London /ˈlʌndən/ – a pronunciation guide.

From Southwark to Borough, Cockney to Posh and food to grub – here’s the Pronunciation Studio survival guide to life in London:


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Zone 1. /ˈzəʊn ˈwʌn/

Let’s start in the centre: Leicester Squar/ˈlestə ˈskweə/Grosvenor Square, /ˈgrəʊvnə ˈskweə/ and Gloucester Road /ˈglɒstə ˈrəʊd/ all have confusing silent letters. Then there’s the deceptive ‘o’, in Southwark /ˈsʌðək/Borough /ˈbʌrə/ and… London /ˈlʌndən/, which are all pronounced /ʌ/ as in fun. Some names are plainly ridiculous like Tottenham Court Road /ˈtɒʔnəm ˈkɔːʔ ˈrəʊd/Euston /ˈjuːstən/(which rhymes with you), and Marylebone /ˈmɑːləbəʊn/ . But what do they all have in common? A schwa sound /ə/ – so that’s the place to start.

Suburbs. /ˈsʌbɜːbz/

Moving to the suburbs, or ‘burbs’ /ˈbɜːbz/ for short, might give you more space, but it won’t solve the pronunciation issues. Starting with the silent h in Balham /ˈbæləm/Clapham /ˈklæpəm/, Fulham /ˈfʊləm/, and Vauxhall /ˈvɒksɔːɫ/, it mixes with ‘s’ in , Lewisham /ˈluːɪʃəm/, and you do say it in West Ham /ˈwest ˈhæm/East Ham /ˈiːst ˈhæm/ and….. Ham /ˈhæm/.  Out West you’ll find such delights as Wimbledon /ˈwɪmbɫdən/, Chiswick /ˈtʃɪzɪk/ and Ruislip /ˈraɪslɪp/, whilst East there’s Rotherhithe /ˈrɒðəraɪð/Woolwich /ˈwʊlɪtʃ/Surrey Quays /ˈsʌri ˈkiːz/ and Greenwich /ˈgrenɪtʃ/ by which time you might have gone Barking /ˈbɑːkɪŋ/ mad.

Accents. /ˈæksənts/

A typical London accent is working class, a bit of cockney /ˈkɒkni/ in there, innit /ˈɪnɪʔ/? But you’ll hear all sorts of accents in London. Very generally speaking West is posh, East is cockney, and everywhere else is in between, ranging from Estuary /ˈestʃəri/ (a bit London) to RP /ˈɑː ˈpiː/ (neutral – what they used to sound like at the BBC). In Buckingham Palace /ˈbʌkɪŋəm ˈpælɪs/ you’ll find the Queen, we all know what she sounds like. London mayor, Sadiq Kahn works in City Hall /sɪti hɔːɫ/, he has a modern, neutral accent with a hint of London. Whilst at 10 and 11 Downing Street /ˈdaʊnɪŋ striːt/, our Prime Minister and Chancellor sound… posh, they went to Eton /iːtən/. 

Food. /ˈfuːd/

Fortunately, particularly if you believe what they say about English cuisine, London has food from all over the world. You’ll find Italian, Chinese and Indian restaurants on most streets. For something different, head to Edgware Road /ˈedʒweə ˈrəʊd/ for Lebanese, Dalston /ˈdɑːɫstən/ for Turkish, Brick Lane /ˈbrɪk ˈleɪn/ for bagels, and Stockwell /ˈstɒkweɫ/ for Portuguese. You’ll find every type of cuisine in Soho /ˈsəʊhəʊ/Angel /ˈeɪndʒəɫ/ and Brixton /ˈbrɪkstən/: Japanese, Ethiopian, Greek, Polish, Jamaican, on a sunny day you can even sit outside with a cool glass of Sangria – you get the idea.

