How To Pronounce Common Arizona Words

How to Say Common Words You May Hear in Phoenix

Gila Monster in Wickenburg, Arizona.
••• Gila Monster in Wickenburg, Arizona. Gila Monster Picture © Justin West, used with permission.

There are many words that have either Mexican or Indian influence here. Learning how to pronounce them will allow you to speak like a native Arizonan.

Eight Commonly Mispronounced Words in Arizona

  1. Phoenician - I am one, and you're trying to speak like one. Pronounced: fun-ee-shun. Common error: pronouncing the first syllable like it is a phone.
  2. Saguaro - large cactus, often with arms, found only in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Mexico. The saguaro flower is Arizona's state flower. Pronounced: suh-wah-roe. Common error: Pronouncing the word with a hard G.
  3. Cholla - a cactus. There are many different varieties. Don't get too close. Ouch! Pronounced: choy-ah. Common error: pronouncing the double L like the word ball.
  1. Ocotillo - a tall spiny cactus that gets red tips in the spring. Pronounced: oh-cat-tee-yo. Common error: pronouncing the double L like the word ball.
  2. Gila monster - a lizard, about two feet long when fully grown. Pronounced: hee-lah. Common error: pronouncing the first word with a hard G.
  3. Javelina - often mistaken for a wild pig, it is found in desert areas. It's a collared peccary (Pecari tajac). Don't try to make friends. Pronounced: have-a-leen-a. Common error: pronoucing the first letter J like the name Judy.
  1. Mesquite - Various shrubs or small trees. Popular wood for fireplaces, since it burns slowly and doesn't smoke. Pronounced: mess-keet. Common error: pronouncing the last syllable like it rhymes with the word white.
  2. Yucca - various types of desert plants, mostly with long pointy leaves. Pronounced: yuk-uh. Common error: pronouncing the first syllable to rhyme with the name Sue.


  1. Sometimes 'saguaro' is spelled 'sahuaro'. It's pronounced the same.
  2. Generally speaking, if you come across two 'L's in a row, they'll be pronounced like a 'Y' sound. In the case of 'saguaro' and 'Juan', the 'gu' and 'ju' are pronounced like a 'W'.
  3. Sometimes, when you come across a 'G' or 'J' it will be pronounced like an 'H'.

If you love Mexican food, but you aren't sure how to pronounce some of your favorite menu items, this guide will help with that!