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How to pronounce "Chicago"?

I have 2 issues with it.

First is how to pronounce the "Ch" in "Chicago".

I have heard it pronounced as in "cheese", but also as in "ship" by the natives.

Second is how to pronounce the "a" in "Chicago".

SHould it be "a" as in "Albert" or "a" as in "I am"?

Are there any differences between AE and BE or other "accents"?

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    Wikipedia gives /ʃɪˈkɑːɡoʊ/, which sounds like a proper pronunciation to me. Natives reduce this in various ways; I pronounce it [ʃ(e)ˈkɑːɡoʊ], though in lazy pronunciation I barely pronounce the [g] or omit it entirely. (I grew up near Chicago.) – snailboat Jul 26 '13 at 13:24
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    "a" is pronounced the same in "Albert" and "I am" (although in AmE, the "a" can get colored slightly by the "l"). This is not the way it's pronounced in "Chicago". – Peter Shor Aug 13 '13 at 1:21
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Any good dictionary will provide you a pronunciation guide. Online dictionaries have an advantage over print editions: they can embed audio files for additional help.

Pronunciation guides list all of these as valid pronunciations:

  • /SHiˈkôgō, -ˈkägō/ (from ODO)
  • ʃəˈkɑgoʊ ; tʃɪˈkɔgoʊ (from Collins, American edition)
  • ʃɪˈkɑːɡəʊ (from Collins, British edition)

(If some those symbols are confusing to you, look here).

Anyhow, the "Ch" is almost invariably pronounced with an "Sh" sound, much like chagrin and champagne, although a few might use the traditional "Ch" sound, as at least one dictionary listed that as an alternate pronunciation.

As for the vowels, you may hear slight variations; regional accents may apply.

Probably the best place to answer a question like this one is Forvo, where you can hear numerous anglophones (in this case, 10) take a crack at letting you know how to pronounce the name of that Windy City.

  • Thanks, so basically it is pronounced like that because it is of French origin (e.g. like chauffeur, champagne)? If it was a pure English word it would be pronounced like "check" or "cheap"? – Derfder Jul 26 '13 at 10:38
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    @Derfder It's true, though it's not ultimately of French origin; see etymonline for details. – snailboat Jul 26 '13 at 12:48
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***I think the apt pronunciation would be - (shicago) cause The name "Chicago" is derived from a French rendering of the Native American word shikaakwa and this holds the word 'sh'.

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