10 Jan 2022

Surname Pronunciation

We have long been transfixed by the peculiarities of pronunciation of British surnames. If you have been puzzled by names such as Cholmondeley (‘Chum-ley’) or Londesborough (‘Londs-bro’) or Manwairing (‘Manner-ing’), you will find our list of surname pronunciations (below) fascinating.

The simplest explanation is that the pronunciation of words shortens over time – it is simply easier to downgrade the vowels in unstressed syllables and elide them rather than clearly enunciating every syllable in the word. In fact, English-speakers are quite prone to skipping syllables altogether in words like ‘family’ or ‘corporate’, which are frequently pronounced with two syllables, rather than three.

Many English surname spellings have been fixed at a certain point in their history; their spelling is etymological, rather than phonetic. Pronunciation is dynamic, changing radically over time, while spelling preserves forms of words that are no longer reflected in current speech.  The word (and surname) ‘knight’, for example, would have originally been pronounced ‘k-nicht’.

Other names have preserved idiosyncratic pronunciation of vowels, which reflects historic speech patterns rather than contemporary speech. We hear the ghostly voices of our ancestors in the following: Raleigh (‘Raw-li’), Ponsonby (‘Punsunby’), Malpas (‘Mawl-pas’), Hotham ‘(Huth-am’).

Whatever the reasons, English surname pronunciation is a maze of unexpected, and surprising, anomalies. It goes without saying that it is good manners, and a mark of respect, to attempt to get names right. Confidently fixing on an incorrect pronunciation looks careless; if you are in any doubt about a name, it is always a good idea to be explicit about your uncertainty, and ask the person if you are pronouncing it correctly. This shows a laudable, and respectful, desire to get it right.

Alternatively, you could do your research beforehand, by referring to our comprehensive list (below):

SurnamePronunciation
AbercrombieAber-crum-by
AbergavennyAber-genny (title - town pronounced as spelt)
AbingerAbin-jer
AchesonAtchesson
AdyeAydi
AldousAll-dus
AlleyneAlleen (sometimes pronounced as spelt)
AlnwickAnnick
AlthorpAll-thorp (since 2000, previously All-trup)
AltrinchamAltringham
AlvinghamAll-ving-am
AlmanAmman
AmpthillAmpt-hill
AnnesleyAnns-li
ApethorpeApp-thorp
Arbuthnot, ArbuthnottA-buth-not
ArdeeA-dee
ArundelArun-del
AshburnhamAsh-burn-am
AsshetonAsh-ton
AthollUh-thol or Ah-thol
AuchinleckAffleck or Ock-inleck
AudleyAwd-li
AvaAh-va
AyscoughAskew
BabingtonBabb-ington
Baden-PowellBayden-Poell
BagotBag-ot
BalcarresBal-carris
BaloghBalog (‘Bal’ as in ‘Hal’)
BampfyldeBam-fielda
BaringBear-ing
BarnardistonBar-nar-dis-ton
BarttelotBartlot
BasingBayzing
BathurstBath-urst (‘a’ as in ‘cat’)
BazalgetteBazl-jet
