North Carolina Place Names.

I’m a sucker for unpredictable pronunciations of place names and have posted about them more than once (e.g., in 2003 and 2007), so I was delighted to run across the website North Carolina place names:

From the mountains to the coast, place names in North Carolina can be confusing. (Why don’t Rowan and Chowan rhyme?) Click on the map below to hear North Carolina county names pronounced by local authors Bland Simpson and Michael McFee. The list that follows it includes cities, towns, mountains, lakes, and more.

It is wonderful to have audio files for all these place names, especially to verify what looks impossible, e.g. Cajahs Mountain = KAY-JUH Mountain. Click and enjoy! (Via Joel at Far Outliers, where you’ll find a selection of the weirder ones.)


  1. During the recent NC flooding I watched a report on my local (DC area) news in which the reporter was talking about conditions in BYOO-FURT. I assumed this was the correct regional pronunciation of Beaufort, but according to the website it should be pronounced BO-FURT, which is what I would have guessed. Maybe the reporter was an out-of-towner making a bad guess.

    Edit: oh wait, now I realize the flooding was in SC, which has its own Beaufort. Perhaps they say it differently to distinguish between the two.

  2. What you describe the reporter using is the correct pronunciation for the South Carolina Beaufort. The SC town is also larger and is one of the locations in the Carolinas for which weather forecasts are frequently stated.

  3. The Beaufort wind force scale, however, is BO-furt; it was named after its inventor.

  4. According to Wikipedia, Beaufort, NC is /ˈboʊfərt/ and Beaufort, SC is /ˈbjuːfərt/. Oddly enough, the latter is named after Henry Somerset, 2nd Duke of Beaufort (1684–1714), but the British pronunciation now used for the dukedom of Beaufort is /ˈbəʊfət/. Perhaps it was pronounced like Beaulieu /ˈbjuːli/ 300+ years ago. But then the other Beaufort commemorates Henry Somerset-Scudamore, 3rd Duke of Beaufort, and was named in 1712, only one year later than its non-homophonous namesake. I have heard heard Beaumaris, Anglesey, pronounced both ways (though I think it’s always /bjuːˈmærɪs/ locally), so perhaps the pronunciation was simply variable at the time.

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