One of the biggest things that separates newbies from locals is how they pronounce certain names. Utah is no different, with its Tooele and Scipio. Want to know how the locals say these locations? Here’s not only a Utah pronunciation guide but also the history behind these odd pronunciations.
Now, before we get started, here’s a little sidenote. Some of these names come from Indigenous words. There are five historic Indigenous tribes in Utah: the Ute (yoot), the Paiute (pie•yoot), the Goshute (go•shoot), the Shoshone (shu•shone•ee), and the Navajo (Diné) (nah•vah•ho or di•nay). These tribes lived in Utah for centuries before any European settlers ever came here and each have their own history, culture and language. To learn more about the historic tribes and the current eight tribal nations, visit indian.utah.gov.
And now, here’s the pronunciations. Check out the video to hear the correct pronunciations.
Did you get all those? Here is the history behind those names:
Mantua is a town at the head of Box Elder Canyon in northern Utah. The interesting thing about Mantua is it was originally pronounced like it’s spelled (man•too•uh) because it was named after Mantua, Ohio, the birthplace of Lorenzo Snow (the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time). But the town was made up of émigrés from Denmark, who pronounced it as “man•away” and that pronunciation stuck.
Duchesne, Utah is a city in and the county seat of Duchesne County, which is in the northeast part of Utah. The name Duchesne is taken from the Duchesne River that runs through the town. It is believed that the river was named by French Canadian fur trappers in the 1820s in honor of Mother Rose Philippine Duchesne, the founder of the School of the Sacred Heart near St. Louis, Missouri, though there are other theories as to where the name came from.
Weber County is located in northern Utah and is the fourth most populous county in the state. It’s also home to Weber State University. It is named after the Weber River, a 125 mile long river that was named for American fur trapper John Henry Weber.
Tooele is probably one of the more confusing pronunciations in the state. Tooele is a city in Tooele County on the north west side of Utah. Tooele Valley was the traditional territory of the Tooele Valley Goshute. The area also is home to Danger Cave, where archaeologists have found evidence of Indigenous people living there for more than 12,000 years. The name Tooele comes from the Goshute word for “bear.” Other historians say the name comes from Goshute Indian Chief Tuilla
The Oquirrh Mountains are a 30 mile mountain range that runs north to south. It’s what separates the Salt Lake Valley from the Tooele Valley. The mountain range is known for its gold, silver and lead mines, but the most famous is its copper deposits. This is where the Bingham Canyon Mine is located (also known as the Kennecott Copper Mine), which is the world’s largest open pit mine. The word Oquirrh comes from the Goshute word meaning “wooded mountain.”
Despite being spelled Hurricane, it is pronounced “Hur-a-kun.” Hurricane, Utah is a city in Washington County in the southwest corner of Utah. It’s part of the St. George metropolitan area and continues to see major population growth. According to the city’s website, the name comes from an instance in the 1860s when a whirlwind blew the top off of the buggy of Erastus Snow, a local Mormon leader. He exclaimed, “Well, that was a Hurricane. We’ll name this ‘Hurricane Hill’.” Now, as for the odd pronunciation, the area was settled by émigrés from Liverpool, England, who pronounced it “hur-a-kun” and that pronunciation stuck.
Nephi is the county seat of Juab County, which is in western Utah. The area was settled in 1851 by Mormon pioneers, who called the area Salt Creek. It was renamed Nephi in 1882. The city gets its name from Nephi, son of Lehi, from the Book of Mormon, the main scripture in the LDS Church. Lehi, Utah is a city in Utah County and also named after the patriarch in the Book of Mormon.
Speaking of Nephi, let’s go back to Juab. Juab County on the western side of Utah and has a population of over 12,000. Its name comes from a Ute word meaning flat or level plain. A portion of the Goshute Indian Reservation is located in the northwest corner of the county.
Scipio is a small town on the eastern side of Millard County, which is in the southwest portion of Utah. The town only has 358 residents calling it home. It was named after Scipio Africanus Kenner, an attorney for The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints, who was named after the Roman general who played a pivotal role in the defeat of Carthage.
Mount Timpanogos is part of the Wasatch Mountain Range located in Utah County and has an elevation of 11,752 ft. Covered in hiking trails, Mount Timpanogos is popular with outdoor enthusiasts. It is also home to Mount Timpanogos Cave National Monument. The name comes from the Timpanogos tribe who inhabited the area for centuries.
Enoch, Utah is located in Iron County in the southwestern side of Utah. The town was originally called “Johnson’s Fort,” named after its founder Joel H. Johnson. However, due to another town already claiming that name, the town changed its name to Enoch when it incorporated in 1884. In the Bible, Enoch was a patriarch whom Christian tradition believes entered Heaven without having to die. The LDS Church’s belief takes this a step further, believing he was a leader of a city named Zion. Because of the righteousness of the people, everyone in Zion was taken to Heaven.
Escalante, Utah is in the middle of Garfield County in southern Utah. Escalante is very close to both Capitol Reef National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, as well as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The town is named after Father Silvestre Vélez de Escalante. He and Father Francisco Atanasio Domínguez made up the Domínguez-Escalante Expedition who, in 1776, were charged with finding a route from Sante Fe, New Mexico to their Roman Catholic mission in Monterey, California. Though the Franciscan priests never made it to California, they explored a large area of the West. Many locations and landmarks are named after both of them.
Panguitch, Utah is the county seat of Garfield County in southern Utah. It’s a small town, with 1,662 people. The area was settled in 1864 by a group of pioneers going eastward from the already established Parowan, Utah. The town was originally called Fairview but was changed to Panguitch, which is an Indigenous word for “big fish.”
This is a well known way to tell if someone was born a Utahn or not. Folks from out of state often pronounce it “zie-on” while locals say “zie-in.” Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country, with over 5 million visitors in 2022. When the park was being established, it had the name Mukuntuweap National Monument, given by explorer John Wesley Powell. However, fears over people not being able to pronounce the name led to the change to Zion. The word “zion” has significant meaning for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with it appearing repeatedly in their scriptures.
While the settlement of Hooper in Weber County has been around since 1854, it didn’t become a township until 1997. It wasn’t incorporated into a city until 2000. The city was named after William H. Hooper, a Utah delegate to Congress.
Sevier is pronounced “severe.” Sevier County is in south-central Utah with over 22,000 people. The county was named after the Sevier River, which in turn was named by the Domínguez-Escalante Expedition. The two Franciscan priests were hoping to find a river that ran to the Pacific Ocean and named the turbulent river “Rio Severo.” The river does not go to the Pacific Ocean, instead dumping into Yuba Lake.
The Wasatch Mountain Range is about 160 miles from the Utah-Idaho border to central Utah and is the western edge of the Rocky Mountains. Because of the readily available resources provided by the mountains, early settlers chose to live near the range. To this day, 85% of Utah’s population live within 15 miles of the Wasatch Range. Wasatch County is named after the mountain range. The word “wasatch” comes from a Ute word meaning “mountain pass” or “low pass over high range.”
Aside from Uintah County, there are also the Uinta Mountains. The range is the only major mountain range in the contiguous United States with an east-west orientation. The Uinta Mountain Range is home to King’s Peak, the highest mountain in the state at 13,528 feet above sea level. The word Uinta comes from the Ute word for “pine tree” or “pine forest.” Now, you will notice different spellings of the word. It’s Uinta Basin and Uinta Mountains but also Uintah County and Uintah Lake. There is also Uinta Brewing.