BeauchampBeecham
BeauclerkBo-clare
BeaudesertBodezair
BeaufortBo-foot
BeaulieuBew-ley
BeaumontBo-mont
BecherBeacher
BechervaiseBesh-er-vayse
BedingfeldBeddingfield
BehrensBarens
BelfastBel-fast
BellewBell-ew
BellinghamBellingjam or Bellingum
BelvoirBeevor
BengoughBen-goff
BeresfordBerris-fud
BerkeleyBarkli
BertieBarti
BethamBee-tham
BethuneBeaton
BicesterBister
BlakistonBlackiston
BledisloeBledslow
BlenheimBlen-im
BlighBly
BlithfieldBliffield
BloisBloyss
BlomefieldBloomfield
BlountBlunt
BlythBly
BoeveyBoovey or Buvey (short ‘u’)
BoleynBull-in
BolingbrokeBulling-brook
BoordBoard
BoreelBorale
BorrowesBurrows
BorwickBorrick
BoshamBos-am
BosanquetBozen-ket
BoscawenBos-cowen
BotetourtBotti-tort
BougheyBoey
BoughtonBought-on (village pronounced ‘Bough-ton’)
BourchierBough-cher
BourkeBurke
BourneBoorn
BowdenBowden (as in ‘no’)
BowesBose (to rhyme with ‘rose’)
BowmanBoman
BowyerBo-yer (as in ‘no’)
BrabazonBrab-azon
BrabourneBray-burn
BreadalbaneBread-auburn
BreitmeyerBright-mire
BreretonBreer-ton
BriseBrize
BrocasBrockas
BrokeBrook (HMS Broke as spelt)
BromheadBrumhead
BroughamBroom or Brooham
BroughtonBrawton
BrounBrune
BruntisfieldBruntsfield
BrynkirBrinkeer
BuccleuchBu-cloo
BulkeleyBuckley
BurghBorough
BurghershBurg-ish
BurghleyBer-li
BuryBerry (England), Bure-y (Ireland)
CacciaCatch-a
CadoganKa-dugan
CaiusKeys (Cambridge college)
CaldecoteCall-di-cot
CalderonCall-dron
CallaghanCalla-han
CalverCarver
CalverleyCar-verly or Calf-ley
CamoysCam-oyz
CapellCayple
CarewAs spelt (Cary has become archaic)
CalthorpeCall-thorpe (Cal-trop has become archaic)
CarnegieCar-neggie
CarteretCarter-et
CassilisCassels
CastlereaghCastle-ray
CarthcartCath-cart
CathieCay-thie
CatoKate-o
CatorCay-tor
CaulfieldCaw-field
CavanCav-en (‘a’ as in ‘cat’)
CavanaghCava-na
CecilCicil
ChandosShandos
CharlemontShar-le-mont
CharterisAs spelt (Charters is archaic)
ChattanHattan
ChenevixSheenivix or Shennevy
ChernockeChar-nock
ChetwodeChetwood
ChetwyndChetwind
CheylesmoreChyles-more
CheyneChain, Chainy or Cheen
ChicheleChich-ley
ChisholmChis-um
Cholmeley, CholmondeleyChum-li
CilcenninKil-kennin
ClaverhouseClayvers
ClerkClark
CloeteClootie
CloughCluff
ClowesClues
ClwydCloo-id
CochraneCoch-ran
CockburnCo-burn
CoghlanCo-lan
CokeCook (sometimes as spelt)
ColeraineCole-rain
ColquhounCa-hoon
ColvilleCol-ville or Col-ville
CombeCoom
CombermereCumber-mere
ComptonCumpton
ConesfordConnis-ford
ConollyCon-olly
ConstableCunstable
Conyngham, ConynghameCunningham
CoshamAs spelt
CottenhamCot-nam
CottesloeCots-low
CouchmanCowchman
CourthopeCort-hope
CowperCooper
CozensCuzzens
CracroftCray-croft
CraigavonCraig-avv-on
CrasterCrarster
CreaghCray
CreightonCryton
CrespignyCrepp-ni
CrichtonCryton
CromartieCrum-aty
CrombieCrumbie
CulmeCullum (Sometimes as spelt)
CumingCumming
CunynghameCunningham
D’AbrellDab-roo
DacreDayker
DalbiacDawl-biac