Grub. /ˈgrʌb/

But what about English food, or “grub” as it’s locally known? Well, you should head to your local caff /ˈkæf/, (café /kæˈfeɪ/ if you’re posh), for a full English breakfast. A sarnie /ˈsɑːni/ for lunch, (sandwich /ˈsændwɪtʃ/ if you’re posh) which probably contains cucumber. If you’re really posh you can stop at 5 for afternoon tea /ˈɑːftənuːn ˈtiː/. In the evening, head to your local pub (‘boozer’ /ˈbuːzə/ to the locals) or chippy /ˈtʃɪpi/ for fish’n’chips, that would be your local gastropub /ˈgæstrəʊpʌb/ or bistro /ˈbiːstrəʊ/ …. if you’re posh.

Film. /ˈfɪɫm/

There are three types of film set in London: inoffensive romantic comedies (Romcoms /ˈrɒmkɒmz/), generally with Hugh Grant wandering around nice areas like Notting Hill /ˈnɒtɪŋ ˈhɪɫ/ and being charming and foppish. Then there are gangster flicks /ˈgæŋstə ˈflɪks/ set in the East End /ˈiːst ˈend/, like ‘Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘The Long Good Friday’, with well ‘ard Cockney geezers gettin’ up to mischief. And finally there are the period dramas, like The King’s Speech, which is set in Marylebone /ˈmɑːlibəʊn/, and My Fair Lady in Covent Garden /ˈkɒvəŋʔ ˈgɑːdən/, both of which, incidentally are about elocution. On television, the most famous series is Eastenders, which is based on Walthamstow /ˈwɔːɫθəmstəʊ/East, obviously.

Markets. /ˈmɑːkɪts/ 

Camden Lock /ˈkæmdən ˈlɒk/ is where you’ll find everything colourful and freaky, from furniture and lava lamps to jewellery and clothing. If you love food, head to Borough Market /ˈbʌrə ˈmɑːkɪt/. Carnivores might want to get up early to visit Smithfield /ˈsmɪθfiːɫd/ in Farringdon /ˈfærɪŋdən/– the UK’s oldest and biggest meat market, the building is impressive, even if you’re a veggie. On Sunday the Columbia Road /kəˈlʌmbiə ˈrəʊd/ flower market in Bethnal Green /ˈbeθnəɫ ˈgriːn/ is well worth a look. Hmm ‘flower’ is a funny word you know? In posh it’s /ˈflɑː/, cockney [ˈflæː] and in GB it’s /ˈflaʊə/. You’d best decide which one you are before you visit! The annual Chelsea flower show favours the first version.

Tourism. /ˈtɔːrɪzm/

There’s plenty to see in London, where better to start than a boat trip on The Thames /ðə ˈtemz/. For a panoramic view, try The London Eye /ˈlʌndən ˈaɪ/ and London’s tallest building – the Shard /ˈʃɑːd/ in London Bridge. If you like your history, start at Westminster Abbey /ˈwesmɪnstər ˈæbi/, the setting for every coronation since 1066. The crown jewels are kept in The Tower of London, and the dome at St Paul’s Cathedral /smʔ ˈpɔːɫz kəˈθiːdrəɫ/ is a must-see. Relics from all over the world are on display at the British Museum /ˈbrɪtɪʃ mjuˈziːəm/, and people from all over the world are found at Madame Tussauds /ˈmædəm tuˈsɔːdz/, or at least their waxworks are. After all that you’ll be in need of a break – try one of London’s numerous Royal Parks – Regent’s Park /ˈriːdʒənts ˈpɑːk/ is also home to London Zoo /zuː/.

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By | 2017-02-27T16:26:26+00:00 June 13th, 2016|London, Pronunciation, Pronunciation Guides|43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Carmen June 14, 2016 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    Five stars to Mr. Hudson, extremely useful article.

    • Joseph Hudson June 21, 2016 at 9:58 am - Reply

      Thanks Carmen! Glad you found it useful.

  2. Kevin June 20, 2016 at 5:37 am - Reply

    Interesting. However, it’s Rotherhithe, surely? Also, /sæŋˈ’gri:ə/ and /’gæləri/. And I’ve never before heard anyone say “coronated” for crowned!

