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When you live in a city as culturally rich as San Francisco, it’s a given that you’ll come across some unusual words, including a handful of place names that might as well be tongue twisters to an English speaker. Here’s what everyone has pronounced wrong at least once in their tenure here—all wrapped up in a handy cheat sheet that you can bestow upon SF newbies.

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Gough san francisco mispronounced words

The wrong way: Go

The right way: Goff

Nope, it’s not like Van Gogh. It’s kind of like rough but with a G. And get this: It’s named after a milkman (Charles H. Gough) who was tasked with laying out the streets in the city’s Western Addition neighborhood.

The wrong way: Are-goo-el-oh

The right way: Are-gway-oh (although the Spanglish are-gwell-oh is more common)

This boulevard is named after California pioneer José Darío Argüello. Use the same pronunciation guide for Cabrillo and Vallejo. It’s Spanish 101, people.

duboce san francisco mispronounced words

The wrong way: Duh-bow-chee

The right way: Dew-bahs

Fun fact: The street used to be called Ridley before 1900. Now, both the street and park are named after Victor Donglain Duboce, a member of the Board of Supervisors and a colonel in the Spanish-American War.

The wrong way: Keer-nee

The right way: Ker-nee

A subtle but important difference. The street is generally assumed to be named after the first military governor of California under U.S. rule.


noe san francisco mispronounced words

The wrong way: No

The right way: No-ee

Just like Zoe or Chloe. The street and neighborhood are named after the last Mexican mayor of the city (then called Yerba Buena instead of San Francisco). 

Cesar Chavez
The wrong way: See-zer Sha-vez

The right way: Say-sar Cha-vez

The famous labor leader and civil-rights activist even gets his own state holiday in California, Colorado and Texas.

valencia san francisco mispronounced words

The wrong way: Vuh-len-cha

The right way: Vuh-len-see-ah

Don’t listen to what Siri or MUNI tell you. The popular stretch of shops and restaurants is pronounced just like the orange.

San Rafael 
The wrong way: San Raf-eye-el

The right way: San Ra-fell

Just accept it next time you head to this town across the Golden Gate.

precita san francisco mispronounced words

The wrong way: Press-it-ah

The right way: Press-eat-ah

Actually, we think either one goes for this area known for its murals, plus it’s a kid- and dog-friendly park.

Junipero Serra
The wrong way: June-i-pear-oh Sarah

The right way: You-ni-pear-oh or Hoo-ni-pear-o Serra

Spanish, Spanglish, American pronunciations... Honestly, anything goes for the mission-founding friar. Bonus points if you roll your R’s.

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