DalhousieDal-howsi
DalmenyDul-menny
DalyellDee-el or Dayli-el
DalzellDee-el or Dayli-el
Darcy de KnaythDarcy de Nayth
DaresburyDarsbury
DaubeneyDaub-ny
DaventryAs spelt (‘Daintry’ is archaic)
DaviesDavis
De BlacquiereDe Black-yer
De BurghDe Burg
DeciesDeeshies
De CourcyDe Koursey
De CrespignyDe Crepp-ni
De FreyneDe Frain
De HoghtonDe Hawton
De la WarrDella-ware
DelamereDella-mare
De la PoerDe la Poor
De la RueDella-rue
De L’IsleDe Lyle
De LotbiniereDe Lobin-yare
De MoleynsDemo-lins
DeringDeer-ing
De RosDe Roos
DerwentDarwent
De SalisDe Saals or De Sal-is
DevereuxDev-rooks or Dever-oo
De VesciDe Vessy
De VilliersDe Villers
DiomedeDi-o-meed
DilhorneDill’n
DominguezDum-ing-ez
DoneraileDunnaral
DonoughmoreDuno-more
DouneDoun
DouroDur-o
DroghedaDroyi-da
DrumalbynDrum-albin
DuchesnesDu Karn(s) (sometimes French ‘Du-shayn’)
DucieDew-si
Du CrosDu Crow
DukinfieldDuckin-field
DumaresqDu-merrick
DunallyDun-alley
DundasDun-das
DungarvanDun-gar-van
DunglassDun-glass
DunsanyDun-saney
DuntzeDunts
Du PlatDu-Pla
DupplinDupp-lin
DurandDu-rand or Dur-rand
DymokeDimmock
DynevorDinny-yer
DysartDy-z’t
EburyEe-bri
EchlinEck-lin
EdwardesEdwards
EganEe-gan
EgertonEdger-ton
ElchoElco
ElginEl-gin (hard ‘g’)
ElibankElli-bank
ElphinstoneElfin-ston
ElvedenElve-den (Place ‘Elden’)
ElwesEl-wes
ErleEarl
ErnleEarnley
ErskineErs-kin
EveleighEve-ley
EyreAir
EveryAs spelt
EytonI-tun
FalconerFawkner
FalkinerFawkner
FaringdonFarringdon
FarquharFarkwar (Farker in Scotland)
FarquharsonFarkwerson (Farkerson in Scotland)
FayrerFair-er
FeatherstonhaughFetherston-haugh or Fetherston
FeildingField-ing
FenwickFenn-ick
FergussenFerguson
FermorFarmer
FevershamFevver-sham (Place ‘Favversham’)
ffolliottFoll-y-ot
ffolkesFoaks
FiennesFines
FingallFin-gawl
FitzhardingeFitzharding
FoljambeFull-jum
ForestierForest-tier
FortuinFortayne
FoulisFowls
FowkeFoke
FremantleFree-mantle
FreyburgFry-burg
FroudeFrood
FurneauxFur-no
GairdnerGardner
GalstonGaul-ston
GalwayGaulway
GariochGary (to rhyme with ‘Mary’ or Geary)
GarvaghGar-va
GathorneGaythorn
GeogheganGay-gan
GerrardJerrard
GervisJervis
GiffardJiffard
GillAs spelt (hard ‘g’)
GillespieGill-es-py (hard ‘g’)
GilmourGillmoor (hard ‘g’)
GlamisGlahms
GlasgowGlass-go
GlenavyGlen-avy (as in ‘day’)
GlerawlyGler-awly
GorgesGorjes
GormanstownGor-mans-ton
GoschenGo-shen
GoughGoff
GouldingGoolding
GowerGore (place names as spelt)
GraemeGrame (to rhyme with ‘frame’)
GranthamGran-tham
GreavesGraves
GreigGregg
GrosvenorGrove-nor
GuiseGyze
GwyneddGwinn-eth
Haden-GuestHayden-Gest  (hard ‘g’)
HaldaneHall-dane
HalseyHall-sey
HalsburyHalls-bry
HamondHammond
HarcourtHar-cut
HardingeHarding
HarewoodHar-wood  (village pronounced Hare-wood)
HaringtonHarrington
HarwichHarrich
HawardenHay-warden
HaworthHay-worth (Harden for title is  archaic)
HeathcoatHeth-cut
HeathcoteHeth-cut
HeneageHennidge
