How to Pronounce Chicago

June 14, 2023

'Chicago' is the name of a city in Illinois best known for its pizza, Maxwell Street Polish sausage, jazz music, 1920s gangsters, and more. But how do you pronounce it? There is disagreement in the city itself over which pronunciation is authentic. Some locals claim that you should say a-ka-go, while others insist that the first syllable should be pronounced as shi-ka-go. The shi sound is also found in words like brochure, champagne, chef, and mustache. The syllable should be pronounced with a strong accent.

It is recommended that you practice the different pronunciations of chicago until you find one that feels natural for your own accent. It can help to break the word down into its individual sounds: [SHUH] + [KAA] + [GOH]. Try saying them out loud and exaggerating them until you feel confident with pronouncing them correctly. You can also listen to people pronouncing the word on YouTube and practice along with them. Just make sure to listen to only one accent at a time as mixing multiple accents can be confusing for beginners.

Some studies have shown that the a-ka-go pronunciation is more prevalent among older Chicagoans, while the "shi-ka-go" pronunciation has become increasingly common in recent decades. However, Chicago is a city of immigrants and there is a diversity of accents throughout the city. It is also possible that the a-ka-go versus shi-ka-go pronunciation differences are due to a reversal of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, which caused a rise in the short /a/ sound across the Midwest.


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