32 Popular Baby Names That Are Often Mispronounced

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Forget about deciding what is the best crib to buy or debating about whether you should paint the baby’s room dove gray or mint green. The biggest decision you have to make is deciding on a baby name. That birth certificate cannot be left blank. And with so many lovely names to choose from, including Game of Thrones characters, old-fashioned baby names, and Disney characters, it can be a tough to choice. While narrowing down the options, it can be a wise idea to consider popular baby names that are mispronounced.

Parents who give their kids unique names must realize that there will be inevitable questions and pronunciation corrections with their baby’s name. But, we might not take into consideration that there are some popular names that people frequently mess up. If you’re already passing on a tricky last name to your little one, you probably don’t want to give them a first name they will have to constantly correct. It can get old saying, “Actually, it is pronounced …” very quickly. Keep scrolling to see 32 popular baby names that are mispronounced a surprising amount.


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To pronounce the “s” or not to pronounce the “s,” that is the big question for many people who come across someone with the name Isla. You wouldn’t think that a short name with four letters could give people a lot of trouble, but Isla shows a seemingly simple name can leave some scratching their heads. It is a Scottish name and it is actually the name of a river. It means island, too. No, you do not pronounce the “s.” Nameberry states the correct pronunciation is “eye-la.” (Now you know how to say the actress’ name.) You want to get your pronunciation straight because the name’s popularity has shot up since 2005, according to BabyCenter.


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Let’s be real: Anything that has an “x” in it is difficult to say ”” and spell. The big debate is whether to pronounce the “X” or not. In the case of Xavier, the name is of Arabic, Basque origin, according to Nameberry and the variances in how it is said could relate to location. For instance, a popular American pronunciation is to say the “X” as in “EX-zay-vee-er.” The French version tends to drop the “X” sound so it is simply “ZAY-vee-er” or “ZAY-vee-ay.” Some might also take inspiration from Javier Bardem and want to say Xavier as “HAH-vee-ay.” Xavier is more popular than some might realize, too, which makes pronouncing it right key. The USA Social Security Administration (SSA) baby name list ranked it as #88 in 2018.


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Lucas has been a high-ranking name on the popular names list, which could account for why Luca is climbing in popularity. According to BabyCenter, Luca has spiked in popularity since 1996. If you want to pronounce it like “Luck-ah” we will stop you right there. This is an example of popular baby names that are mispronounced. Another twist is when the “u” in Luca is said more like a long “o” so it is “LOO-kah.” Baby Name Wizard points out that the name has an interesting history. It is “a cognate of Lucus, an Ecclesiastic Late Latin name thought to be a derivative of Lucius.” The name is likely of Greek origin.


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“G” is one of the letters in the alphabet that can mess people up with pronunciations. Gianna is the perfect example. Nameberry reports that it is a popular name of Italian origin meaning “the Lord is gracious.” It is the Latin feminization of John and the shorter version of Giovanna. Nameberry lists the pronunciation as “JAHN-ah.” But, a lot of people would say “Gee-ah-nuh” or “Jee-ah-nah.” The different pronunciations can be because of making the Italian name more Anglicized. But, don’t assume just because an English speaker named their daughter Gianna it is one of the latter options. People could have liked the ring of the other version.


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There are lots of people named Kristen. You probably had at least one in your school year when growing up and we are sure that you know another one now. So, you might be aware of how the name can get messed up. It is likely down to people not looking at the letters in the name correctly and/or knowing someone with a slightly different name. Kristen can turn into Kirsten so easily. And if you are called Kristen, it can be difficult to get the pronunciation of your name 100 percent perfect. Sometimes, people do not hear the difference between Kristen and Kirsten, meanwhile it will be very obvious to your ears. So, parents should thoughtfully consider how much minor pronunciation flubs will bother them and their kid.


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If you are named Sean, we bet that you have been called “seen” more than once. The mistake might have been in the early days of school. But, it can leave a lasting impression. This is something that parents would want to think about when coming up with baby names. Sean is an Irish name which is a variation on John. Twists can also include Seaghán, Shenan, and Sheanan which will totally throw most people off. Sean is typically pronounced like “Shawn” in American English, but in parts of the north of Ireland, it can be pronounced as “Shayne,” Shan,” or “Shen, as per Wikipedia.


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Madeline is a common name. There are the popular children’s books named after the character as well as the subsequent film. The name has also ranked in the top 100 most popular girls baby names in the USA Social Security Administration baby name list since 2000. But, that doesn’t mean the pronunciation is foolproof. Is it “Mad-e-LINE” or “Mad-e-LIN?” And do you make the first “e” a clear, separate syllable or do you sort of slur the whole thing? You might have a very definite idea, but another person might think the opposite. And some people could be thrown by Madeleine cookies and wanting to sound more French. More unique spellings like Madalyn and Madelyn could help make the pronunciation clearer ”” if you fall into the “Mad-e-LIN” camp.


