An Interactive Guide To Pronouncing Vermont & Abenaki Place Names

Feb 11, 2021

Ever been called out for mispronouncing Calais, or Topsham? Or wondered how to say “Lake Champlain” in Abenaki? With your help, we’ve built an audio guide for that.

Our show is made for the ear! Hear all the pronunciations in a single, fun listen by playing the episode above. Or, explore the guide below.

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From Alburgh to Worcester, the Vermont map has some deceptively tricky town and city names.

“I’ve been listening to your podcast and I found out that I’ve been saying Montpelier wrong this whole time,” Samantha Spano, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, told Brave Little State.

With apologies to the French language, our state’s capital is not Mon-pell-yay — and it’s not the only place with an idiosyncratic Green Mountain pronunciation.

"In Rutland, we don't say our middle or final consonants," says VPR listener Liz. "So it’s 'Ruh-lin.'"

Granted, not everyone says their town's name in the same way. We heard from listener Kevin that the town of Bradford is most certainly pronounced "BRED-fud": "I grew up in 'BRED-fud,' as did my family for generations before." 

"[That's] a wonderful Vermont dialect," noted another listener, and Vermont native, Diana. "But most of us, I think, say 'BRAD-furd.' With the emphasis on 'BRAD', and 'ford' like 'furd.'"

Brave Little State, VPR’s people-powered journalism project, began thinking about local pronunciations while fielding this question from Samantha Spano: “What do I need to know about moving to Vermont?”

We do plan to answer Samantha’s question in full; keep an eye on our show’s podcast feed to hear the advice we’re compiling.

But in the meantime, we’ve been collecting town/city “pronouncers,” as we call them in radio, from listeners and VPR staffers alike.

The names of Vermont's cities and towns are relatively recent, of course. For thousands of years, before the arrival of European colonizers, the Abenaki lived here in Askaskwiwajoak (also known as the Green Mountains) — and they are still here.

So, we also reached out to members of the Abenaki community to learn more about the words in their language that describe the landscape, and their relationships with it.

We received a lot of help with both sets of names. Thank you/Wliwni!

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How to use this guide

By scrolling down, you'll find a list of Vermont and Abenaki place names. Each has an audio file you can play to hear the correct pronunciation.

Note that many town/city names have multiple pronunciations, depending on who’s saying them, and, in some cases, how long the speaker (or their family) has lived here. This guide may not capture every variation, but it will help you avoid the most egregious errors.

Further down, you'll also find our map, which has one layer for Vermont cities, towns and gores, and then another layer for Abenaki place names. We're adding pinned spots where you can click to hear the places and their pronunciations.

And lastly, we've included instructions near the bottom of this story for how you can contribute to this guide. 

Enjoy!

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Vermont place name pronunciations

Alburgh: AL(like pal)-burg

Ascutney: uh-SKUT-nee

Athens: AY(like hay)-thins

Averill: AY(like hay)-vrill

Barnard: BAR-nerd

Barnet: BAR-nit

Barre: BARE-eee

Beebe Plain: BEE-bee plane

Berkshire: BURK-shear OR BURK-shurr

Berlin: BURR-lin OR burr-LIN

Bomoseen: BOMB-uh-zeen

Bradford: BRAD-furd OR BRED-fud

Brattleboro: BRATTLE-boro

Brookline: BROOK-line

Calais: CAL-iss

Charlotte: shar-LOTT

Corinth: CUR-inth

Coventry: CAW-ven-tree

Fayston: FAY-stin

Goshen: GO-shin

Groton: GRAW-tin

Guildhall: GILL-hall

Irasburg: IRIS-burg

Middlebury: MIDDLE-berry

Montpelier: mawnt-PEEL-yer OR mont-PILL-yer

Orleans: or-LEANS

Peacham: PEACH-um

Pownal: POW-nul

Quechee: KWEE-chee

Rutland: RUH-lin

Sherbrooke: SURE-brook (English) OR share-BRUHK (Quebecois)

Tinmouth: TIN-mith

Topsham: TOPS-um

Townshend: TOWNZ-und

Vergennes: vurr-JENzz

Vermont: vurr-MAWH OR vurr-MAWNT

Vershire: VURR-shear

Westminster: WEST-min-stir OR WEST-minister

Whitingham: WHITE-ing-ham

Winooski/Winoski: wih-NOO(like moo)-skee (English)/WE-noo-skee (Abenaki, meaning onion land)

Wolcott: WOOL-kit

Worcester: WUH-stir

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Abenaki place name pronunciations

Askaskwiwajoak (the Green Mountains, Vermont): ahs-KAHS-skee-WA-dzo-AK

Kchikokw (great whirlpool; Bellows Falls): kit-see-KOHKW

Ndakinna (our land, original homeland of the Abenaki): en-DAH-kee-NAH

Ojihozo (the one who shaped himself, Rock Dunder): ode-zee-HOH-zoh

Pitawbagw (the waters between; Lake Champlain): BEE-tow(as in town)ah-BAHKW

Tmakwa (a beaver, the cutter; Jamaica; present day Abenaki community): TEH-mah-KWAH

Wantastegok (at the river where something is lost, Brattleboro): one-tah-STEH-gawk

The map

This is a work-in-progress! We will continue adding new pronouncers to the map.  

Help us expand the guide

We have big dreams of including all 255 Vermont cities, towns and gores in this guide, plus as many Abenaki names as we can, so if you see one missing, please help us!

You can do that a couple ways: send a voice memo to hello@bravelittlestate.org OR call the BLS hotline and leave a message: 802-552-4880. Please record your name, the pronunciation, any other tidbits — history, personal connections to the place, anything like that.

This is a long-term project, so add your voice when you can, and share it with anyone you think will enjoy it and/or benefit from some guidance.

Subscribe to Brave Little State for free, and never miss an episode:

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Thanks to all our listeners who shared their expertise for this guide: Aaron, Alisha, Bill, Casey, Chris, Diana, Emilie, Emmet, Franci, Haley, Jean, Kevin, Lacey, Liz, Mark, Matt, Morgan, Sally, and Shelby... and to VPR’s Abagael Giles, Anna Van Dine, Howard Weiss Tisman, John Dillon, Nina Keck and Peter Hirschfeld. We worked off a list first compiled by Jane Lindholm.

Special thanks to Jesse Bowman Bruchac and Rich Holschuh.

This episode was edited by Lynne McCrea, with engineering support from Peter Engisch. Our theme music is by Ty Gibbons, other music by Blue Dot Sessions.

Brave Little State is a production of Vermont Public Radio. We have support from VPR sustaining members. If you’re a fan of the show, you can make a gift at bravelittlestate.org/donate. We really can’t do this work without you.

You can sign up for our free newsletter here, and we are on Instagram and Twitter at @bravestatevt.

This post has been updated.