© 2022 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
00000173-38e2-d855-adf7-bcef38580000Presidential 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 us know if you have any corrections or suggestions - we could even post YOUR voice up here!UPDATE: Dec. 6: the following are in process, thanks to your input:Avon LakeBode [e is silent, one syllable]CarlisleCorydonCummingGiardGoodell [guh-DELL?]Hawarden [HAY-warden]Jesup [JESS-up]kilbourn [KILL-burn?]Kiron [KEYE-ruhn]Knoke [kuh-NOKE]LamoilleLycurgus [lih-SIR-jus]MauriceMoingonaOrillaOthoProle [Silent e]ProtivinPulaski [pyoo-LASS-kee?]Swea City [Sway]TaraValeriaVenturaZanetaZenorsville

Iowa Place Names: F - J

-F-       -G-       -H-       -I-       -J-

Festina: Fes-TIE-nuh

Froelich: FRAY-lick

Back to Top

Gerled: JURR-led

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

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

Guttenberg: GUTTin-burg

Back to Top

Holstein: Hole-steen

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!

Houghton: HUFF-tun

Back to Top

Imogene: IM- uh-jeen

Ionia: eye- OWN -yuh

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.]

Back to Top

Barney Sherman is a Senior Music Producer and Classical Music Host