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Pronouncing Iowa Place Names: An Audio Guide (expanded to 100 entries)

Iowa_topography.jpg

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 December 7, 2016 with your feedback, suggestions, and corrections, we've reached the century mark of 100 - please keep 'em coming!

 

 

 

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Adel : Ay- DELL

 

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

Allamakee.mp3

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Amish: AY-mish

Amish.mp3

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Arispe: uh-RISS-pee

ArispeNewmp3.mp3

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Atalissa: at-uh-LISS-uh

Atalissa.mp3

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Audubon: AW-duh-bin

Audobon.mp3

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

Ayrshire.mp3

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

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Bondurant: BONN-durr-RANT

Bondurant.mp3

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Bremer: BREE-mer

Bremer.mp3

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Buena Vista : BYOO-nuhVIH-stuh

BuenaVista.mp3

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Calamus : CAAL-uh-muhss ("Cal" as in California or Calvin)

Calamus.mp3

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

Calmar.mp3

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Camanche : cuh- MAANCH

Camanche.mp3

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Chariton : SHARE-ih-ton

Chariton.mp3

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Charlotte: sharr- LOTT

Charlotte.mp3

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Cherokee: chair-uh-KEE

CherokeenewMP3.mp3

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Chillicothe : chill-uh-KAW-thhee

Chillicothe.mp3

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Churdan : shur-DAAN

Chur-DAN.mp3

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Clermont : Clare - mont

Clermont.mp3

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Clutier : clue - teer

Clutier.mp3

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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:

de_witt.mp3

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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:

Decorah.mp3

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Delhi : DELL- high

Delhi.mp3

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

Delmar.mp3

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

DelphosNew.mp3

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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.]

DesMoines.mp3

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Dewar : DO -er

Dewarnewmp3.mp3

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Dubuque: dih-BYOOK

Dubuque.mp3

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Dysart : DIE- zert

Dysart.mp3

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Earlham: ERL-uhm

Earlham.mp3

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East Peru: East Pee-roo

Peru.mp3

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Elkader: el-KAY-der

Elkadernewmp3.mp3

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Ely: EEE-lee

Ely.mp3

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Festina: Fes-TIE-nuh

Festina.mp3

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Froelich: FRAY-lick

Froelich.mp3

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Gerled: JURR-led

GerledNewmp3.mp3

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Gowrie: GOW-ree (like cow, with a hard "g")

Gowrie.mp3

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Granger: GRAIN-jer (like Hermione, the Muggle-born Gryffindor)

Granger.mp3

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Guttenberg: GUTTin-burg

Guttenberg.mp3

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Holstein: Hole-steen

Holstein.mp3

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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

HougtonNewmp3.mp3

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Imogene: IM- uh-jeen

Imogene.mp3

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Ionia: eye- OWN -yuh

Ionia.mp3

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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. And off the way, a 1912 pronunciation guide cautions against the mispronunciation "i-OH-wuh," suggesting that some people said it that way.]

Iowa3.mp3

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Kamrar: KAAM - rahr

Kamrar.mp3

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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.

Keokuk.mp3

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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.)

Keosaqua.mp3

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Lake Ahquabi : uh-KWAH -bee

LakeAquabi.mp3

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

Lamoni.mp3

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

LaPorteCity.mp3

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Leighton : LIE -tuhn

LeightonNEW.mp3

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Leon: LEE-ahn

Leon.mp3

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Loess Hills : Luss Hills

Loess.mp3

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Lorimor: LORE-ih-mur

LorimorNewmp3.mp3

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

Louisa.mp3

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Lowden : LOUD-in

Lowden.mp3

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Luana: lu-WAY-nuh

Luana.mp3

  

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Madrid : MAA-drid

Madrid.mp3

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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]

MaharishiNewmp3.mp3

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Maloy : Muh-LOY

MaloyNew.mp3

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Maquoketa : Muh-KOKE-uh-tuh

Maquoketa.mp3

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Mediapolis : Mee-dee-AAH-poh-liss

Mediapolis.mp3

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

Milan.mp3

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Milo: MY-low

MiloNewmp3.mp3

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Mondamin : mahn-DAY-muhn

Mondamin.mp3

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Monticello  : Mon-tih- SELL –o

Monticello.mp3

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Moravia : More-RAY-vee-uh

Moravia.mp3

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Moscow: You say MUSS-cow, you say MAHSS-cow - I've heard both from residents.

Moscow.mp3

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Nashua : NAAH- shoe–uh

NashuaNew.mp3

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Nevada : neh-VAY –duh

Nevada.mp3

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Ocheyedan: oh-CHEE-din

Ocheyedan.mp3

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Odebolt: Oh-de-Bolt

Odebolt.mp3

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Oelwein: OLE-wine

Oelwein.mp3

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Okoboji: oh-kuh-BO-jee (although some old-timers said oh--kuh-BO-juh)

Okoboji.mp3

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Osceola: OH-see-OH-luh

Osceola.mp3

  

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Ossian: AW-shen or AH-shen

Ossian.mp3

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Owasa: oh-WAH-sah

Owasa.mp3

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Palo: PAY-low

Palo.mp3

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

Peoria.mp3

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Peosta: Pee-AHSS-tuh

Peosta.mp3

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Pisgah: Pizz-guh

PisgahNEW.mp3

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

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Readlyn: REED-lin

Readyn.mp3

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Rolfe: Rawlf (that is, one syllable)

Rolfe.mp3

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Sabula: Suh-BYOO-luh

Sabula.mp3

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

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Sigourney : SIH-gurney

Sigourney.mp3

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Tabor : TAY-burr

TaborNew.mp3

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Tama : TAY-muh

Tama.mp3

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Titonka : tie-TAHN-kuh

Titonka.mp3

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Traer : Trare (rhymes with "rare")

Traer.mp3

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Tripoli : trih- POE- luh

Tripoli.mp3

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Vining : VINE – ing

Vining.mp3

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

Viola.mp3

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Wapello : WAAH–puh-lo

Wapello.mp3

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

Wapsipinicon.mp3

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Wever: WEE-ver (like "Weaver")

Wever.mp3

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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

What_Cheer.mp3

FOOTNOTE: Thanks for the continuing input! And once again: please keep it coming!

UPDATE: Dec. 6: the following are in process, thanks to your input:

 

Avon Lake

Bode [e is silent, one syllable]

Carlisle

Corydon

Cumming

Giard

Goodell [guh-DELL?]

Hawarden [HAY-warden]

Jesup [JESS-up]

Kilbourn [KILL-burn?]

Kiron [KEYE- ruhn]

Knoke [kuh-NOKE]

Lamoille

Lycurgus [lih-SIR-jus]

Maurice

Moingona

Orilla

Otho

Prole [Silent e]

Protivin

Pulaski [pyoo-LASS-kee?]

Swea City [Sway]

Tara

Valeria

Ventura

Zaneta

Zenorsville

 

 

Iowa_counties_map.png
Credit wikimedia commons

Barney Sherman is a Senior Music Producer and Classical Music Host