HepburnHeb-b’n
HerschellHer-shell
HertfordHar-ford
HerveyHarvey
HeverHeaver
HeytesburyHetts-b’ry
HeywoodHaywood
HindlipHynd-lip
HippesleyHips-ley
HobartHubbard (city as spelt)
HoganHo-gan
HolbechHole-beech
HomeHume
HonywoodHoneywood
HopetounHopetown
HorsbrughHorsbro
HothamHuth-am
HousmanHouse-man
HowickHoyk
HugessenHu-ges-son (hard ‘g’)
HuthHooth
HyltonHilton
IddesleighIdd-sli
IkerrinI-kerrin
IliffeI-liffe
InchiquinInch-quin
InchryeInch-rye
InchyraInch-eye-ra
IngeIng
IngestreIngustry (like ‘industry’)
InglisIngles or as spelt
InigoInni-go
InnesInniss
InverarayInver-air-a
IonidesIon-ee-diz
IshamI-sham
IveaghI-va
JervisAs spelt or Jarvis
JervoiseJervis
JocelynJosslin
JolliffeJoll-iff
KaberryKay-berry
KavenaghKavan-a
KekewichKeck-which
KeighleyKeith-li
KemeysKemmis
KennardKen-ard
KenyonKen-yon
Ker, KerrCar or Cur
KeynesKaynes
KillaninKil-lah-nin
KilmoreyKil-murray
KingsaleKing-sale
KinnoullKin-ool
KirkcudbrightCuck-coo-bri
KnollysNowles
KylsantKill-sant
KnyvettNivett
LaconLay-kon
LaffanLaf-fan
LamplughLamp-loo
LascellesLass-ells
LathomLay-thom
LaToucheLa Toosh
LatymerLatimer
LaurieLorry
LayardLaird
LeacockLaycock or Leccock
LechmereLetchmere
Le FanuLeff-new
LefevreLe-fever
LegardLe-jard
LeghLee
LeightonLayton
LeinsterLinster
LeitrimLeetrim
Le MesurierLe Mezz-erer
LeominsterLemster
LevenLee-ven
LeverhulmeLeaver-hume
Leveson-GowerLoosun-Gore
LevingeAs spelt (hard ‘g’)
LevyLevvy or Levi
LeyLay or Lee
LeycesterLester
LiardetLee-ardet
LiddellLid-el
LisleLyle
ListowelLis-toe-ell
LombeLoam (sometimes Lumb)
LondesboroughLonds-bro’
LondonderryLondond’ry (city pronounced London-Derry)
LoudonLoud-on
LoughboroughLuff-bro
Louth‘th’ as in ‘mouth’ (Ireland ‘th’ as in ‘breathe’)
LovatLuv-at
LowsonLo-son (‘lo’ as in ‘go’)
LowtherLow-thr (‘low’ as in ‘now’)
LycettLisset
LygonLiggon
LyonLion
LysaghtLy-set
LyvedenLive-den (as in ‘give’)
MacaraMac-ara
MacbeanMac-bain
McCorquodaleM’cork-o-dale
McCullochM’cull-och
McDonaghMac-Donna
McEvoyMac-evoy
McEwanMac-ewen
McFadzeanMac-fadd-yen
McGillycuddyMac-li-cuddy
MachellMay-chell
McIvorMac-Ivor
McKayM’Kye (as in ‘eye’)
McKieMack-ie (occasionally pronounced M’Kye)
MacleanMac-layne
MacleayMac-lay
MacleodMac-loud
McLachlanMac-lochlan
MacnaghtenMac-nawton
MacmahonMac-mahn
MaelorMyla
MagdalaMag-dahla
Magdalen, MagdaleneMaudlin
MagrathMa-grah
MahonMahn or Ma-han
MahonyMah-ni
MainwaringManner-ing
MaisMayz
MajendicMa-jendy
MakgillMc-gill (hard ‘g’)
MalpasMawl-pas
MaletMallet
MalmsburyMarms-bri
MandevilleMande-ville (first ‘e’ slightly inflected)
ManderMahnder
ManserghManser
MargessonMar-jesson
MarjoribanksMarchbanks
MarlboroughMaul-bro
MarquandMark-wand
MartineauMartinowe
MashamMass-ham
MassereneMazereen
MathiasMath-ias
MaughanMawm
MauchlineMauch (as in ‘loch’)-lynn
MaunsellMan-sel
MaxseMaxie
MeathMeeth (‘th’ as in ‘breathe’)
MeiklejohnMickel-john
MelhuishMell-ish
