Pronunciation of the Names of Places in Arizona

Tlaquepaque in Sedona
Judy Hedding

When you come to Phoenix, there are certain words that are tough to pronounce, but if you say these correctly, everyone will surely think you're a native Arizonan.

Many of the names of Arizona cities and towns come from the Native American tribes and Latin American populations that established the region, but that doesn't mean that all of these names are pronounced according to their origin.

As a general rule, if the words have Spanish influence, as many do in Arizona, a "J" or a "G" is usually pronounced like an "H" and an "LL" is usually pronounced like a "Y". There are exceptions to this, though. For instance, when renting a villa, use the hard "LL" sound instead of the "Y"—or just ask for a large adjoining room if you aren't sure what to say!

Arizona Cities

If you find yourself exploring the area around Phoenix, you'll likely run into one of the many oddly-named towns that populate Arizona and might need to ask for directions to one of the smaller cities to visit one of the local tourist attractions.

Tempe, a city in the East Valley and home to Arizona State University, is a popular destination for Phoenix travelers, but did you know it's pronounced "tem-pee" instead of "tem-peh?" On the other hand, the neighboring city of Mesa, which is known for having a large Mormon population, is pronounced "may-suh."

Further south along the Mexican border, the towns of Ajo and Nogales are both also pronounced in a Spanish dialect. Ajo is pronounced "ah-ho" while Nogales, a popular day-trip destination from Phoenix for people who love to shop at the mercados or buy prescription drugs from just across the border, is pronounced "no-gah-iss."

Even some of the village and communities of the Phoenix area have names that are hard to pronounce. Ahwatukee, an upper-middle-class urban village in south Phoenix, is pronounced "ah-wuh-too-kee" while the Estrella community and airpark in the West Valley in Goodyear is pronounced "es-tray-uh." Meanwhile, Casa Grande, a city between Phoenix and Tucson, is pronounced in English as it is in Spanish: "kah-suh grand-eh."

Landmarks, Natural Features, and Attractions

Cities aren't the only destinations in Arizona named after Native American and Latino cultures, there are also a great number of landmarks, natural features like rivers, and area attractions with hard-to-pronounce names.

The Canyon de Chelly, a National Monument in northern Arizona, is pronounced "can-yun duh shay." Meanwhile, the Mogollon Rim, which is pronounced "mug-ee-yun," marks the southern border of the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona is a popular Phoenix day trip offering hiking, camping, and scenic drives through the Coconino National Forest ("co-co-see-no").

A popular rafting destination southeast of the Phoenix area, the Gila River, has an odd pronunciation due to its Native American (instead of Latino) origin: "hee-luh." Meanwhile, another Native American-named destination, in the area, Tlaquepaque, is a fun collection of shops in Sedona that's pronounced "tuh-la-kuh-pah-kee."

Also known as S.R. 143, a north-south road originating at the airport, the Hohokam Expressway shares the name for the stadium in Mesa (Hohokam Park) that serves as the Spring Training home of the Oakland Athletics. The Hohokam were Native Americans who lived in this region centuries ago, and both the expressway and stadium are pronounced as they would have been then: "ho-ho-kam."

Was this page helpful?