10 of the World's Most Frequently Mispronounced Countries

You might be mispronouncing half of these, but don't worry. We can fix that.
You might be mispronouncing half of these, but don't worry. We can fix that. / PeskyMonkey/iStock via Getty Images

While it’s always good to respect the cultures and traditions of countries around the world, we can sometimes make an innocent error in completely butchering their pronunciation. If you plan on traveling, talking foreign policy, or just want a refresher, take a look at 10 of the most frequently mispronounced country names in the world.

1. Pakistan

Do you say “Pack-iss-stan”? Forget the A sound. It’s pronounced “Pock-kee-stahn.” And if you’re wondering why so many country names end in “-stan,” it’s because the word means “settlement,” “state,” or “place” in various languages. Pakistan is actually an acronym taken from the country’s constituent cultures of the 1930s: Punjabi, Afghani, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Balochistan. (They did have to add an "i".)

2. Iran

Iran isn’t “I ran.” It’s “Eee-rahn.” However you say it, bring sunscreen. In 2017, the city of Ahvaz in Iran recorded a temperature of 129°F.

3. Samoa

This island—and Girl Scout Cookie flavor—is often said as “Sam-oh-uh.” It’s “Saah-moah.” And no, no one is quite sure about the cookie connection, though it might have something to do with coconuts.

4. Belarus

Do you say “Bel-air-us”? It’s “Bel-uh-rooz.”

5. Qatar

Soccer fans should brush up on this Middle Eastern country's pronunciation ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It's often cited as “Kah-tahr.” It’s actually ”Kut-uhr.” You’ll have plenty of time to practice if you’re coming from Auckland, New Zealand, as a non-stop flight to Qatar from there is one of the longest in the world at 18 hours.

6. Iraq

If you’re saying “Eye-rack,” you’ve got it messed up. It’s “Ee-rock.” A lost Bronze Age city named Mardaman was identified (“eye-den-tee-fied”) there in 2017.

7. Antigua

Many people mistakenly add a “gwah” to make “Ann-tee-gwah.” It’s actually pronounced “An-tee-guh.”

8. Laos

Don’t say “Lay-ouse.” It’s “Louse.”

9. Nepal

You’ll hear this country name often, as it’s the home of Mount Everest. But many say “Neh-paal” when they should say “Ni-paul.”

10. Kyrgyzstan

Don’t say “Cry-gee-stan.” Opt for “Keer-gihs-taan.” The Z is silent.

[h/t BestLife]

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