MentethMen-teeth
MenziesMing-iz
MerionethMerry-on-eth
MereworthMerry-worth
MetcalfeMet-calf
MethuenMeth-wen
MeuxMews
MeynellMen-el
MeyrickMerr-ick
MitchelhamMitch-lam
MichieMicky
MidletonMiddle-ton
MillaisMill-ay
MocattaMow-catta
MolyneuxMully-neux or Mully-nu
MonacoMon-aco
MonckMunk
MoncktonMunkton
MonroMun-roe
MonsonMun-sun
MontaguMon-tagu
Montgomery, MontgomerieMun-gum-eri
MonzieM’nee
MoranMoor-an
MorayMurray
MordauntMor-dant
MosicyMozeley
MostynMoss-tin
MottistoneMottiston
MoultonMole-ton
MountmorresMount-morris
MowbrayMo-bray
MowllMole
MoynihanMoy-ni-han
MunroMun-roe
MyddeltonMiddle-ton
MyttonMitton
NaasNace
NaesmythNay-smith
NallNawl
NapierNay-pier
NathanNaythan
NepeanNe-peen
NewburghNew-bro’
NivenNivven
NorthcoteNorth-cut
NunburnholmeNun-burnham
OchterlonyOchter-lony
OffalyOff-aly
Ogilvie, OgilvyOgle-vi
O’HaganO’Hay-gan
OlivierO-livier
O’LoghlenO’Loch-len
OrmondeOr-mund
O’RourkeO’Rork
OutramOot-ram
PakingtonPackington
PagetPaj-it
PakenhamPack-en’um
PasleyPais-li
PatonPayton
PauletPaul-et
Paunceforte, PauncefotePawns-fort
PechellPeach-ell
PennefatherPenn-ifither or Penny-feather
PennycuickPenny-cook
PepysPeppis (Peeps has become archaic, except for the diarist and the  Pepys Cockerell family)
PercevalPercival
PeryPairy
PetoPeet-o
PetrePeter
PetriePeet-rie
PeytonPayton
PhayreFair
PierpointPierpont
PleydellPleddel
PlowdenPloughden
PlumtrePlum-tri
PolePole or Pool (see also Carew)
PoltimorePole-ti-more
PolwarthPol-worth
PomeroyPom-roy
PomfretPum-fret
PonsonbyPunsunby
PoulettPaul-et
PowellPowell or Poell
PowerscourtPoers-caut
PowisPo-iss
PowlettPaul-et
PowysPo-iss (name) (place pronounced ‘Powiss’)
PraedPraid
PrevostPrev-o
PrideauxPriddo
PulestonPill-ston
PurefuyPure-foy
PytchleyPietch-li
QuibellQuy-bel (as in ‘high’)
RaleighRaw-li
RanfurlyRan-fully
RankeillourRank-illour
RatendoneRatten-dun
RathdonnellRath-donnell
ReaRee
RearsbyRears-bi
ReayRay
RedesdaleReads-dale
RenwickRenn-ick
ReresbyRears-bi
ReuterRoy-ter
RhylRill
RhysRees or Rice
RiddellRiddle
RideauReed-owe
RoboroughRoe-bra’
RocheRoach or Rosh
RodenRoe-den
RolfeRoaf (as in ‘loaf’)
RollestonRoll-ston
RomillyRum-illy
RomneyRumney
RonaldshayRon-alld-shay
RotherwickAs spelt
RothesRoth-is
Rous, RouseRowse (as in ‘grouse’)
RowleyRoe-li
RoxburgheRox-bro
RuabonRu-a-bon
RuthinRuth-in
RuthvenRivven
SacheverallSash-ever-al
SacheverellSash-ev-rell
St AubynS’nt Aw-bin
St ClairSinclair or as spelt
St CyresS’nt Sires (to rhyme with ‘fires’)
St JohnSin-jun
St LegerSill-inger or St Leger
St LevanS’nt Leaven (as in ‘leaven’ for bread)
St MaurS’nt More
SalisburySawls-bri
SalkeldSaul-keld
SaltounSalt-on
SalisburySawls-bri
SandbachSandbatch
SandemanSandy-man
SandysSands
SanquharSanker (Sanwer is historically correct)
SaumarezSummer-ez or Saumer-ez
SausmarezSummer-ez or Saumer-ez
SavernakeSavver-nack
SavileSaville
Saye and SeleSay and Seal
