbə 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
Lead­en­hall LED-ən‑haul ˈlɛdənˌhɔːl
Leamouth LEE-məth ˈliːməθ Like almost all British place names ending in ‘mouth’, the second syllable is pronounced with the inde­ter­mi­nate vowel sound
Leighton House LAY-tən house ˈleɪtən haʊs
Leman Street LEE-mən street ˈliːmən striːt Many locals prefer LEM-ən, as in ‘lemon’
Leicester Square, Street, Place, Court, etc. LESS-tə ˈlɛstə
Lewisham LOO-ish-əm ˈluːɪʃəm Formerly LOO-iss-həm
Leyton LAY-tən ˈleɪtən
Leyton­stone LAY-tən-stone ˈleɪtənˌs­toʊn Hidden London doesn’t object to the alter­na­tive ending ‘-stən’ instead of ‘-stone’, but some people do
Limehouse LIME-house ˈlaɪmˌhaʊs Nowadays pronounced exactly as it looks but formerly rendered by locals as LIE-məss, according to Hidden London reader Jim Golden
Loughton LOW-​​tən (LOW to rhyme with COW) ˈlaʊtən 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’
Maryle­bone 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
Millwall MILL-wall ˈmɪlwɔːl Pronounced exactly as it looks – but cockneys tend to put more emphasis on the second syllable than might be expected
Northolt NORTH-olt ˈnɔːʳθəʊlt
Nower Hill NOH‑ə hill ˈnəʊə hɪl ‘Nower’ is pronounced to rhyme with ‘slower’
Osidge OSS-idge ˈɒsɪdʒ Rhymes with ‘sausage’
Pall Mall PAL mal ˈpæl ˌmæl Nowadays pronounced as in ‘pallet’ and ‘mallet’
Petrie Museum PEE-tree museum ˈpiːtrɪ
Some say otherwise but Hidden London believes ‘Petrie’ should be pronounced as in ‘peach tree’ (but without the ‘ch’)
Penge penj pɛndʒ
Pield Heath peeld heath piːld hiːθ
Plaistow PLAAH-stoh
(or the posher PLASS‑toh, but never PLAY‑stoh)
ˈplɑːstəʊ This is the better-known Plaistow, in Newham, but there is also a Plaistow in Bromley, which is usually pronounced PLAY-stoh
Platt’s Eyot plats ait plæts eɪt See the note on Chiswick Eyot, above
Rother­hithe [see note] ˈrɒðəhaɪð ‘Rother’ to rhyme with ‘bother’ and ‘hithe’ to rhyme with ‘scythe’
Ruislip RICE-lip ˈraɪslɪp
St Martin’s‑le-Grand sənt MAR-tinz lə GRAND sənt ˈmɑːtɪnz lə ˌɡrænd Pronounced English style, with no French influence
St Pancras sənt PANK-rəss sənt ˈpæŋkrəs
Savile Row SAV-əll row ˈsævəl rəʊ Some say SAV-ill but Hidden London prefers the rhyme with ‘gavel’
Smitham [see note] ˈsmɪðəm Rhymes with ‘rhythm’
Southall SOUTH-all ˈsaʊθɔːl
Southwark [see note] ˈsʌðək Pronounced as in ‘southern’
Streatham STRET-əm ˈstrɛtəm
Somers Town SUM-mərs town ˈsʌməz taʊn Pronounced the same as Wandsworth’s Summer­stown
Spital­fields SPIT-əl-feeldz ˈspɪtəlfiːldz Once you know that this place was orig­i­nally the ‘hospital fields’, it’s easy to pronounce it
Stroud Green strowd green straʊd ɡriːn ‘Stroud’ rhymes with ‘cloud’ not ‘clued’
Surrey Quays SURR-ee keys ˈsʌrɪ kiːz
Thames temz tɛmz
Theobalds Road THE-ə-bauldz road
[‘the-’ as in ‘theory’]
ˈθɪəbɔːldz rəʊd TIB-auldz is (or was) strictly correct – as in the nearby Tybalds estate – but nowadays everyone pronounces it as it looks
Theydon Bois THAY-dən boyz or boyce ˈθeɪdən bɔɪz or bɔɪs Theydon Bois isn’t in London but it’s on the London Underground
Tokyngton TOKE-ing-tən ˈtəʊkɪŋtən
Tottenham TOT-ən‑əm ˈtɒtənəm The same applies to Tottenham Court Road, although the names of the district and the street possess only an inci­dental etymo­log­ical connection
Twick­enham TWIK-ən‑əm ˈtwɪkənəm
Vauxhall VOX-hall ˈvɒksˌhɔːl Artic­u­la­tion of the ‘h’ ranges from distinct to nonexistent
Waltham­stow WAWL‑thəm‑stoh ˈwɔːlθəm­stəʊ 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
Wanstead WONN-stid ˈwɒnstɪd
Warwick Avenue WORR-ick AV‑in‑yu ˈwɒrɪk
Wapping WOP-ing ˈwɒpɪŋ Rhymes with ‘topping’
Wimbledon WIM‑bəl‑dən ˈwɪmbəldən
Woolwich WOOL-idge or WOOL-itch ˈwʊlɪdʒ or ˈwʊlɪtʃ
Yeading YED-ing ˈjɛdɪŋ Rhymes with ‘bedding’
Yiewsley YOU-zlee ˈjuːzlɪ Rhymes with the British pronun­ci­a­tion of ‘muesli’