    • Joseph Hudson June 21, 2016 at 10:00 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comments and eagle eye Kevin! The ‘h’ in ‘Rotherhithe’ and the schwa in ‘gallery’ have now been added. The rare usage of ‘coronated’ was new to me, I’ve changed it in the article to ‘coronation’. I’m not sure I agree with Sangria, in Spanish it’s stressed on the second syllable, but I think first syllable stress is more common in British English, the dictionaries seem to be split on the matter.

  3. You in London July 26, 2016 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    That’s really great! But why is Marylebone pronunciation different in the two examples?

    • Joseph Hudson August 1, 2016 at 8:06 am - Reply

      Thanks! ‘Marlyebone’ has a weak vowel in the second syllable, and like many weak vowels, you’ll hear natives using a lot of variations with none being more correct than another. So it could be /ˈmɑːlibəʊn/, /ˈmɑːlɪbəʊn/ or /ˈmɑːləbəʊn/.

  4. Lety Wicks August 3, 2016 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this article. It’s very useful for us all foreigners! I have been living in London for quite a while and always find that – English lacking grammar/or pronunciation rules- it is difficult to learn. So I always say that we “must” nearly learn “word by word”, as children do. Thanks.
    Lety Wick

    • Joseph Hudson September 8, 2016 at 11:53 am - Reply

      Thanks for the comment Lety – sometimes it seems that there are no rules in English, but fortunately there are plenty to help. There are exceptions for just about everything, though, and London place names are particularly difficult owing to their origins.

  5. Lydia August 5, 2016 at 7:59 am - Reply

    Useful and funny. Many thanks for the article.

    • Joseph Hudson September 8, 2016 at 11:53 am - Reply

      Thanks Lydia!

  6. /mi:len/ August 12, 2016 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Great article! I have booked a place on a free taster course. I look forward to it!

    • Joseph Hudson September 8, 2016 at 11:54 am - Reply

      Thanks /miːlen/ – I hope you enjoyed the schwa class. Your name is one of few that doesn’t contain one!

  7. /mi:len/ August 12, 2016 at 10:57 am - Reply

    Clever idea!!! I’m a French native speaker and always struggle with French words assimilated in the English language!!! ?

  8. mucio August 15, 2016 at 9:30 am - Reply

    I’m sorry, but the ‘o’ in London doesn’t sound at all like the ‘u’ in fun

    • Joseph Hudson September 8, 2016 at 11:55 am - Reply

      I promise it’s true Mucio – FUN = /ˈfʌn/ and LONDON = /ˈlʌndən/

    • Chris January 12, 2017 at 11:53 am - Reply

      Definitely is the same. I’m from North London. Never heard it pronounced differently.

  9. Alistair Roberts August 17, 2016 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    “A sarnie /ˈsɑːni/ for lunch, (sandwich /ˈsændwɪtʃ/ if your posh)”

    your = you’re, surely?

    Other than that surprising oversight, a great article.

    • Joseph Hudson September 8, 2016 at 12:00 pm - Reply

      Thanks for spotting that Alistair! It’s now been corrected.

  10. Gemma September 4, 2016 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    Hello Joseph. Interesting article. Under ‘accents’ – my understanding is that ‘innit’ means ‘isn’t it’ rather than ‘in there’. I’m a South (‘saarf’) Londoner with inter-changeable accent depending on who I’m speaking to!

    • Joseph Hudson September 8, 2016 at 12:13 pm - Reply

      Hello Gemma, thanks for the comment. I think “innit” is most commonly a replacement for “isn’t it?”, but it has adopted a much wider usage to encompass just about any question tag, so some speakers may also use it to replace “isn’t there?” or any other tag. You’re not alone in changing your accent depending on the audience, I reckon everyone does that to an extent!

  11. Daniel Underwood September 6, 2016 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Great article!

    I might pass this on to some certain London Underground staff who insist on adding an extra ‘i’ into Upminster and Westminster (Upminister and Westminister).

    • Joseph Hudson September 8, 2016 at 12:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks Daniel, I hadn’t noticed this before but it makes perfect sense. It’s funny because normally words are shortened, but these are being made longer – TFL making extra work for themselves!