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Elias, Elias, Elias, Elias, how do we pronounce you? It depends who you are talking to. The plethora of vowels in the name causes people to have slightly different takes on it. Some opt for a long “e” sound while others prefer the name said with a shorter “e.” Compare “El-ee-ahs” to “El-eye-ahs.” Some people even emphasize a “lee” in the middle of the name, as in “E-LEE-us.” The first letters can vary between an “el” or “ehl” sound and an “eeee.” The name is of Greek origin and it is a variation of Elijah, according to Nameberry. When in doubt, Eli is always a safe easy-to-pronounce nickname.


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We previously touched on Kirsten in relation to Kristen. But, Kirsten gets its own spot on the list because it is definitely not the same as Kristen. The name does change depending on whether the “i” or the “r” comes after the “k.” Yet, there are a lot of people who get a bit lazy with the English language and think they are one of the same. If you are a Kirsten and you are constantly called Kirsten, it can drive you up the bend. After all, that is not your name. It might seem like small potatoes to people on the outside, but take a second to put yourself in all the Kirstens’ shoes. That could be your daughter. And even when people know it’s Kirsten, there are some who emphasize a “KIER-sten” sound while others go “KUR-sten.”


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Does Leigh rhyme with sleigh or doesn’t it? Like lay? Or is it just a fancy spelling for Lee? There are people who would argue for each variation. And there is the school of thought that Leigh could be a different spelling for Leah. The common pronunciation is “Lee.” Think about Ashleigh is still “Ash-LEE.” Another fun fact is that Leigh can be a boys or girls’ name. It is more often seen as a girls’ name whereas we see Lee more for boys, but the unique spelling of the name might have more parents switching this up. Randomly, Leigh is an English name and it means pasture or meadow, according to Nameberry.


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Zoe, Zoey, Zooey, Zooie. Names with accents and names without accents. There are a number of different ways to spell the girls’ name. And there are a few ways that people say it. That is why it is one of the popular baby names that are mispronounced. Some people see a “zo” and they automatically want to pronounce it with an “ew” sound like “zoo.” And if the name doesn’t have an accent, some people treat the “e” or “ey” as silent. Nameberry confirms that the correct pronunciation is “zo-ee” for the Greek origin name. If you’re curious, Zoey is the most popular version. On the 2018 USA Social Security Administration’s popular baby names list it came in at #29. Zoe was #40.


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Noel has the vast majority of people thinking of Christmas, which means that they might be tempted to pronounce the name like Noël (No-ELLE). But, are you supposed to pronounce the name that way if it doesn’t have the accent? And you might be wondering whether parents want the name pronounced as if it had an accented “e” and they dropped the accent for spelling to make life easier? Decisions, decisions. Is it Noel that rhymes with Cole (NOLE) or is it the Christmas-y version and like the girls’ name Noelle? “Nole” is the preferred pronunciation, which is why some parents end up spelling it that way to avoid confusion. Those with a bit of drawl accent might end up making it sound more like “Nahwl.”


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You might be wondering what Nevaeh is doing on this list. It isn’t a name we would expect on a popular names list in comparison to things like Eva, Tara, and Sean. Well, Nevaeh came in at #85 on the USA Social Security Administration’s popular baby names list so we better make sure we know how to pronounce it before we meet a Nevaeh and butcher her name. Nevaeh is “heaven” spelled backwards. Nameberry reveals that it is popular with religious parents and has become more common after singer Paul Joshua “Sonny” Sandoval proposed reversing heaven for his daughter’s name. So, how exactly do you say it? “Nay-VAY-ee,” “NUH-vai-uh,” “Nay-va-lee,” and “Nev-a-ee” are various ways it has been said.


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Three simple letters, but not one clear pronunciation. Nameberry reports that Eva is a Hebrew name that means life. It is the Latin form of “Eve.” There really aren’t multiple ways to say “Eve,” but there are three common ways to pronounce Eva. Nameberry lists them as “Ee-va,” “Eh-va,” and “Ay-va.” Given that the vast majority of people do not speak Latin nowadays, it is up for debate what the “proper” version is. Parents can pick their favorite then be ready to tell everyone else how they prefer that “ev” to sound. You won’t be alone considering the Social Security Administration ranked Eva as the top #75 name for 2018.


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Louis was one of the old-fashioned names that might have been popular among people looking for distinctive names and/or hipster parents. Then little Prince Louis Arthur Charles was born in 2018 and it made people realize what a regal name it is. You know the popularity of the name is only going to keep increasing so get ready for the pronunciation challenges. It depends whether parents what to be more French about it and drop the “s” so it is said like to Louie (“Lu-EE”) or whether they want to be more Americanized and have it as a spin on Lewis (“LU-iss”). Because we know that you’re wondering, People reports that Kensington Palace sees Prince Louis’ name pronounced in the French manner.


