8 Commonly Mispronounced Names Of Gods and Goddesses

8 Commonly Mispronounced Names Of Gods and Goddesses April 7, 2018

In my recent Hellenism studies, I came across some new pronunciations of the Greek gods’ names.  It turns out I’ve been mispronouncing their names for decades.  But it didn’t stop there — in the past year, I also learned a few other proper pronunciations as well.

hecate hekate triple goddess crossroads pronounce pronunciation
Yep, Hekate made the list! Drawing by Stéphane Mallarmé, 1880, used courtesy of Wikimedia.

Anglicization is a weird thing.  It happens when someone takes something that already works and changes it to something different.  Spellings and pronunciations fly out the window for something more palatable to English speakers.

Once, I had a boss who didn’t care enough to learn how to pronounce my name. Not once in the three years I worked for him did he say it correctly, even though I’d corrected him over a dozen times.  What do you think happened when he asked me to perform a task?  I did the marginal amount of work required and left out the frills.  I’m not very passive aggressive, but because this guy couldn’t waste one second to learn something as important as my name, I decided it was okay.

That’s why I think it’s important to pronounce their names correctly.  We commune with the gods.  We address them by name and ask them for things.  We might as well call them by the correct pronounciation.

Here are the greatest of my flub-ups.

1. Eostre

Like most people, I said something like “E-OS-ter,” but this one is actually much like the holiday, pronounced “IHS-tir.”

2. Isis

I adore Isis, and have an emblem of her on my east altar. I couldn’t believe I’d been saying this wrong for decades, like “EYE-sis.”  The Greeks called her “EE-sis;” however, scholars don’t actually know how the Egyptians pronounced it because hieroglyphs only included consonant sounds.

goddess isis mother Egyptian pronounce pronunciation correct
Isis, blessed mother. Photo by Darla Hueske, CC-BY ND 2.0.

I’m actually thrilled that it doesn’t sound like the terrorist group.

3. Hekate

Once, I was trying to win Hekate’s favor.  She brushed me off like yesterday’s dandruff. I later learned I had mistaken her for another dark goddess, and didn’t answer for that reason.  But perhaps another reason she didn’t come to me willingly was because I’d called upon “HECK-a-tay.”

In my Hellensim studies, I came across an audio book where the reader pronounced it differently. The Greek pronunciation is “heh-KAH-teh” or “heh-KAH-tee.”  As soon as I heard it, something magical lit up within me.  I felt Her presence as the Queen of the Witches for the first time outside of a large ritual.

4. Brigid

When I was a little witchling in my teens, Brigid appealed to me. She was warm and bright, and I felt so much love from her.  At the time, I thought I might be part Irish, but it turns out, after DNA testing, that I’m not.

I can’t tell you how often I called upon “BRIDGE-id,” only it’s “BRIID.” I should’ve known better than to try to pronounce an Irish name.

5.  Aphrodite

Mighty Aphrodite!  Well. . . her Greek pronounciation doesn’t rhyme.  To me, it sounds like the second and third syllables are accented.  “aph-RO-DEE-tee.” Listen to the pronunciation in the link and let me know what you think.

She’s still mighty.  Just different.

6. Uranus

uranus pronounce god pagan how to
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

Oh man, it’s the butt of all astrology jokes!  I’m far too old to just now find out I’ve been mispronouncing this for decades.  I actually said “your-ANUS” in front of an astrologer. The Greeks pronounced it “OAR-an-os.”

7. Dionysis

I hated learning that I had been mispronouncing “DIE-o-NICE-us.”  “DEE-on-e-sus” or “DAY-o-nay-sus” is closer to the proper pronunciation.

8. Odin

I’d always called Norse allfather god “OH-din,” but apparently it’s “OATH-in.”

* * * * * * * *

While it’s fun learning the old pronunciations of the gods, with this being said, I’ll never be the pagan police.  I’ll never correct someone when they talk about their deity, because they know their gods better than I, and they must be doing something that works.  Our gods probably know when we call upon them by the energy, even if we don’t pronounce their names the same way they were pronounced in the old days.

What about you? Are there any gods or goddesses that you’ve mispronounced? I’d love to hear about them and learn more, even if I facepalm.

Until next time lovelies.

