11 Commonly Mispronounced Places in Australia

Beautiful Brisbane
Beautiful Brisbane | © Hayley Simpson
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer27 April 2018

Australians are known for their unconventional slang terms and relaxed way of speaking. They like to shorten a lot of everyday words, including the names of popular cities and towns. If you’re trying to understand an Australian, or want to learn the local lingo, these are Australia’s most commonly mispronounced places.

Melbourne (“Mel-bin”)

More than two million overseas tourists visit Melbourne annually. But most international visitors insist on pronouncing the world’s most liveable city as it’s spelled: “Mel-bourne”, like the Matt Damon movie trilogy. Locals cringe at this mispronunciation. To instantly feel like a Melbourne resident, rather than a visitor, pronounce the city like the locals do: “Mel-bin”.

Yarra River flowing through Melbourne's CBD | © Hayley Simpson

Mudgeeraba (“Mug-ra-bar”)

Mudgeeraba is a small suburb in the Gold Coast hinterland that’s remained largely untouched by tourism. It’s known for its 19th century-style village and heritage-listed buildings. One of them is the Wallaby Hotel, which is one of Australia’s oldest pubs. It’s said that the name Mudgeeraba is derived from an Indigenous Australian expression, but it certainly isn’t pronounced “Mud-jee-rar-bar”.

Brisbane (“Bris-bin”)

Similar to Melbourne’s shortening and relaxed pronunciation is Brisbane. Or should we say, “Bris-bin”, not “Bris-bane”. The capital of Queensland is nicknamed Brissy and Brisvegas (although the two cities have few similarities). It was named after Sir Thomas Brisbane, a noted astronomer and the governor of New South Wales at the time.

Beautiful Brisbane | © Hayley Simpson

Lalor (“Law-ler”)

Lalor is a suburb of Melbourne, located 18 kilometres (11 miles) from the city centre. It was named after Peter Lalor, who was a Eureka Stockade rebellion leader, and then a Victorian parliament member. Today, the suburb is one of Melbourne’s most multicultural. 64 percent of Lalor residents do not speak English as their first language, with Macedonian being the most dominant.

Canberra (“Can-bra”)

Unbeknownst to a lot of people, Canberra is Australia’s capital city. It’s home to the Australian Mint, the Australian Institute of Sport, Parliament House, and the Australian War Memorial. It was chosen as a compromise between Melbourne and Sydney. But instead of referring to the city as Canberra, Australians shortened it to sound like “Can-bra”.

Parliament House in Canberra | © Travellers Travel Photobook / Flickr

Mackay (“Mack-eye”)

Mackay is located on the tropical Queensland coast, and there’s been much contention about its correct pronunciation. Mackay is the closest city to both Airlie Beach and the wonderful Whitsundays, and was named after John Mackay. Apparently, his descendants corresponded with Mackay City Library in 2007, to confirm it is in fact pronounced “Mack-eye”, not “Mac-kay”.

Kata Tjuta (“Kah-tah Choor-ta”)

Kata Tjuta are also known as the Olgas. They’re a group of big, domed red rock formations in remote Australia. Located approximately 365 kilometres (227 miles) from Alice Springs, Kata Tjuta is a major tourist attraction in the Northern Territory as it’s close to Uluru. Kata Tjuta is an Aboriginal Australian word, meaning “many heads”.

Kata Tjuta | © Martin7d2 / Flickr

Cairns (“Cans”)

Cairns was named after William Wellington Cairns, who was the governor of Queensland from 1875 to 1877. The unusual pronunciation of Cairns as “cans” has confused visitors for decades. Cairns is actually the fourth most popular destination for international tourists in Australia, behind Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. People flock to Cairns as it’s dubbed the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s seven natural wonders.

Launceston (“Lon-ses-tin”)

Launceston is a Tasmanian city that’s commonly mispronounced by both Australian residents and international visitors. Although many people want to say “Lawn-ceston”, it is in fact pronounced “Lon-ses-tin”. Like many places in Australia, it was named after a town in the United Kingdom. In this case, New South Wales Governor, Captain Philip Gidley King, was born in Launceston in Cornwall. As one of Australia’s oldest cities, Launceston is home to many historic buildings.

Historic Launceston's main street | © Martin Howard / Flickr

Fleurieu (“Floo-ree-oh”) Peninsula

Located in South Australia, the Fleurieu Peninsula was named by French explorer, Nicolas Baudin in 1802. He named it in honour of fellow French explorer and hydrographer, Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu. Hence, it’s not uncommon for both Australians and international visitors to mispronounce the French name. People visit the Fleurieu Peninsula for its beautiful surf beaches, and its ferry to Kangaroo Island.

Jervis (“Jar-vis”) Bay

Jervis Bay is located on New South Wales’ South Coast. It’s a popular tourist destination for both domestic and international visitors, as its beaches are said to be home to the world’s whitest sand. Lieutenant Richard Bowen named Jervis Bay in 1791 after Admiral John Jervis, who he had served under.

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