My mother has a paper dictionary with the IPA pronunciation of very many placenames in the UK & Ireland. I think it's from the 1960s and she bought it when she studied English at university in The Netherlands. Is there an extensive online resource describing the pronunciation of placenames in the UK & Ireland?

For example, for Lough Beagh, I'm guessing something along the lines of /ˌlɒx ˈbeɪ/ in analogy with Lough Neagh, but analogies are an unreliable guide in placename pronunciation (in particular since Lough Beagh is apparently also known as Lough Veagh), so one really does need a complete list. Googling gives some results which appear untrustworthy; for example, pronouncenames.com says it is pronounced /nay/ but I find that hard to believe; I've never heard an open front unrounded vowel followed by a close front rounded vowel and it's very different from /'beɪ/, but perhaps pronouncenames.com by "nay" means there is no pronunciation available. Otherwise Google mostly lists articles with "X British place names hardest to pronounce" etc.

(Of course, many place names, including Lough Beagh, have Gaelic origins, which does not make it easier to figure out the pronunciation)

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    IMO, this is a bit of a hopeless task. You see, most Irish place-names are anglicised versions of the Irish name. This is tricky because 1. some phonetics from Irish don't exist in English 2. it's done inconsistently- sometimes it's based on the spelling and sometimes on the pronunciation (eg. the versions veagh and beagh, "bh" forms a "v" sound in Irish as there's no "v" in the Irish language). 3. There's different dialects - which explains 'bei and bay. 4. There's no consistency in any of this - to actually get a definite answer you would need to ask a local.
    – Niall
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 15:53
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    Pronunciation with /nay/ is probably a respelling. Since the Irish is Loch Ghleann Bheatha (Bh=v) it's most likely pronounced with a /v/. Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 15:54
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    Just to add, I'm not very familiar with IPA, but I think ˈbeɪ might be a little off. It should be a shorter last vowel sound. Vowels/syllables almost run into each other in Irish(/English spoken by Irish people).
    – Niall
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 16:08
  • @Niall Maybe it's less hopeless if we limit it to England? Wikipedia has quite a few pronunciations.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 18:43

1 Answer 1


Perhaps Wikipedia's lists are comprehensive enough, with several hundred in the UK:

If you work for the BBC you can consult its Pronunciation Unit, a department which specialises in names of people and places -- and they have a private database you can see in this video.

Otherwise you can refer to one of its published books pronunciations, which aren't online (excepting an older copy at archive.org)

  • G. M. Miller (editor) (1971). BBC pronouncing dictionary of British names. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-431125-2.
  • Pointon, G.E. (1983). BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-212976-7.
  • Pointon, G.E. (1990). BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192827456
  • Lena Olausson, Catherine Sangster, (2006) Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation, The Essential Handbook of the Spoken Word, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192807102 Amazon has some preview of the contents, you'll might be lucky with the place you're looking up.

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