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Flinders Street Station in Melbourne at night with crowds of people.
Photograph: Unsplash/Gabriel Yahya

Melbourne has been declared the third most mispronounced place in Australia

Apparently the name of our home city is quite a mouthful for those who aren't in the know

Liv Condous
Written by
Liv Condous

Chances are if you're a Melburnian, you've heard it before and cringed: "Mel-born". The misguided attempt at pronouncing the name of our home city by a well-meaning but miseducated overseas visitor is jarring, to say the least. 

Whether it's your distant relative visiting the family, a star tennis player being interviewed at the Australian Open, a tourist wandering through Hosier Lane or a big-name overseas artist onstage at Marvel Stadium — many people have fallen prey to this rookie error. In fact, a new study has proven that it's a very common mistake, declaring Melbourne as one of the top three most mispronounced places in Australia. 

Preply, a language learning platform, recently published a list of the top 20 most mispronounced Australian place names using an analysis of Google search data to find out which places had the most travellers making a faux pas. Topping the list of confusing names was Cairns (we totally get it), and coming in second was our very own Prahran (which also isn't surprising – there are plenty of local suburb names that are tricky to say), while Melbourne landed in third on the list.

Admittedly, it does make sense that Americans have an extra tough time when trying to get a grasp of how the heck the Aussie accent works. Mainly because we pronounce the letter R in words totally differently, which explains why the top three places have caused foreigners some strife. To make things even more confusing, there's also a city called Melbourne in the American state of Florida, but it's pronounced differently. Plus, many people assume that the "bourne" in Melbourne is pronounced the same as the fictional character Jason Bourne — but no, we like to shake things up Down Under. 

And if you're reading this and you're confused, allow us to spell it out for you: "Mel-burn". When in doubt, you can opt for the colloquial version many locals use and simply call it “Melbs”, or use the Indigenous name "Naarm" (pronounced Narm) — and you'll fit right in. 

It turns out there are heaps of places in Australia that are tricky to say and some of them are kinda unexpected. But if we ever hear someone mistakenly say the name of our beloved city wrong, we'll simply politely let them know — after all, we do have a reputation as the friendliest city in the world to uphold. 

Here is the full list of the most mispronounced names in Australia: 

  1. Cairns: Correct: “CANS” Incorrect: “KERNS” or “KENS”
  2. Prahran: Correct: “PRAN” or “Pr–AAN” Incorrect: “Pr-AHN” or “PRA-RAN”
  3. Melbourne: Correct: “MEL-burn” or “MEL-ben” Incorrect: “MEL-BORN”
  4. Launceston: Correct: “LONN-ses-tun” Incorrect: “LAWN-ses-tun” or “LAWN-ston”
  5. Gloucester: Correct: “GLOSS-ter” Incorrect: “GLOW-kester” or “GLOUW-sester”
  6. Canberra: Correct: “CAN-bra” Incorrect: “CAN-berra”
  7. Balmain: Correct: “BAL-mane” Incorrect: “bal-MAH-n
  8. Ngunnawal: Correct: “NUN-nah-wol” Incorrect: “NGUN-uh-wawl”
  9. Warwick: Correct: “WAWR-ik” Incorrect: “WA-rick”
  10. Derby: Correct: “DER-be” Incorrect: “DAR-be”
  11. Orange: Correct: “ORR-inj” Incorrect “Ornj”
  12. Brisbane: Correct: “BRIZ-bn” Incorrect ::“brIHz-bAIn”
  13. Uluru: Correct: “OO-luh-roo” Incorrect: “oo-loo-roo”
  14. Coogee: Correct: “COULD-jee” Incorrect: “KOO-jee”
  15. Cygnet: Correct: “SIG-net” Incorrect: “"SIG-nuht"
  16. Bondi Beach: Correct: “BON-die Beach” Incorrect: “Bond-dee Beach”
  17. Adelaide: Correct: “AA-uh-laid” Incorrect: “AA-duh-lied”
  18. Kata Tjuta: Correct: “KAH-tah-choor-ta” Incorrect: “ka-tuh-joo-tuh”
  19. Manuka: Correct: “MAH-nah-kah” Incorrect: “maa-nuh-kuh”
  20. Geelong: Correct: “JH-long” Incorrect: “JEE-long”


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