Washington Placenames Pronunciation *1-3

*1Original content by Bob Bolton (Vancouver, Washington)
    with later additions by Fred Beavon.

*2Wordsmithed by Adam Helman.

*3Standard pronunciation symbols are not used
    because most readers are unfamiliar with them.
    A key to standard symbols is available here.

One of the most mispronounced placenames in Washington is Yakima, the county of Mount Adams. In the Portland media near my home, the TV and radio folks get it somewhat right, apparently because they've been told that the emphasis is on the YAK. But it comes out "YAK-i-muh" from most of them.

When helping people to pronounce Yakima, I always tell them that they already know how to pronounce it: think "Omaha", "Wichita", "Yakima". It's supposed to come out "YACK-i-MAW", slightly more emphasis on "YACK" than "MAW".

I was born in Wenatchee ("wuh-NA-chee" - short "A"), which is the county seat of Bonanza Peak's Chelan County. There always seems to be confusion on pronouncing Chelan, but the locals say it "shuh-LAN" (short "A").

Paul Klenke adds - "Methow" is pronounced with silent "h" and the syllable breaks at the "e" and "t" as in "Me-tow" where the "e" in "Me" sounds like the "e" in "meth" and the "tow" rhymes with "brow". But then, if you say it quick enough, Met-tow, Met-ow, and Me-tow all sound the same.

Other pronunciations related to county highpointing -

Washington: "WASHINGTON" (not WARSH-ing-tun!)

Spokane: "spo-KAN" (long "o", short "A")

Pend Oreille (county north of Spokane): "PON-dohr-AY" or "PON-der-AY"

Asotin (county in southeast corner of Washington): "uh-SOHT-n"

Okanogan (county in north central Washington): "oak-u-NAW-gun"

Whatcom (county of Mount Baker): "WHAWT-cum"

Skagit (just south of Whatcom County): "SKA-jit" (short "A")

Snohomish (county of Glacier Peak): "snow-HOME-ish"

Clallam (county in northwesternmost corner of 48 states): "CLALL-um" (short "A")

Wahkiakum (county in southwest Washington): "wuh-KI-uh-cum" (long "I")

Skamania (county of Mount Saint Helens): "skuh-MAY-nia"

Klickitat: "KLICK-i-tat"

Kittitas: "KITT-i-tass"

Other pronunciations unrelated to county highpointing -

Tieton: "tye'-e-tun"

Montesano: The third syllable is pronounced "sane". The "a" is long.

Cheney: "chee-nee"

Puyallup (location of the 2004 Highpointer Konvention): "pew-wallop"

Sequim: "squim"

Mazama: The second syllable is pronounced "zam", not "zahm" (as pronounced in Oregon).

Poulsbo: "pauls'-bo"

Colville: "call'-ville", not "coal-ville"

Shi Shi: "shy shy"

Padilla Bay: as in Spanish, the pair of l's are silent.

Guemes Island: two syllables, "GWEM' - es"

Lake Keechelus: "Catch - less", using two syllables, not three.

Copalis Beach: use long "o" and long "a".

Skamokawa: "ska-MOCK-away"

Tekoa: "TEE' - koh". Tekoa the town is at the base of Tekoa Mountain, the Whitman County highpoint.

Latah: "LAH' - tah"

Skookumchuck: "SKUK-um-chuck"

Swinomish: tribe members say "SWIN-uh-mish", rather than "swin-O-mish".

Semiahmoo: "seh-mee-AH-moo"

Tulalip: "too-LAY-lip"

Cle Elem: "clay-ELL-um"

Bangor: "Banger"

Steilacoom: "STILL-uh-cum"

Dosewallip: use four syllables.

Anacortes: City founder Amos Bowman named the town after his wife, Anna Curtis, but gave it some Spanish flair to go with the San Juan Islands. Pronounce her name, but with an "O" instead of a "U".)

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