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Yes, we couldn’t complete the list without bringing in another “K” name that can catch people out. Kristen and Kirsten already give people headaches, then we add Kristin into the mix. Girls that are named Kristin, can often get Kristen. But, the “i” changes the pronunciation on the end. If parents wanted their daughter to be named Kristen, they would have called her it. Instead, they wanted her to be called Kristin. Let us have a moment for everyone who has been involved in the confusion. And let us make a promise that we will look very carefully at the spelling of a name before we call them something that is sort of close, but not really their name.


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If you are named Stephan, you will undoubtedly be called Stephen/Steven at a number of occasions in your life. That is something for parents to consider. Nameberry reports that Stephan is a variation on Stephen which doesn’t help much because people could pronounce both names the same or differently. The variations are based on whether the “ph” is pronounced harder like a “f” as in Stefan or whether it is said as a “v,” like “Stev-an.” Once we get passed that debate, there is the question about the ending. The “an” is sometimes said with more of an “on” or “un” slant rather than a stronger “a.” You’ve gotta love the English language.


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You might think that there is only one way to pronounce this common name so you will be surprised when you hear people offering up different spins on Andrea. The middle is what accounts for the variations. Some people say it “An-DREE-a” while others opt for “An-DREY-a.” (Think about how Meryl Steep‘s character Miranda Priestly says it in The Devil Wears Prada.) BabyCenter reports that Andrea is the female version of Andrew, which means manly. It is an Anglo-Saxon name. Andrea’s popularity has declined slightly since 2000 according to SSA stats, but it still ranks in the top 150 girls’ names. We wonder if the slight pronunciation differences have anything to do with it…


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Nicola is such a pretty name, but it is worthy of a spot on the popular baby names that are mispronounced list. Some could say that the changes in how it is said depend on how much of a soda fan you are. Do you go for “Ni-COLA” or “Ni-CO-LA?” There is a difference between the two and three-syllable pronunciations. Then there is Nameberry‘s suggested pronunciation of “NICK-ah-la.” (Clearly they aren’t fans of the “cola” spin.) Furthermore, some pronounce the beginning of the word with a short “i” while others pronounce it with a longer “e,” as in “neeee.” No wonder some girls named Nicola tell people to just call them “Nicky.”


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You give people too many vowels and they are going to get confused. Or, they are going to pronounce the name how they want to pronounce it and try to avoid tongue twisters. The name Kaia has way more vowels than consonants and it is only a four-letter word. (For once it is not a bad one.) Baby Name Wizard reports that the name is of Hawaiian origin and it is derived from kai, which means the sea. (How pretty is that?) Additionally, it can have Maori and Greek connections. As for pronunciation, the website suggests “KIY-É™.” Nameberry likens it to rhyming with “lie-ah” as in “KY-a.” In addition to pronunciation problems, the name can also pose spelling challenges.


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Irish names can be tricky. They can mess you up even if you are an English speaker and even if you have descendants around that neck of the woods. The name Cillian is so often pronounced “SIL-i-an,” however, it is a version of Killian or Kilian which means that the “c” is pronounced like a strong “k,” as in “KIL-I-AN.” We can hear the “ahhhhhs” and “ohhhhs” from here. If you think that you are the only silly goose who didn’t know the correct pronunciation, you are definitely not alone. We guarantee that all the Cillians of the world have stories about the number of times their name has been said with a soft sound.


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If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will know exactly how to pronounce Hermione. Any confusion while reading the books was adorably cleared up when Hermione teaches Viktor Krum the correct way to say her name. It is wrong to assume that everyone is a Harry Potter fan and therefore knows how to pronounce the beautiful girls’ name. (Some busy adults and young kids might not have read the books yet.) The official Harry Potter way, according to J.K. Rowling in the book is “Her-my-oh-nee.” There are likely some people, like Viktor, who have called the name “Hermy-own.” Some also say “Her-MI-oh-nee” instead of “my” in the middle. Depending on your accent, you might drop the “h” at the start of then name.


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Why is it that some of the shortest names can be a source of such trouble? Take, Mia. It is just three letters yet we have two distinct pronunciation camps. There are those who pronounce it with a long “e” as in “MEE-a” and those who say it with a “y” like “MY-a.” One possible reason for the varying pronunciations could be that the name has different roots. Nameberry points out that “mia” is Italian for mine. In Scandinavia, Mia is the short form of Maria. You might feel a bit silly asking how to say a three letter word, but clarifying is a safer bet than making a mistake.


