We’re All Mispronouncing Mount Everest’s Name

Almost all of the English-speaking world mispronounces the mountain named for George Everest (against his wishes).
George Everest would be annoyed.
George Everest would be annoyed. / Nicole Kucera/Moment/Getty Images (Everest), Pakin Songmor/Moment/Getty Images (bubble)

The highest mountain on Earth? Most would say it’s Mount Everest, standing over 29,000 feet above sea level. Located in the Himalayas, it has been known as Mount Everest since the Royal Geographical Society named it after the Welsh surveyor and geographer George Everest in 1865.

Prior to that, George Everest had served as surveyor general of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, which took place over several decades starting in 1802. This massive project endeavored to scientifically map the Indian subcontinent using state-of-the-art instruments, such as a custom-made theodolite that weighed over 1000 pounds. The surveying team succeeded in its goal of accurately mapping the meridional arc (the curve of the Earth between two points on the same longitude) from Mount Everest, which was then called “Peak XV,” to the southernmost point in India. Modern scholars, however, have argued that the survey also represented a means of controlling Indian territory and its people.

Everest’s successor suggested naming Peak XV for Everest, even though Everest believed local names should be used for geographical features. Everest was overruled when the Royal Geographic Society determined that the traditional name for the mountain couldn’t be confirmed.

Today, not only is the mountain still known as Mount Everest, but the name is commonly mispronounced. The way people say “Mount Everest” isn’t reflective of its eponym.

George Everest
George Everest / Hulton Archive/GettyImages

George Everest’s surname was actually pronounced “EVE-rest” with the emphasis on the first syllable, rhyming with peeve. But in English, the mountain is almost universally known as “EVER-est” or “EV-rest,” with a short e sound like that in weather.

And let’s not forget that Mount Everest does have traditional, local names. Tibetan people call it “Chomolungma,” meaning “goddess mother of the world,” and its Nepali name is Sagarmatha, translating to “the head of the Earth touching heaven.”

Language evolves over time, so there may not be an absolute right or wrong pronunciation here. But to stay true to the Royal Geographical Society’s original intentions, Earth’s highest peak should be referred to as “Mount EVE-rest.”

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A version of this story was published in 2015; it has been updated for 2024.