Try to Pronounce the Names of These 12 Michigan Destinations (#7 is a Tongue Twister!)

Have you ever wondered how Michigan was named Michigan? Before colonization, the now Great Lakes State was home to at least eight Native American tribes throughout the land, one of which being the Ojibwe Indians. The Ojibwe were the first people to openly interact with the French in Michigan, trading furs and knowledge of the area for guns and goods. Through translation, the state of Michigan was named after the Ojibwe Indian word “Michigama,” which means “great lake” or “land surrounded by water.”

With this in mind, we invite you to take a look at some other uniquely-named destinations found across the Great Lakes State.


1. Mackinac Island. This is an easy one. If you’re a native Michigander, you know that this popular Northern Michigan destination is correctly pronounced “Mackinaw Island”. Tourists have visited Mackinac Island in the summers to escape the heat of the cities for hundreds of years. Condé Nast Traveler magazine added Mackinac Island to its “World’s Best” list as one of the top 10 islands in the world. In December 2007 National Geographic Traveler magazine named Mackinac Island as the top island destination in the United States and 8th in the world. Don’t forget the fudge!

2. Tahquamenon. One of Michigan’s most popular waterfalls, Tahquamenon Falls, can be found in the Upper Peninsula in appropriately named Paradise, MI. If you’ve ever wondered how to correctly pronounce the falls, it rhymes with “phenomenon.”

3. Ypsilanti. Ip-sill-ann-tee, or Ypsi to those who know it well, is located just down the road from Ann Arbor. Home to Eastern Michigan University, the city was originally a trading post set up in 1809 and called Woodruff’s Grove after Major Thomas Woodruff. The name was later changed to Ypsilanti in 1829 in honor of Demetrius Ypsilanti. Ypsilanti was a hero in the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire.

4. Menominee.  Menominee (Men-om-in-e) is located at the gateway between the Upper Peninsula and Northeastern Wisconsin. This Pure Michigan destination gets its name from a regional Native American tribe known as the Menominee, which translates into “Wild Rice.” The area was originally the home of the Menominee Indian Tribe, who now have a reservation along Wolf River in Northern Wisconsin. Visitors can enjoy hunting, fishing, camping, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hiking and much more.


 5. Sault Ste. Marie. The Soo! If you’ve traveled north of the Mackinac Bridge, you’ve probably passed through the town of Soo-Saynt-Ma-Ree. The Soo is home to many Michigan treasures, such as the Soo Locks and Lake Superior State University. If you do venture north, you’ll discover the rushing waterfalls that give way to majestic forests, rocky coastlines leading to picturesque lighthouses and engineering feats of man stand side-by-side with small fishing skiffs and buckets of bait.

 6. Hamtramck. Hamtramck (Ham-tram-ick) grew into a Polish enclave between 1910 and 1920 when large number of Polish laborers arrived seeking employment. Today, Hamtramck includes many different ethnic groups, but maintains its Polish identify as can be found in the shops, restaurants and bakeries in the area with a pierogi and a paczki.


 7. Kitch-iti-kipi. Pronounced Kitch-i-tee-ki-pee (say that five times fast!) is another U.P. gem located in scenic Palms Book State Park. Known as “The Big Spring”, Michigan’s largest freshwater spring is two hundred feet across and 40 feet deep. Over 10,000 gallons a minute gush from fissures in the underlying limestone as the flow continues throughout the year at a constant 45 degree Fahrenheit. By means of a self-operated observation raft, visitors are guided to vantage points overlooking fascinating underwater features and fantasies.

8. Dowagiac. The Grand Old City of southwestern Michigan. Dowagiac, pronounced doe-wah-jack, is nestled within the Fruit Belt, the city is surrounded by rolling farmlands and abundant orchards.  Enjoy fishing, canoeing, boating, water skiing and ice fishing.  Be sure to tour the historic train depot, too

9. Charlotte. If you’ve been pronouncing Charlotte like the city in North Carolina, guess again! Shar-lot (Not Char-lit) is located southwest of Lansing and home to some of the most beautiful historical buildings in Michigan. Charlotte annually welcomes visitors to experience the Eaton County Fair in mid-July and the pioneer spirit of the ever-popular Frontier Days in early September.

10. Bete Grise. Beet grease, you say? Not quite! Bay-dee-gree can be found southwest of Copper Harbor on Keweenaw County’s south shore. Bete Grise (French for “Grey Beast”) has a beautiful white sand beach as well as a wetland preserve stretching along Lake Superior.

11. Baraga. Bare-uh-gah is named after Bishop Frederick Baraga, located in Baraga County in the Western Upper Peninsula. Check out the statue of Bishop Baraga, which stands 35 feet tall and weighs four tons, holding a cross (7 feet high) and snowshoes (26 feet long.)  It floats on a cloud of stainless steel, supported by five laminated wood beams representing Baraga’s five major missions.


12. Isle Royale. Last but not least, Isle Royal (Not roy-ale!) Wolves and moose, the wild North Woods forest, ever-changing weather and a cool climate, and the crystal clear waters and rugged shoreline of Lake Superior characterize Isle Royale’s National Park.  Roadless Isle Royale is accessible only by boat or float plane.  This is a Pure Michigan destination fit for royalty – if you love the outdoors!

Do you have any Michigan tongue-twisters to add to our list? Tell us below!

107 thoughts on “Try to Pronounce the Names of These 12 Michigan Destinations (#7 is a Tongue Twister!)

  1. #6 “…bakeries in the area with a pierogi and a paczki.”

