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. They mean well, but sometimes end up inadvertently 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 local language you are speaking.
Is it Mallorca or Majorca?
Everyone in Britain has met someone returning home after their summer vacation saying they just spent a week on "Mah-JOR-ka," only for someone else to fastidiously refer to it as "Mah-YOR-ka." Still, others might have read it with the double L and insisted it was "Mah-LOR-ka."
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. This is mostly due to the simple fact that there are letters that are not pronounced the same as in English. Plus, non-native speakers will sometimes often confuse Spanish pronunciation with that of other Romance languages such as Italian.
Then there is the fact that the local language in the Balearic Islands (where Mallorca/Majorca is situated) is Catalan, not Spanish, perhaps leading some people to think that one spelling is Spanish and one is Catalan (though it is not).
Which is correct, then? If you're speaking Spanish or Catalan, it's "Mah-YOR-ka" to reflect the local spelling, Mallorca When speaking English, it's perfectly acceptable to refer to the island by its translated name, Majorca ("Mah-JOR-ka").
How do you pronounce 'Barcelona'?
Many English speakers attempt to sound "more Spanish" by pronouncing the C in Barcelona as a "th" and saying "Bar-th-LO-na." If you're speaking Spanish, this pronunciation is perfectly correct.
But in Catalan (the co-official language of Catalonia, where Barcelona is found), the C is pronounced as an S. That being said, "Bar-SE-lona" is the correct Catalan pronunciation.
Incidentally, the common abbreviation "Barça" applies only to the football team. When abbreviating Barcelona, locals say "Barna" instead.
Seville or Sevilla?
Both spellings are correct.
- Sevilla is Spanish. It is pronounced "Se-BEE-ya," never "Se-VIL-a" with an L sound.
- 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 referred to as Sevilla and not Seville. However, keep in mind that 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.
What is the correct name for the Basque Country?
All spellings are correct.
- Euskadi, pronounced "eyu-SKA-dee," is the Basque name for the autonomous region in northern Spain.
- Euskal Herria, pronounced "eyu-SKAL eh-RREE-ah" with a trilled R, is the Basque name for the geographical region in northern Spain and small parts of southwest France.
- Basque Country is the English name for both of the above.
- País Vasco, pronounced "pay-EES VAH-sko," is the Spanish name for both of the above.
Is it Catalonia, Catalunya or Cataluña?
All three spellings are correct.
- Catalonia is English. It is pronounced how it looks: "Kah-tah-LO-neeyah."
- Catalunya is Catalan, the local language of Catalonia. It is pronounced how it looks: "Kah-tah-LOO-neeyah."
- Cataluña is Spanish. It is pronounced the same as Catalunya.
Obviously, as the English word exists, it should be written 'Catalonia' when writing in English. "Catalunya" and "Cataluña" would be wrong.
Is it Andalusia or Andalucía?
It depends on which language you are writing in.
- Andalucía is Spanish. It is pronounced "An-da-loo-SEE-a" by most who live in the south (i.e. in Andalusia itself) and "An-da-loo-THEE-a" by most who live in central and northern Spain.
- Andalusia is English. It is pronounced "An-da-loo-SEE-a."When speaking in English, it should always be written "Andalusia" and should never be lisped.
The Problem with using 'Andalucía' in English
Many newspapers and magazines have started writing 'Andalucía', presumably because they feel more exotic that way.
The problem here is which adjective do you use—the obvious answer is probably "Andalucian," but that is neither English nor Spanish. In Spanish, it would be andaluz and in English, it should be Andalusian.
See also: The Best Cities in Andalusia
Is it Minorca or Menorca?
Both spellings are correct:
- Minorca is English, pronounced "min-OR-ka."
- Menorca is Spanish and Catalan, pronounced "men-OR-ka" in Spanish and "man-OR-ka" in Catalan. However, this spelling is often (erroneously) used in English too.
Read more about Minorca
Is it Ibiza or Eivissa?
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, pronounced "eye-VEE-sa," 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 (plural: Playas, Platges) (beach, beaches)
- Santa Eulalia, Santa Eulària
Palma de Mallorca or La Palma?
Palma is a common place name in Spain and many popular tourist destinations in Spain are known as Palma, understandably causing confusion.
- Palma de Mallorca is, unsurprisingly, in Mallorca (one of the Balearic Islands). Often referred to simply 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 other Canary Islands. It is often referred to as "Las Palmas."