How to Pronounce Common Arizona Words

Gila Monster, Arizona


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Across the state of Arizona, many locals use words that have either a Mexican or Indian influence. If you're new to the area or don't speak Spanish, you might be bewildered when it comes to unfamiliar terms like saguaro, cholla, Gila monster, and some of the other words that are in every native Arizonan's vocabulary.

Learn how to pronounce these unusual words of local lingo will allow you to smoothly speak like a native Arizonan.

How to Pronounce Phoenician

This word is used to describe someone who lives in Phoenix. You'll see it as part of business names and even on the namesake Scottsdale resort.

It's pronounced "fun-ee-shun." One Common error: pronouncing the first syllable like it is a phone.

How to Pronounce Saguaro

This large cactus, often with arms, is found only in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Mexico. The saguaro flower is Arizona's state flower

It's pronounced "suh-wah-roe." You don't pronounce the word with a hard "G."

How to Pronounce Cholla

Cholla is a common Arizona cactus of which there are many different varieties. Don't get too close. Ouch! 

It's pronounced "choy-ah." Common error: pronouncing the double L like the word ball.

How to Pronounce Ocotillo

Ocotillo is a tall, spiny cactus that gets red tips in the spring. It's pronounced "oh-cat-tee-yo."

Like "cholla," a common error is pronouncing the double L like the word ball.

How to Pronounce Gila Monster

This lizard is about two feet long when fully grown.

 It's pronounced "hee-lah;" you do not pronounce it with a hard "g."

How to Pronounce Javelina

Often mistaken for a wild pig, this animal is found in desert areas. It's a collared peccary (Pecari tajac). Don't try to make friends as the javelina can be fierce.

It's pronounced "have-a-leen-a." Common error: pronouncing the first letter "J" like the name Judy.

How to Pronounce Mesquite

These various shrubs or small trees are popular wood for fireplaces since it burns slowly and doesn't smoke.

Pronounce it "mess-keet." Do not pronounce the last syllable as it rhymes with the word "white."

How to Pronounce Yucca

Yucca is the name for various types of desert plants, mostly with long pointy leaves. 

Pronounce it as "yuk-uh." One common error is pronouncing the first syllable to rhyme with the name "Sue."

Tips for Pronunciation

  • Sometimes "saguaro" is spelled "sahuaro." It's pronounced the same.
  • In the case of 'saguaro' and 'Juan,' the 'gu' and 'ju' are pronounced like a 'W.'
  • Generally speaking, if you come across two 'L's in a row, they'll be pronounced like a 'Y' sound.
  • Sometimes, when you come across a 'G' or 'J' it will be pronounced like an 'H.'
  • There are amazing Mexican food options across Arizona. The menus are filled with delicious items like tomatillos (toh-mah-tee-yoh), quesadillas (cay-suh-dee-yuh,) and al-bon-dee-gus (al-bon-dee-gus), and more. To learn more about food and how to pronounce some of your favorite menu items check out this guide.
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