Celebrities with Hard-to-Pronounce Names

Pronouncing someone’s name can be tricky with spelling that’s different from the way it sounds. You might find yourself fumbling over these celebrities with hard-to-pronounce names.

In the same way, mispronunciation can come at a high price too.

The world-renowned brand Nike once drove away Stephen Curry with a whopping $14 billion sales to Under Armour. The reason? Nike’s executives mispronounced the second syllable of the basketball phenomenon’s name as ‘Steph-on’ during their marketing pitch meeting. In conclusion, if a simple mispronunciation like that resulted in a financial loss, imagine how more it impacts people who experience it on a daily basis.

So, keep your eyes peeled and check out our guide to pronouncing these celebrity names right!

 

Cillian

Pronunciation: KIHL-YaeN or K-LYaeN

Cheat tip: Kill-ee-an or Kill that ends with ian

Sharing the namesake is the award-winning Irish star of A Quiet Place (2018) Cillian Murphy. The actor is notably recognized for his decision to relocate his family to his home country, Ireland, and raise his children Irish.

This Celtic name is often mispronounced as ‘Seal-ian’. It was borne by the 7th-century Irish saints including St. Cillian who was martyred in Würzburg where a cathedral was named in his honor.

Djimon

Pronunciation: JHIHMAHN

Cheat tip: Disregard D, start with Ji, and add man

The Beninese-American actor and model Djimon Hounsou started his career through music videos. He’s known for portraying Korath the Pursuer in the Marvel films.

In West African, this name translates to ‘strong blood.’

 

Eva

Pronunciation: AY-Va

Cheat tip: A-Va with a long A

This biblical moniker shares a conundrum of its own. This three-letter name can be pronounced in more ways than you can think of. In American English, it is pronounced as IY-Vah; in Dutch, it’s EY-Vaa, EH-Faa in German, and EH-Vaa in Italian and Spanish.

The gorgeous American actress and entrepreneur Eva Mendes goes by ‘Ay-Va’ though it’s supposed to be ‘Eh-va.’

This name has Hebrew, Old Greek, and Germanic origins and means ‘alive, animal.’

 

Famke

Famke Janssen

Pronunciation: FOM-kuh

Cheat tip: Fom-ka

Famke Janssen began her career when she was handpicked by actor Bruce Willis in a shampoo commercial. She gained further recognition as the voice behind the ‘Dutch-language narration for the Studio Tram at Disney Parks’. In her guesting on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2016, she put to rest any confusion as to how to correctly pronounce her name. It’s ‘definitely not Funky, definitely not Fomka.’

This beautiful but hard-to-pronounce name is a diminutive of German names that include the element ‘fridu’ which stands for ‘peace, protection, and safety.

 

Ioan

Pronunciation: YO-an

Cheat tip: Yow-An

We couldn’t help but adore the Welsh star of Black Hawk Down (2001) Ioan Gruffudd for his ardor toward his often mispronounced birth name. ‘I’m determined not to lose my name. It’s who I am. It has neither aided my progress nor hampered it. It’s just who I am. My character… My culture and heritage is a very rich one. So what if it’s difficult for people to pronounce? We all learned how to say Schwarzenegger,’ he noted.

The bardic moniker is a derivative of the classic boy name, John, and the French and Slavic form of Yoan.

 

Liev

Pronunciation: Lee-Ev

Cheat tip: Forget live or leave, it’s Lee-Ev

If you think Liev Schreiber’s first name is bothersome to pronounce, think again. You only need to keep tabs of its two syllables: ‘Lee’ and ‘Ev’ and you’re in the clear.

This moniker means ‘heart of the lion’ in the Russian-Hebrew language.

 

Nikolaj

Pronunciation: NIHKAAL-AY

Cheat tip: Nee-ko-LaY

The first order of business: Lose the ‘J’. The Game of Thrones (2011) star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau said that in the US, it’s Nee-ko-LY COS-ter Wall-DOW. However, in Denmark, his surname is pronounced as Vall-DOW

This Old Greek moniker is predominantly used in Russian. Its anglicized form is Nicholas, which means ‘victor of the people.’

 

Rihanna

Pronunciation: Ri-ha-na

Cheat tip: Ree-Anna

It turned out that we have been pronouncing the phenomenal pop singer’s moniker incorrectly. Famously known for her middle name, the Umbrella (2007) introduced herself as ‘Ree-anna’ instead of what we’ve always thought of, ‘Ree-ah-na’ in a British Vogue tweet.

Her beautiful name means ‘sweet basil’ in Arabic.

 

Sade

Pronunciation: SHAA-Dey

Cheat tip: shar-DAY

Sorry to break it to you, but we have been incorrectly mouthing the Grammy-winning Nigerian songstress’ name Sade. This African-Yoruban is a contraction of the noble moniker Folosade (pronounced as FAHL-aa-SHaoaoDey-). It means ‘honor confers a crown.’

 

Theron

Pronunciation: Ther-in

Cheat tip: Not ‘throne’ nor ‘ther-own’ but ‘there-in’

South African and American actress Charlize Theron got her hirst Oscar playing a serial killer. Her surname doubles up as an endearing middle name for your little boy. Is it ‘there-in’ or ‘ther-own’? Finally, the actress shed light on her surname’s pronunciation. It’s actually, ‘there-in’ and pronounced as a single syllable.

Meaning ‘hunter’ in Old Greek, we think this moniker’s quite a catch that can double up as a middle name.

 

Zeljko

Pronunciation: ZHEL-koh

Cheat tip: Disregard the J—Zel-ko

Often cast as merciless authority figures, the Slovenian-born actor Zeljko Ivanek holds one of the most mispronounced monikers in the business. He revealed that his name is pronounced as ‘Zhel-ko’ in a television interview.

His Slovenian translates to ‘desiring peace.’

Zosia

Pronunciation: Zah-shah

Cheat tip: Rhymes with Sasha with a Z

Often mispronounced as ‘Zoh-see-ah,’ the hit series Girls’ (2012) star Zosia Mamet finally set it clear that her name should sound ‘Zah-shah.’ She recalled that the oddest misinterpretation of her moniker was when a barista called her out as ‘Soon-dra, Soon-dra!’

This Old Greek name that means wisdom is a familiar form of the beautiful Polish name Zofia.

 


No exemptions to the rule

There are three kinds of mispronouncers as noted by the educator Jennifer Gonzalez on her podcast. The ‘fumble mumblers’ who recognize that it is their mispronunciation that’s the problem and not your name. They are typically nervous but try to pronounce your name the best they can.

Next are the arrogant manglers. They are the oblivious ones who disregard nor even try to say your name correctly or not.

Last on the roll are the calibrators. They are the nicer ones who strive to slowly read your lips as you say it and try harder to pronounce it correctly.

If you struggle to pronounce names, always strive to be a calibrator.

Now, that you know how these celebrity names are pronounced, consider reading about why baby name pronunciation matters as you search for the perfect baby name. Find out if it’s better to go for an easy-to-pronounce name or not.