One of the most common baby naming dilemmas is pronunciation. On one hand, nobody will mispronounce Emma or Noah … but Emma and Noah will run into a bazillion other Emmas and Noahs.
Then there are the less common names: those that are unquestionably unique, but will definitely require a lifetime of corrections (or just a grudging acceptance of mispronunciations).
Some of the most beautiful names are, unfortunately, the ones that the general public will butcher over and over while trying to pronounce — and for good reason.
Like nearly every other name (except for those like Brexleigh that are just completely made up), these are rooted in a language other than English, but haven’t been Americanized to the point of easy pronunciation … at least not in their traditional spellings.
We’ve got fifteen perfect examples right here.
It doesn’t look lengthy enough to be a three-syllable name, but this French/Catalan form of Anna is pronounced ah-nah-EES. It’s sometimes spelled with a diacritical mark over the i (as in Anaïs), but this probably won’t help clarify pronunciation to most people, and such marks can sometimes cause confusion when it comes to legal documents.
You’d never guess this one included a “V” sound and not an “M,” but that’s exactly why this Irish name makes the list: it’s pronounced nee-ev, two syllables.
The name of the Greek goddess of the dawn, this one’s pronounced AE-ohs. It may be short and simple, but people will invariably say it with a long “EE” sound at the beginning.
In this Spanish name, the X is bound to throw everyone but native Spanish speakers for a loop. It’s pronounced see-oh-MAR-uh, or sometimes the “see” part is replaced by a “she” sound: she-oh-MAR-uh.
This lyrical French beauty, meaning “to admire,” is pronounced meer-RAY. Miri would be an option for an adorable — and easy to pronounce — nickname.
Say-oh-eers? Sa-oy-irse? Sow-ears? This is a super-cool Irish name with an equally awesome meaning (“freedom”), but also among the hardest to pronounce. (It’s SER-sha, by the way.)
Of Hebrew origin, this name is sometimes spelled Ya’el … which may help the general public with pronunciation, since you say it ya-el, in two syllables — not like Yale, the university.
You’ve definitely seen this name before, just maybe not in its original Dutch form, Schuyler. In fact, it’s a popular unisex name that at last count was #47 for girls and #808 for boys on the popularity charts: that is, with its Americanized spelling, Skylar (the similarly-spelled Skyler was #466 for boys and #383 for girls).
People may guess “sy-en” or even “Shawn” … but this Irish name is pronounced like Ian with a hard C: KEE-an. To make pronunciation easier, you could spell it with a K (although folks may still pronounce it like Ryan), but if you wanna keep with Irish tradition, C it is.
This one is the Spanish version of a Hebrew name, Joachim. And since there’s no hard “J” sound in the Spanish language, the correct pronunciation is wah-KEEN.
This adorable Sanskrit name means “enlightened,” but everyone will pronounce it like “body” — so enlighten them by telling them it’s actually pronounced BO-dee.
It looks obvious, like Joe Sue. But this name actually has several different pronunciations (and none of them are Joe or Sue). In Spanish, it’s ho-SWAY; in French, it’s zho-SWEE. It’s also been pronounced as a sort of mashup of the two, zho-SWAY. Basically, pronounce it however you’d like, because everyone’s going to get it wrong the first time.
This Welsh name meaning “enthusiasm” is another one you know — in the Americanized forms of Reese or Reece. But while the American versions are definitely unisex names, the original Welsh spelling seems more masculine.
Yes, there’s a J in it, but that doesn’t mean you pronounce it with the hard J sound: it’s be-YORN. Luckily, anyone who’s a parent will probably recognize this Swedish name from the Baby Bjorn brand of baby carriers, so the odds of correct first-try pronunciation are a little better.
This, that, those, these, thanks … following those lines, we’d pronounce both the T and the H in this name, like thee-ago. But ditch the H: it’s actually tee-AH-go, like Santiago but without the “San.” Unless you’re going for the Portuguese pronunciation, which is chee-AH-go.
Looking for naming options, easy-to-pronounce or otherwise? Check out the thousands of names and inspirational lists in the Scary Mommy Baby Name Database!