5 Minnesota Towns You’re Pronouncing Wrong

It may come as a surprise to visitors (and even many Minnesotans) that even the most simple sounding town names are pronounced differently by the locals. And while in the past I have written about great Minnesota town names, and the extremely uncreative ones, here are 6 towns in our great state that you are probably pronouncing wrong.

Winona5. Winona, MN – A college town in the southeast region along the Mississippi River, Winona, MN is the namesake of the actress Winona Ryder who was born here in 1971.  And while many think this one is pronounced “WHY-nona,” it actually is pronounced “WUH-nona.”


4. Faribault, MN – A very historic town south of Minneapolis about an hour, Faribault’s name comes from Alexander Faribault, was the son of Jean-Baptiste Faribault, a French-Canadian fur trader.  Since the word Faribault is French in nature, what reads like “Fair-uh-balt,” this one is actually “FAIR-boh.”NP

3. New Prague, MN – Much like New Germany, New Ulm, or New London (all in Minnesota), New Prague was named after European immigrants who settled the area in the late 1800’s.  However, locals will be quick to tell you that the “Prague” part rhymes with “bag,”  not “bog,” like the capital city of the Czech Republic.

Gaylord2. Gaylord, MN – Gaylord is a town of about 2300 people, and the county seat of Sibley County (southwest of the Twin Cities).  And while it seems simple enough, folks ’round those parts commonly pronounce this one “GAIL-erd.”DSC_0386

1. Cosmos, MN –  Cosmos is a cosmic-themed little town on the prairie, with streets named “Milky Way Street.” and “Gemini Ave,” and a galactic scene of spaceships and planets on its water tower. But puzzlingly enough, the locals pronounce it “COZ-mus.”

Honorable Mentions: Milan, MN (locals say MY-lin), Leroy, MN (Luh-ROY), and Miesville, MN (MEES-ville).

Bonus: 5 More Towns You’re Pronouncing Wrong!

**Editor’s Note:  Many locals of Leroy, MN, pointed out that locals pronounce it LEE-roy, and the out-of-towners often say “Luh-ROY.”

93 thoughts on “5 Minnesota Towns You’re Pronouncing Wrong

    • I’d have to disagree with you – Whenever I hear it pronounced by the locals, it always more closely represents a rhyme with “bag”.. the good news though, is that as a Minnesotan I’ve never heard anyone pronounce it like the city in the Czech Republic 😉

      • Well I have relatives that live and work there and every time I have heard it said, it rhymes with egg. Also, on occasion there some people there that pronounce it like the Czech city.

      • Well, it doesn’t rhyme with “bag” if you’re not using a Minnesotan accent. It’s the same “a” sound as in the beginning of “cake,” which some Minnesotans use for “flag,” “bag,” “tag,” et cetera. Most Americans would pronounce those words with the “a” in “apple.”

          • Many readers have mentioned SHakopee should be on the list. I have lived in MN my whole life and have only heard it pronounced the correct way. How else have you heard it pronounced?

          • I would agree with Shakopee being on this list. My wife moved to Minnesota from elsewhere and thinks that it’s strange the way it’s pronounced.

    • Most Minnesotas and even Wisconsin folks can get Wa-ba-sha right… but to everyone else we are known to live in Wa-BASH-a..

  1. I’m from Gaylord and Gail-erd is 100% totally accurate! You can always tell when someone isn’t from town. Another good one is Glencoe. It’s not Glen-coe it’s Glenc-oe

    • I use to live in Leroy back in 1930-1960s and all the locals would pronounce it Luh-Roy, not Lee-Roy. I’m so mad that all these current citizens of Leroy are currently pronouncing the name of the town incorrectly. You should study the history of the town before claiming you know how it is propery pronounced just because you now live there. Hope everyone in Luh-Roy has a nice summer.