      • Ozgur G February 12, 2017 at 6:54 am - Reply

        Hi Joseph, thanks for your great article. I can’t remember when and where I read this before but I recall “innit?” comes from Hindi language. Since it sounds similar to this peculiar word. Sound Asian community pushed “innit” to the daily cockney English. Is there any truth to this? Cheers,

  12. RoRo September 18, 2016 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    Really funny and well written, I have been living in London for over 18 years now, all the place names that are mispronounced by tourists are so funny, once I overheard some American folks saying Houston to Euston and this cracked me up… Or places like ChisWick or GreenWich pronounced with the W 🙂

    I am a bit surprised that Brick Lane is only associated with bages in the the food section of the article, I would say there are 2 bagel shops on Brick Lane and over 20 Indian restaurants…

    • Joseph Hudson October 1, 2016 at 8:15 am - Reply

      Thanks RoRo. It’s true that Brick Lane has a much higher number of Indian restaurants, the only reason I went for bagels in this article is because I’d already mentioned Indian restaurants in the pronunciation guide to food: https://pronunciationstudio.com/english-food/

  13. Rosario September 30, 2016 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    I want to punch the person who’s voice was ‘gastro pub’

    • Joseph Hudson October 1, 2016 at 8:11 am - Reply

      Thanks Rosario, you are not alone – it’s my voice!

  14. Anna Miell October 5, 2016 at 5:55 am - Reply

    So useful! Thank you. Please clear up one thing for me, how does one pronounce ‘Holborn’?

  15. Tony Bernardo October 6, 2016 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    Fantastic! 😉 I need more of this!!

  16. Alex October 24, 2016 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    A very useful guide! It is always a nightmare to tell a location to a cab driver correctly! Personally I fail with “Vaughan way”! 😀

  17. Shelly November 4, 2016 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Love this collection! Thank you!

  18. Jenny November 10, 2016 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    Joseph i’m from Gloucester the R is not silent!

  19. Piotr Grela November 11, 2016 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Thank you Joseph for your interesting work. I am going to buy your ebook. English is my second language and the most difficult for me is British, London pronunciation. I like phonetic symbols you use. Unfortunately I cannot find a decent dictionary with more sophisticated phonetic symbols. The most popular dictionaries use IPA. Although I am partial deaf 🙂 I noticed that you Brits pronounce a letter T in 5-6 different ways a e.g. tube, little, time, water in cockney. The sound Schwa is a nightmare for me. And finally I understand, that pronunciation Fulham and West Ham, where I live are quite different.

  20. Nina November 13, 2016 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    The way you say posh people pronounce flower reminds me of the way Mary Berry says layers which cracks me up every time. ‘lairs’

  21. Dylan November 21, 2016 at 10:25 am - Reply

    Greenwich is pronounced Grinnidge by locals – rhymes with spinach – even though the BBC insist on saying Grennidge.

  22. Krista Grym November 24, 2016 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    Streatham??

  23. Ness January 25, 2017 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    Hey, i think your phonetic transcription of Dalston might be wrong. I thought it was pronounced ‘dal’ with the a being a ‘u’ sound like in ‘fun’? I might be wrong though, i’m not a Londoner so not 100% sure!

  24. Paula February 21, 2017 at 12:50 am - Reply

    How about Dawlston as opposed to Dulston (Dalston). Perhaps it’s me, I’m a West Londoner…

  25. Steve March 11, 2017 at 1:27 am - Reply

    I’ve never heard the ‘h’ dropped in the middle of Rotherhithe when speaking with the standard RP English, only in working class/Cockney. You make it sound as though all Londoners (of which I’m one) pronounce it that way in a similar vein to how it’s always dropped in Balham or Clapham but that’s simply not the case. We also generally don’t use the Americanism ”burbs’ when referring to the suburbs…

  26. Sana khan April 2, 2017 at 10:49 am - Reply

    Marvelous!!

  27. Anthony April 15, 2017 at 8:18 am - Reply

    Holborn and Plaistow?

  28. Kay June 3, 2017 at 6:03 am - Reply

    Couldn’t stop laughing. Thanks for sharing this truth.

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