How to Say Frequently Mispronounced Places in Spain

Don't make these common mistakes!

Spanish place names often have English translations, and may also have Catalan, Basque or Galician names too. And then there are the foreign travelers who insist on using the Spanish name for a city when speaking in English, thus confusing matters more.

Below you'll find some of the most common confusing place names in Spain with the correct way for you to say the place in whichever language you are speaking.

  • 01 of 09

    Is it Mallorca or Majorca?

    View of Mallorca. Or is it Majorca?
    ••• View of Mallorca. Or is it Majorca?. Kim/Creative Commons

    Everyone in Britain has met someone returning home after their summer vacation saying they just spent a week on 'Mah-jork-a', only for someone else to fastidiously refer to it as 'Mah-york-a'. Still, others might have read it with the double-l and insisted it was 'Mah-lork-a'.

    So, to put an end to office debates here's the bottom line on how to pronounce this island name and the correct spelling in English, Spanish, and Catalan.

    Spanish pronunciation can be confusing to visitors to the country. There are letters that are not pronounced the same as in English. Plus, there seems to be some confusion between Italian and Spanish pronunciation (I've seen a commercial for a British supermarket where they pronounce 'chorizo' (which should be 'choh-ree-tho' or 'choh-ree-so) as if it is Italian ('koh-rit-so').

    Then there is the fact that the local language in the Balearic Islands (where Mallorca/Majorca is situated) is Catalan, not...MORE Spanish, perhaps leading some people to think that one spelling is Spanish and one is Catalan (though it is not).

  • 02 of 09

    How do you pronounce 'Barcelona'?

    ••• Emreturanphoto/Getty Images

    Many English speakers attempt to sound 'more Spanish' by pronouncing the 'c' in Barcelona as a 'th' and saying 'Bar-the-lona'. But in Catalan (the language of Catalonia, where Barcelona is found), the 'c' is pronounced as a 's' - so 'Bar-se-lona' is the correct pronunciation.

    Incidentally, the abbreviation 'Barça' applies only to the football team. When abbreviating Barcelona, locals say 'Barna' instead.

  • 03 of 09

    Seville or Sevilla?

    Seville Bullring. Plaza de Toros de Sevilla in Spanish. Don't confuse your languages!
    ••• Seville Bullring. Plaza de Toros de Sevilla in Spanish. Don't confuse your languages!. Image: Nacho Facello/Creative Commons (Some Rights Reserved)

    Both spellings are correct:

    • Sevilla is Spanish. It is pronounced 'Se-bi-ya', never 'Se-vil-a'.
    • Seville is English. It is pronounced ' Se-vil'. When speaking in English, this pronunciation is the only acceptable pronunciation. 

    To say 'Sevilla' in English is like pronouncing Paris as 'Paree' or Rome as 'Roma' and can come across as pretentious.

    What's Seville's Football Team Called?

    In English, the Seville football team, is usually Sevilla and not Seville, however foreign football team names in English is a black art and even the revered BBC confuse themselves, using the English 'Bayern Munich' (rather than the German 'Bayern München') but using the Spanish 'Sevilla' instead of the English 'Seville'. Decide for yourself what's right!

    Read more about Soccer in Spain.

  • 04 of 09

    What is the correct name for the Basque Country?

    The Guggenheim in Bilbao in the Basque Country
    ••• The Guggenheim in Bilbao in the Basque Country. Andrea Ciambra/Creative Commons

     All spellings are correct.

    • Euskadi The Basque name for the autonomous region in northern Spain.
    • Euskal Herria The Basque name for the geographical region in northern Spain and small parts of southwest France.
    • Basque Country The English name for both of the above.
    • Pais Vasco The Spanish name for both of the above.

    Also, be aware that San Sebastian in Basque is called 'Donostia' and Bilbao is known as Bilbo.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Is it Catalonia, Catalunya or Cataluña?

    Girona
    ••• Girona. Andrew Moore/Creative Commons

    All three spellings are correct:

    • Catalonia is English. It is pronounced how it looks.
    • Catalunya is Catalan, the local language of Catalonia. It is pronounced how it looks.
    • Cataluña is Spanish. It is pronounced like 'Catalunya'.

    Obviously, as the English word exists, it should be written 'Catalonia' when writing in English. 'Catalunya' and 'Cataluña' would be wrong.

  • 06 of 09

    Is it Andalusia or Andalucía?

    Teas in Granada
    ••• Teas in Granada. (c) Damian Corrigan

    It depends on which language you are writing in.

    • Andalucía is Spanish. It is pronounced "And-a-loo-see-a" by most who live in the south (i.e. in Andalusia) and "And-a-loo-thee-a" by most who live in central and northern Spain.
    • Andalusia is English. It is pronounced "And-a-loo-see-a".

      When speaking in English, it should always be written 'Andalusia' and should never be lisped. Adding such an affectation in English sounds pretentious. You wouldn't pronounce 'Paris' as 'Par-ee', 'Berlin' like there's a 'bear' in there or Munich as 'Munchen', would you?

    The Problem with using 'Andalucía' in English

    Many newspapers and magazines have started writing 'Andalucia', presumably because they feel more exotic that way.

    The problem here is which adjective do you use - probably 'Andalucian', but that is neither English nor Spanish. In Spanish, it would be Andaluz and in English, it should be...MORE Andalusian.

    See also: The Best Cities in Andalusia

  • 07 of 09

    Is it Minorca or Menorca?

    Visiting Menorca
    ••• Visiting Menorca. Image: lhourahane

    Both spellings are correct:

    • Minorca is English
    • Menorca is Spanish and Catalan, though it is often (erroneously) used in English too.

    Read more about Minorca

  • 08 of 09

    Is it Ibiza or Eivissa?

    Sunset in Ibiza in summer
    ••• Sunset in Ibiza in summer. (c) Damian Corrigan

    There are two correct spellings for this Balearic Island.

    • Ibiza is Spanish and English. In Spanish, it should be pronounced 'Ee-bee-tha'. In English, it can be pronounced 'Eye-bee-tha' but 'Ee-bee-tha' is acceptable too if a little pretentious. Under no circumstances should it be pronounced as if it rhymes with 'eat pizza' (unless you are in the 90s pop group the Vengaboys).
    • Eivissa is Catalan.

    Other names and words you may see spelled differently in Ibiza depending on if it is in Spanish or Catalan include (Spanish first, Catalan second): 

    • Ibiza, Eivissa
    • San Antonio, Sant Antoni de Portmany
    • Playa, Platja (Playas, Platjes) (beach, beaches)
    • Santa Eulalia, Santa Eulària
    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Palma de Mallorca or La Palma?

    ••• Images Etc Ltd/Getty Images

     Palma is a common place name in Spain and many popular tourist destinations in Spain are known as Palma.

    • Palma de Mallorca is, unsurprisingly, in Mallorca (one of the Balearic Islands). Often referred to as 'Palma'.
    • La Palma is one of the Canary Islands. Its full name is San Miguel de La Palma, though it is rarely called that.
    • Santa Cruz de la Palma is the capital of the island of La Palma. Confusingly, it is often referred to as 'La Palma'.
    • Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the capital of Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands. It is often referred to as 'Las Palmas'.