      • things change over time and my mother with her two brothers was born and raised there and my grandpa farmed there for 90 years and my great grandpa gave the land for the Lutheran church and they all pronounce it lee not luh even tho the Norwegian pronunciation is luh change is a occurring thing

  2. I thought Winona was Win-Oh-Nuh and another one I’ve been hearing is Waseca… It’s not Wuh-see-cuh, it’s Wah-see-cuh

  3. As a born & raised Minnesotan, I can tell you the main reason these towns are not pronounced as you might think they would is because of our sexy Minnesotan accent, dontcha know!

  4. I’ve always heard people say Le-Roy, but there is a town few miles north of there called Ostrander, people not from around here say ah-strander as in ostrich but it’s oh–strander as in oh crap we’re stranded

  5. then there is Waseca..ever heard it pronounced Wass sa ka? and Mankato, ma kot o, I did many times when calling in catalog orders for jcp

    • My maiden name is Ostrander and believe me our name has been missed pronounced just like your town. As you mentioned it’s O, with a long ‘O’ sound.

    • yep that one just kills me too, I can always tell when someone has not been around Santiago very long. Years ago a local DJ from WQPM radio was trying to get a phone number for some one in Santiago from directory assistance and she connected him to San Diego, CA. (That’s a true story!)

    • I have seen signs for Santiago but never been there and I didn’t know it was pronounced like San Diego. Might have to include that on the sequel!

  6. Another commonly mis-pronounced is Perham, Mn. I called it Per-Ham. Until I went to the chocolate factory and was informed its Pur-rum!

    • I worked in Perham for several years and people from out-state would never get it right. Might have to include Perham on the upcoming part 2 !

    • I wonder if the “pur-um” pronunciation has some English background. With towns and cities in England ending in “ham,” the “h” is silent (like in Nottingham).

    • This former Minnesotan now lives in Maine, where we have Kennebec County and a river by the same name. Pronounced “KEN-uh-beck”, unlike the similar word in MN. They come from related indigenous languages, Ojibwe and Penobscot, both Algonquian in origin.

  7. New Prauge is New Prage with a long a. My wife and 2 children were born in the hospital and my wife’s parent lived in the area for 90 years.

  8. Ely is pronounced “EE-lee,” not “EE-lie” or “EL-ee.” Fayal (a township south of Eveleth) is usually and comically pronounced like “fail.” Biwabik is “bye-WAH-bick” or “buh-WAH-bick.” Buyck, a tiny area east of Orr, is pronounced “bike.” They’ve even strapped a child’s bicycle to the welcome sign. Eveleth, crazy as it may sound, is not pronounced “eleventh.”

    • I spoke with a few folks in Elba who confirmed some of the older generations around there pronounce it L-B instead El-ba. Never understood that either.

  9. Winona is definently NOT named after Winona Ryder… I can’t believe they wrote that on here without looking up the facts. The city is named after a native american princess.

  10. I have lived in MN for 74 years and it is all new to me. Very interesting.
    Had not heard all the different pronunciations.

  11. Add Cokato to the list. It’s “coh-KAY-toh,” not “COCK-ah-too.”

    The other problem that comes up when I say, “Cokato”: “Oh, sure…Mankato.” No, not Mankato. Two very different towns.

    Re: Delano. People emphasize the wrong syllable. It’s DEL-a-no, not del-AH-no.

  12. I love when out of state folks call my flower shop to deliver flowers to Osakis…it never fails they pronounce it Oh-SOCK-us.

  13. I’ve got a few from here in south central. Granada. not pronounced like the island.. grah nah dah… we say Gruh NAY Duh. and Ceylon… not pronounced say lone… it’s SEE lon. I saw alex trebec mispronounce those on jeopardy and they don’t even make the list? haha

  14. How many people know that Mankato was actually supposed to be Mahkato… some Indian name, but the registrar mistook the “h” for an “n” and the rest is history.

  15. I lived in Winona and cringed every time someone ( usually from Wisconsin ) would say: “WY- nona”. I would reply: “Do you say “WY-sconsin?”

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