Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 76 entries)

Sep 3, 2014

Presidential hopefuls need to clear all kinds of hurdles. Some are unique to politics, but one is familiar to every Iowan: getting our state's place-names right. While some of them (like Atlantic) are clear from the spelling, others trip newbies up. Louisa County? Not like my cousin's first name. Madrid? Not like the city in Spain. Nevada? Not like that state out west. You can’t take anything for granted. But you're not on your own - Iowa Public Radio has you covered. Below is our handy audio guide to pronouncing Iowa place names. How did these pronunciations gain their current forms? Long story, which we'll get to another time, but meanwhile, scroll down for the list. NOTE: Thanks to digital technology, we can update the entries anytime. Let me know if you have any corrections or suggestions - we could even post YOUR voice up here! UPDATED June 28 2016 with your feedback, suggestions, and corrections - please keep 'em coming! We now have 76 (plus two) pronunciations on the list!


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Adel : Ay- DELL

 

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Allamakee : Aal -uh-muh-KEY [NOTE: Al as in "Call Me Al"]

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Arispe: uh-RISS-pee

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Ayrshire: AIR- "sure" ["air" like the stuff we breathe; sure like the sher in "Sherman"]

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Barney: I have no idea how this name is pronounced!

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Bremer: BREE-mer

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Buena Vista : BYOO-nuh VIH-stuh

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Calmar : CAAL-mer ("Cal" as in California or Calvin)

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Camanche : cuh- MAANCH

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Chariton : SHARE-ih-ton

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Charlotte: sharr- LOTT

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Cherokee: chair-uh-KEE

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Chillicothe : chill-uh-KAW-thhee

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Churdan : shur-DAAN

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Clermont : Clare - mont

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Clutier : clue - teer

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De Witt : Most residents say simply Duh WITT, with a schwa vowel in the first syllable; but some say "Dee Witt," as follows:

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Decorah: dih - CORE - uh  or duh-CORE-uh (short "schwa" as the first vowel) - though some residents say dee-CORE-uh as follows:

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Delhi : DELL- high

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Delmar : DELL- mer (although some say DELL- mar)

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Delphos: DELL- fooss [the second syllable rhymes more with "foot" than with "dose"]

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Des Moines: di Moyn (or de moyn - that is, a "schwa" in the first vowel - or deh moyn) [For both the state capital, in the center-west of the state, and Des Moines County, in the far southeast, do not say the letter "s" - that letter is silent. And no vowel in the word should rhyme with "say," But what is the first vowel? I hear a short "schwa" in the county, and a short "ih" in the city - but Wikipedia hears a short "deh," rhyming with "meh," and I sometimes hear that in the city.]

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Dewar : DO -er

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Dubuque: dih-BYOOK

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Dysart : DIE- zert

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Earlham: ERL-uhm

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East Peru: East Pee-roo

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Elkader: el-KAY-der

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Ely: EEE-lee

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Festina: Fes-TIE-nuh

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Gerled: JURR-led

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Froelich: FRAY-lick

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Guttenberg: GUTTin-burg

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Hopkinton: This one is under discussion! Many people have told me that natives say the second syllable without the "n" and with an accent on the first syllable - Hop-kitten - but when I call people in Hopkinton, they insist that there is some "n" sound in the second syllable. What's your view? Let us know!

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Houghton: HUFF-tun

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Ionia: eye- OWN -yuh

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Iowa : EYE -o – wuh ... or EYE- uh-wuh.... or EYE -wuh. [Three syllables or two? I've heard all the above used by residents. Many of us use two syllables, but when an announcer says it that way on the radio it can lead to complaints. By the way, I've never personally heard a resident call the state Ioway, although that doesn't prove anything.]

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Keokuk: Residents pronounce it more than one way. Common options include KEE-uh-Kuck and  KYOH-kuck. Some residents include an "l" sound in the second syllable: KEE-uhl-kuck  and kee-UHL-kuck.

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Keosauqua : Residents differ, but the most common is kee-uh -SAH- kwuh. (But residents also report hearing kee-oh-SAH-kwuh, kee-uh-SAW-kwuh, and Kuh-saw-kwa.)

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Lamoni : Luh-MOE-ni [Last syllable like eye, the organ of sight]

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La Porte City: Luh PORT City (not "Lah" Port - the "le" is a schwa)

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Loess Hills : Luss Hills

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Lorimor: LORE-ih-mur

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Louisa  : Loo-EYE-za [Middle syllable like the organ of sight]

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Lowden : LOUD-in

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Luana: lu-WAY-nuh

  

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Madrid : MAA-drid

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Maharishi Vedic City: Muh-HUHRSH-ee VAY-dik City [Hindi/Sanskrit-like pronunciation, preferred by some residents] or MA-ha-REE-shee VAY-dik city [Americanized pronunciation, most often used]

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Maloy : Muh-LOY

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Maquoketa : Muh-KOKE-uh-tuh

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Mediapolis : Mee-dee-AAH-poh-liss

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Milan : MY  –laan (also heard: MY-lin)

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Milo: MY-low

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Monticello  : Mon-tih- SELL –o

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Moravia : More-RAY-vee-uh

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Nevada : neh -VAY –duh

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Ocheyedan: oh-CHEE-din

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Oelwein: OLE-wine

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Ossian: AW-shen or AH-shen

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Palo: PAY-low

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Peoria: Residents say Peoria (like the town in Illlinois) - or PURE-ree or PEER-ree

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Peosta: Pee-AHSS-tuh

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Quasqueton: Residents say either kwass-KWEE-ton or KWASS-kwih-Ton

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Readlyn: REED-lin

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Rolfe: Rawlf (that is, one syllable)

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Sabula: Suh-BYOO-luh

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Sherman Township: I'm not even gonna take a chance on this one!

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Sigourney : SIH-gurney

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Tabor : TAY-burr

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Tama : TAY-muh

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Titonka : tie-TAHN-kuh

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Tripoli : trih- POE- luh

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Vining : VINE – ing

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Viola : VAI-oh-luh (first syllable gets the accent and rhymes with "eye")

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Wapello : WAAH–puh-lo

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Wapsipinicon :   wahp-si-PIN-ih-con [final syllable is often a "schwa"]

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Wever: WEE-ver (like "Weaver")

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What Cheer :   I have heard four variants from current residents in September, 2015: 1) whuh-cheer (no "t" sound, syllables connected); 2) What Cheer (WITH the "t" sound, as in the ordinary pronunciation); (3) Wah- cheer (first syllable almost like "wha-wha"), 4) WAT cheer

FOOTNOTE,  Jume 29, 2016: Thanks for the continuing input! And once again: please keep it coming!

UPDATE: June 29: In process are 32 more, based on your comments:

Amish

Lake Ahquabi - "uh-KWAH-bee"

Audubon - "Audu-ben."

Avon Lake

Bondurant

Carlisle

Corydon

Cumming

Giard

Gillett Grove

Gowrie

Hawarden

Kamrar

Leighton - "LIGH-tun"

Leon

Moingona

Moscow - "Moss-coe"

Nashua - "NASH-you-uh"

Odebolt - "Oh-de-bolt"

Orilla

Ossian

Otho

Owasa

Pisgah - "pizzz-guh"

Protivin

Tara

Treir- "Trare"

Valeria

Ventura

Zaneta

Zenorsville

 

 

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