SchilizziSkil-it-zy
SchusterShoo-ster
SclaterSlater
SconeScoon
ScudamoreScooda-more
ScrymgeourScrim-jer
SedburghSed-ber
SegalSeagal
SegraveSea-grave
SeleSeal
SempillSemple
SetonSeaton
SeymourSeamer or as spelt
ShakerleyShackerley
ShaughnessyShawnessy
SherborneShirb’n
ShrewsburyShrows-b’ry (town has alternative pronunciation of Shrewsb’ry)
ShuckburghShuck-bro’
SieffSeef
SimeySymey
SkeneSkeen
SkrineScreen
SmijthSmyth
SmythSmith or Smythe
SmytheSmythe
SneydSneed
SomersSummers
SomersetSummerset
SothebySutha-by
SoulburySool-bri
SouthwarkSuth-erk
SouthwellSuth-ell
SowerbySour-by
SpottiswoodeSpotswood
StanhopeStannup
StaordaleStav-erdale
StonorStone-er
StourtonSturton
StrabaneStra-bann
StrabolgiStra-bogie (hard ‘g’)
StrachanStrawn
StraghanStrawn
StrahanStrawn
StrachiStray-chie
StrathedenStrath-eden
StrathspeyStrath-spay
StratfieldStret-field
StucleyStewk-li
SuirdaleSure-dale
SysonbySize-on-by
SyngeSing
TalbotTall-bot
TangyeTang-y
TaverneTav-erne
TaylourTaylor
TeignmouthTin-muth
TerreglesTerry-glaze
TeynhamTen-’am
ThameTame
ThellussonTellus-son
TheobaldTibbald or as spelt
ThesigerThesi-jer
ThoroldThurrald
ThynneThin
TichbourneTitch-bourne
TigheTie
TollemacheTol-mash (Tall-mash is archaic)
TorphichenTor-kken
TouchetTouch-et
ToveyTuvvy
TrafalgarTraffle-gar (title only)
TraquairTra-quare
TredegarTre-deegar
TrefusisTre-fusis
TrevelyanTre-villian
TrimlestownTrimmels-ton
TrowbridgeTroobridge
TuchetTouch-et
TuiteTute
TullibardineTulli-bard-in
TurnourTurner
TuveyTuvvy
TwohyToo-y
TwysdenTwis-den
TynteTint
TyrrellTirrell
TyrwhittTirrit
TyzackTie-sack
UrquhartUrk-ut
UvedaleYouv-dale
VachellVay-chell
ValentiaVal-en-shia
ValletortValley-tort
Van StraubenzeeVan Straw-ben-zie
VaughanVawn
VauxVokes
VavasourVav-assur
VerschoyleVer-skoil
VeseyVeezy
VigorVygor
VilliersVillers
VyvyanVivian
WaechterVechter (guttural ‘ch’)
WagnerAs spelt
WaldegraveWaldgrave or Wargrave
WaleranWall-ran
WalmerWall-mer
WalrondWall-rond
WalsinghamWall-sing’m
WalwynWall-wyn
WathenWothen
WauchopeWalk-up (‘ch’ as in ‘loch’)
WaughAs spelt, to rhyme with ‘flaw’
WavellWay-vell
WeighallWy-gall
WeighillWey-hill
WellesleyWells-li
WemyssWeems
WernherWerner
WestenraWesten-ra
WestmeathWest-meath (‘th’ as in ‘breathe’)
WestmorlandWest-morland
WhartonWhor-ton
WigoderWigg-oder
WigramWigg-ram
WilbrahamWill-bram
Willoughby de EresbyWillow-bi deersby
Willoughby de BrokeWillow-bi  de Brook
WinderWinn-der
WoburnWoo-burn
WodehouseWood-house
WollastonWool-aston
WolleyWooly
WolmerWool-mer
WolrigeWool-ridge
WolseleyWool-sli
WombwellWoom-well
WontnerWantner
WorsleyWers-li or Werz-li
WortleyWert-li
WriothesleyRottisli
WrottesleyRotts-li
WykehamWick-am
WyllieWy-lie
WyndhamWind-’am
WynfordWin-fud
WynyardWin-yard
WythenshawWith-in-shaw
YeatmanYaytman
YerburghYar-bra’
YongeYoung
ZouchZooch

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