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 more unique baby 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 Raddix that are just completely made up — we’re looking at you, Cameron Diaz), 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. Just to be clear, these are only hard to pronounce for Americans, and not to the native speakers of their origin language. But they are incredibly beautiful and often melodic sounding. In other words, perfect for your little sweetness.
We’ve got 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.
This Sanskrit girl’s name means moon light or river and is a classic Indian name for women. It’s actually not that hard to pronounce and reads like chaAnd-nee.
The first recorded use of this name was by non other than William Shakespeare but is of unknown etymology. It is thought it was a play on the word innogen, a Celtic word meaning “maiden” or “girl.”
This may not be the most popular name floating around out there but it does hold a special place in the Disney cannon of female names. Die-hard Little Mermaid fans will recognize it as the name of one of Ariel’s sister’s. Any one with a working knowledge of Latin will recognize the root of the name (aqua) comes from the word for water.
The French version of Margaret, this classic French girl’s name is pronounced mar-goh. This classic name means pearl and that’s just what your little Margaux is, a precious little gem.
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!