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So many letters. And so many vowels. Not to mention that everything is arranged in such a unique way. If you have ever read an attendance sheet and seen the name Siobhan on it, you might have stressed how exactly to say it. You might suspect there will be silent parts specifically there to trip you up. According to Baby Names of Ireland, it turns out that Siobhan is the Irish form of Joan meaning “God is gracious.” The pronunciation is simply “Shiv-awn.” Some people end up pronouncing it like the color, “cyan.” Other English spellings might make it easier to remember the correct way how to say the common name. They are Chevonne, Shevaun, and Shavon. We know some will want to pronounce the “b,” like “Sigh-o-bahn.”


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A lot of people hated spelling in school because of the tricky “ph.” Why couldn’t it just be “f?” The pesky “ph” can also make name pronunciation tricky, like in the case of Stephen. It leaves people unsure whether they are supposed to recall those f/ph grammar school rules and pronounce the name “Stef-en” or whether they should treat it as an alternative to Steven. And some people might pronounce it like Stephan/Stefan. There is no hard-and-fast rule on what is right. It really is down to the parents and person. When in doubt, it is always a safe move to ask.


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Tara rhymes with Sara, right? Right?! Well, that depends on who you ask. There are slight pronunciation tweaks to the name. Some say straight-up TAR-a, others say the name TEAR-a. And there are some that say TEH-ruh. It could have to do with where you were born and/or accents. Or, it could do with what version of the name people like the best or the one they were first exposed to. Don’t assume that your version is the one that the Tara in front of you likes to be called. All parents considering naming their daughter Tara should also have a clear idea which version they want to go with. And they should think about how they feel about other people tweaking the name.


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Some people could argue that we know how to pronounce “Joaquin” thanks to actor Joaquin Phoenix. However, you would have to hear the actor pronounce his name to know it for sure. And even then it might not be the way you interpret how to say the unique name. “WA-keen” is how the actor says it. The name has Spanish origins and it means “established by God,” says BabyCenter. Baby Name Wizard continues that the name is “derived from the Hebrew Jehoiakim, which is from Yehoyakim (God will establish, God gives strength).” The website suggests saying it like “hwah-KEEN.” And there are likely some people who pronounce the “J” and do their own thing and call it something like “J-oo-ah-quin” or “J-oo-ah-queen.”


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Graham can be a challenging name for kids to spell. It also has some pronunciation variations that kids and adults can get caught up in. Some folks pronounce Graham the exact same way as gram. Other people choose to highlight the spelling variances between the two words so they pronounce the “h” in Graham, as in “Gra-HAM.” The United States Social Security Administration popular baby names list shows that Graham has been steadily rising the list of top baby names. It has not cleared up the pronunciation differences so far. And there will probably continue to be people who prefer the name said one way over the other. Which version do you like the best?


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Similar to Mia, Maya can be added to the round-up of popular baby names that are mispronounced. In fact, Maya is sometimes said in the same way as Mia. And we have already discussed how “Mia” can be said a few different ways. Maya can also be pronounced “MAY-a,” “MY-a,” or even “ME-a.” The ending can change as much as the first part with some people saying the girls’ name with an “uh” ending as opposed to an “a.” Name mispronunciations do not seem to weaken its appeal. Maya took the #61 spot in the USA Social Security Administration top baby name list.


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There is a lot of overlap with Eva and Ava pronunciations. Some people treat them as the same name. BabyCenter points out that Ava is a variation on Eve. That accounts for some of the cross-over. (The website also ranks it as #3 in the most popular girls’ names for 2019.) Additionally, other people prefer to emphasize the first “A.” Even then there are some groups who say it as “AY-va” and others who pronounce the pretty name “AH-va.” Some dialects would also see a “vuh” ending as opposed to the stronger “a.” What is clear is that it is a palindrome, aka a word that is spelled the same backwards and forwards.


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Everyone should likely agree that Kyra is a very pretty name. What divides people into camps is how the name is correctly pronounced. Are you team “KEER-a” or team “KIR-a?” Or, are you one of the people who says “KY-RAH?” The beginning and the ending of the word can be said slightly different which is interesting considering the name is only four letters long. (Thank you, English.) The girls’ name can also be spelled Kira. And that can lead to multiple interpretations, too. Would you pronounce the version with the “i” differently from the version with the “y?” We’re getting philosophical now.


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You might recall seeing some headlines about Demi Lovato or Demi Moore “teaching” people to pronounce their shared first name. And that might have led you to question what you could have possibly being doing wrong when saying the seemingly simple name. Demi rhymes with “semi,” correct? There are some slight differences in how to say it. There is “DEH-me” or “DUH-me.” Fun fact: The name is of Greek origin and it is the shortened form of Demetria. Now that we know the shortened version can have varied pronunciations, we are glad that Demetria hasn’t skyrocketed in popularity ”” even if it is a very striking name.

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