How to Pronounce 25 Tricky British Last Names and Titles

You’re gonna love ‘Featherstonehaugh.’

(Left to right) Rose Hanbury, Deborah Kerr, and Ralph Fiennes.
(Left to right) Rose Hanbury, Deborah Kerr, and Ralph Fiennes. / (Hanbury and Fiennes) Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images; (Kerr) Herbert Dorfman/Corbis/Getty Images

Many American English speakers are so used to their particular brand of silent letters and strange pronunciations that they utter words like laugh, jeopardy, and colonel without thinking too much about it. But when we see an especially egregious example specific to British English—say, a name like Cholmondeley—we tend to get a little incredulous. 

From Belvoir to Wriothesley, here are 25 British titles and surnames that don’t sound like they look. (Keep in mind, though, that names often have multiple pronunciations—and the correct way to say a particular person’s name is however they tell you it should be said.)

1. Belvoir

The customary British pronunciation of Belvoir is “BEE-ver,” just like beaver.

2. Beauchamp

Plenty of Beauchamps say “BOH-shahmp” after the French pronunciation. But in the UK, you’ll also hear “BEE-chum,” same as Beecham.

3. Cholmondeley

Rose Hanbury is the Marchioness (“mar-shuh-NESS”) of Cholmondeley, pronounced “CHUM-lee.” It’s also the surname of Charles Cholmondeley, the MI5 agent who masterminded World War II’s pivotal Operation Mincemeat.

4. Cockburn

It’s “KOH-burn” like Coburn, OK?

5. Colquhoun

The name of this historic Scottish clan is usually pronounced “kuh-HOON” or “kull-HOON.”

6. Dalziel

The surname of one of two characters in the BBC’s detective series Dalziel and Pascoe is pronounced “dee-ELL.” (You might also hear “DEE-ill.”)

7. Featherstonehaugh

Some people’s pronunciation of Featherstonehaugh (and other spellings of the name) more or less matches its appearance. But it’s also said “FAN-shaw” or “FERN-shaw.”

8. Fenwick

The Fenwick of Delaware’s Fenwick Island is pronounced like it looks. But in the UK, you often drop the “w” sound: “FEN-ick.”

9. Fiennes

The surname of Ralph Fiennes of Voldemort fame, Shakespeare in Love star Joseph Fiennes, explorer Ranulph Fiennes, and everyone else in the Fiennes family is pronounced exactly like the word fines. (And Ralph Fiennes’s first name is pronounced “RAIF.”)

10. Geoghegan

Geoghegan is typically pronounced “GAY-gun.”

11. Gloucester

For the duke of Gloucester and the town of Gloucester, it’s “GLOSS-ter.”

12. Kerr

The surname of Deborah Kerr—star of The King and I, An Affair to Remember, and countless other classics—is “KAR,” just like car

13. Knollys

The surname of Elizabethan noblewoman Lettice Knollys—who married Elizabeth I’s possible lover Robert Dudley—is pronounced “NOLZ,” like Knowles. (And her first name isn’t said like lettuce—it’s “leh-TEESS.”)

14. Leveson-Gower

The Leveson-Gower family dates back to the 17th century. Modern pronunciations of the name vary widely, but it’s traditionally “LOO-sun GOR.”

15. Mainwaring

The name of Captain Mainwaring, a character in the classic British sitcom Dad’s Army, is pronounced “MAN-er-ing,” just like mannering.

16. Marjoribanks

This surname, of another historic Scottish clan, is pronounced “MARCH-banks.”

17. Menzies

This Scottish surname is traditionally pronounced “MING-iss” or “MING-iz,” but plenty of people today—including The Crown and Outlander star Tobias Menzies—say “MEN-zeez.”

18. Pepys

The surname of famed 17th-century English diarist Samuel Pepys is pronounced “PEEPS,” just like the Easter treats.

19. Shrewsbury

The traditional way to say the earl of Shrewsbury’s title is “SHROHZ-bur-ee.” (The town in Shropshire is sometimes called “SHROOZ-bur-ee,” though.)

20. St. John

It’s not always “Saint John”—sometimes it’s “SIN-jun.”

21. Stanhope

Plenty of people say “STAN-hope,” but it’s technically “STAN-up.”  

22. Warwick

If you’re talking about an earl of Warwick, it’s “WAR-ick.”

23. Wodehouse

Author P.G. Wodehouse’s surname is pronounced “WOOD-house.”

24. Worcester

For the earl of Worcester and the town, it’s “WOOSS-ter,” where the “oo” sound matches that of wood. (The Worcestershire of Worcestershire sauce, by the way, is “WOOSS-ter-sheer” or “WOOSS-ter-sher.”)

25. Wriothesley

Of all the possible pronunciations of the historic English surname Wriothesley, the least intuitive is “RIZZ-lee.” (The character in the video game Genshin Impact says “RIZE-lee.”)

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