    Paczki is plural. Paczek is singular. And they’re damn good! So are Pierogis.

  2. funny one for me, was Kalkaska, I’m from a town near Cincinnati and we pronounced it Call Coss ka and stood corrected by the natives, as it being pronounced Cow cass ka, lol

  3. I’ve always heard it pronounced:
    I’m not guaranteeing that’s correct, just what I’ve always heard.

  4. Many of the older residents would beg to differ. Or, like my French-Canadian grandparents, they might pronounce it “Porch-urn”. Not right, I know, but they lived there for years and with their accents, that’s how it came out.

  5. How DO you pronounce Topinobee. I never know which syllable to emphasize? And I’ve been driving past it for 40 years now…

  6. Onondaga, located on the Grand River between Jackson and Eaton Rapids.

    Being a Michigander Transplant to Florida, I got them all correct.

  7. I’ve made my home in New Mexico for the last 20 years, but growing up in Michigan certainly has given me a different ‘accent’ down here. Root or rout; either is OK. Creek still sounds best to me.

  8. Nah I’m from Michigan and would use the word creek. Now, there was some confusion on the pronunciation of Route though.

  9. Here’s one. Novi (pronounced Nov-eye, not Nov-ee). It was stagecoach stop No. 6 (No. VI) on the Grand River route between Detroit and Lansing.

  10. I was born in good ole city of South Bend, Indiana but raised my whole life in Doe-Wah-Jack, Michigan where it’s a small world pretty much. I also would like to point out that news anchors need to learn how to say different things before they do actually get hired, End of my Rant.

  11. I think if you live in MI it’s “crick” in general. Creek to most others. One of the words I would get teased over during my college years in Ohio.

  12. I have heard people say Oh-Ryan as well. And yes out of staters do occasionally say Tra-verse City with a soft “a” like one would traverse (climb) a mountain.

  13. Or the one I did when I moved up here, St. Ignace. I kept saying Ig-NACE with the long A, when its actually Ig-niss

  14. I forgot about that one. We get many travelers that don’t even attempt it. haha. I work at a MI welcome center.

  15. I work at a MI welcome center and the most common mispronounced words by travelers are “Mackinac”, “Tahquamenon”, “Charlotte”, “Gratiot”, “Traverse City”, “St. Ignace”, and “Sault Ste Marie”.

  16. If you live in battle creek (like I do) you pronounce it “crick”, but if you’re an outsider it’s creek.

  17. How about Lake Gogebic in Gogebic county in the U.P. Indians pronounced it Go Ja Bic. Locals pronounce it Go Gib Ic. Between the French, English, Finnish & Indians we have quite a few tongue twisters in the U.P.

  18. Think he made a nickname for a snowblower? lol I can’t think of what else it could be other than an auto correct mishap? funny.

  19. Clio… only because i have heard non-Michiganders say “Clee-Oh” Instead of the correct “Ka-Lie-Oh”

  20. Haha …. I had an aunt from North Carolina, who couldn’t even properly pronounce Michigan.

    She always introduced us as her family from Mitch-ah-gun. Lol

  21. Another one that people often get wrong, but is NOT a tongue twister is Port Huron, pronounced Port HurON, not Hurine. It is not the port of pee. lol

  22. I live in Mikado (my-KAY-doe). Never knew there could be so many pronunciations! My favorite mispronunciation is MIK-a-doo.

  23. Ypsilanti, Michigan is located just south of I-94. Ypsilanti, North Dakota is located just south of I-94. Don’t believe it? Look at a map.

  24. Ontonagon, Keweenaw, L’Anse, and Gogebic always seemed to be a struggle for those unfamiliar with the UP.

  25. Uh oh. I’m a Yooper native and have lived in 3 snowy states, I’ve never heard of a snow mangler before. I tried to google it without success as well.

  26. This has the location of the Menominee River listed instead of the city, which most definitely is located IN the UP.

  27. I live in Chicago now, was raised in Cass County, Mich. It,s always interesting to hear the local news anchors pronounce “Dowagiac”.

  28. Really is upsetting when it is the South Bend/Elkhart TV people mispronouncing them since they are 20 miles away

  29. Love it. years ago I heard a storm forecaster predict a storm was heading toward Gay-lee-in and Bew-cun-in. Made me laugh since living in Buchanan I never knew either Galien or Buchanan were that challenging to say.

  30. Seul Choix Point (Sis-shwa), French for “last chance”, an early harbor of refuge for fur traders along northern Lake Michigan in the UP!

  31. An old one…Kincheloe AFB. (I lived there for 3 years during the Vietnam Nam war). I really loved the UP. It is absolutely beautiful no matter what the season. Just took some time to get used to snow manglers and block heaters etc. Things I never saw here in northwestern Illinois.

  32. Tittabawassee, Calumet, Interlochen, Lake Orion, Lowell, Marquette, Osceola, …I’ve heard non-Michiganders even pronounce Traverse City and Houghton wrong!

  33. Native American Names, muskegon sace-nong sauk once lived there sanilac. Another one Algonquian meaning big lake.

  34. I enjoyed this, but it doesn’t really describe how the name origin came to be.
    How about an easy one… Battle Creek? Is it Creek or Crick?

  35. My friend’s mother spent her career as an ATT long distance operator in the south. She told me the number one place name her callers had trouble with was Ypsilanti.

  36. I’ve lived here long enough to be able to pronounce them with ease. I’m also from Rhode Island, where there are plenty of tongue twister place names. Try Quonochontaug and Woonasquatucket :)

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