How to pronounce place names with ‘ham’ in them.

A group of names that often cause pronunciation errors are those containing the ending ‘ham’. Often the error is caused by pronouncing and/or mis-pronouncing the /h/. There is a very simple rule for this:

  • If ‘ham’ is contained within the word itself, do not pronounce the /h/, EG ‘Buckingham’ – /ˈbʌkɪŋəm/
  • If ‘ham’ is a separate word, we must pronounce the /h/, EG ‘West Ham’ – /ˈwest ˈhæm/

The most mispronounced ‘ham’ word.

‘Tottenham’ of course. Following the rule above, we do not pronounce the /h/. More confusion occurs here, however, with the silent ‘e’ in the middle, and the second ‘t’ becoming a glottal stop /ʔ/. So ‘Tottenham’ is actually pronounced /ˈtɒʔnəm/ – it is a lot more simple than it appears.

A list of place names with ‘ham’ phonetically transcribed.

Tottenham – /ˈtɒʔnəm/
Rotherham – /ˈrɒðərəm/
Nottingham – /ˈnɒtɪŋəm/
Birmingham – /ˈbɜ:mɪŋəm/
Gillingham – /ˈdʒɪlɪŋəm/
Cheltenham – /ˈtʃelʔnəm/
Buckingham – /ˈbʌkɪŋəm/
Durham – /ˈdʌrəm/

NOTE – Names ending ‘sham’ will be pronounced /ʃəm/:

Lewisham – /lu:wɪʃəm/
Evesham – /ˈi:vʃəm/