~ Starlight Witch ~

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About Astrea
I’m a polytheistic pagan witch with two humongous cats and a musician husband.  Although I’ve been involved in several circles over the past two decades, I’m more of a solitary practitioner. Join me in the ever evolving spiral of spirituality, authenticity, and depth, as we celebrate the wheel of the year and the moon cycles. I simply adore writing as a means to share my spiritual and everyday experiences as a pagan witch. Fun fact -- I'm also a fiction writer and a fire dancer.  Feel free to follow my Facebook page "Starlight Witch" to see all my blog posts and other social media accounts for extra special witchy / artsy / personal content. Instagram is especially fun, and I like Twitter a lot too. For all the links, visit my "about" page here: You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • But I also have to believe that deity is smart enough to know when we are calling on it, even if we don’t get the pronunciation correct. Of course no mispronunciation is as bad as when i used to call Persephone, Purse a phone.

    • LadyCrow

      That’s still better than sticking your phone in your bra! (Dammit, now I just gave myself the idea to offer some of my Goddesses bras. You know, a chainmail number for the Morrígan, a green one for Brìd… or maybe they too would rather just keep their phones in their respective purses.)

    • Rachel Obadiah

      I agree! In this world we do the best we can with our limited understanding. If a Goddess or God is offended at an honest name mispronunciation -well than, I will just go my way without that particular God(dess). I think we just have so many more important things on our plate today.

  • lala412

    Ouranos is the only one in that group I’ve been pronouncing correctly… sigh. Glad I read this!

  • Geordon VanTassle

    Oh, hell. I have known that the letter thorn (ð) is pronounced with a “th-” sound for years but I never put 2 and 2 together until this article. Lol

    • Cpschelle

      Quick point of clarification…(not trying to be rude, just accurate. I’m a student of Old Norse and old English language and phonology), /ð/ is the letter “eth”. “Thorn” is /þ/. þ is pronounced /th/ like the word “thorn”, where /ð/ is pronounced like the word “then” or “this”, where the /th/ is voiced. Thus, Odin (old norse Oðinn) is pronounced OATH(voiced /th/)-in.

      • Cpschelle

        Again, not trying to be “that guy”…..Eostre was attested to by the monk Bede 8th century Northumbria. In some modern pronunciations, she has been pronounced as mentioned above. In the original Old English (Mercian/West saxon dialect), the pronunciation would have been approximately “EH-owe-strah” or (Northumbrian dialect) “EH-owe-stroh”. I hope this information helps. I’m not looking to prove anybody wrong. I agree with Jason that they know when you’re calling.

      • Geordon VanTassle

        Ah, thank you for the correction! It has been years sine I was fiddling around with Old Norse and Old English, so my recall was off. I appreciate the correction and phonetic examples.

        • Cpschelle

          Happy to be of service. Knowledge does us no good locked away in an ivory tower.

      • Bran thBlessed

        Am I reading correctly? You’re saying that its nearer to Oh-then rather than to Oh-thin regarding the ‘th’ sound. it is fricative unaspirated rather than fricative aspirated???

        • Cpschelle

          Essentially yes. All Germanic languages use /ð/ voiced, not aspirated. it’s voiced dental fricative. so modern English “thin” would be þin. “that” would be ðat. sometimes /ð/ is changed to /dh/ also. some later copies of the Eddas into non-Icelandic/norse spell Odin as “Odhinn”.

          Anyway, /ð/ and /þ/ are relatively common in Germanic languages until the modern era, though some do still use them (mostly the Scandinavian languages). the North Germanic branches kept them fairly late (or still use them). the West Germanic languages phased them out gradually as the latin alphabet became more widely used and /th/ replaced both /ð/ and /þ/. Of the WG languages, English kept them the longest. through Old English and into middle English, where they began to be phased after the Norman invasion of English. the developing Latin based ancestor to French mixed with Old English, creating Middle English.
          Hope this is useful!

  • EllyR

    The only good thing about paganism is that it annoys the hell out of religious people… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/80452072b4171626b35f053b2365ffab36fb141055acf265e177d29c6d3de542.jpg

    • LadyCrow

      The Pope is wearing a “fsh” hat. It can’t be a “fish” hat because it doesn’t have any i’s on it.

      • Carla Jean

        Ha ha, you’re a fun(ny) Lady Crow! 🙂

      • EllyR

        You are so smart…

  • Suren

    The Armenian Goddess of love, fertility and water, has a rough name to learn if you’re a native English speaker: Astghik (Armenian:Աստղիկ). Now that fourth Armenian letter, ղ, is anglicized as “gh” but actually sounds a bit like a gurgle. When I was learning Armenian that sound alone took me a while to fully grasp because there’s nothing like it in English. Now put that sound between a “t” and an “ee” sound. Almost impossible for me to say. But, from what I can tell by listening to Armenian speakers say it, it’s pronounced more like “Ah-st-l-reek”,with sort of a combination of “L” and “R” in place of the “gh” (the “R” is barely pronounced).

  • Rachel Obadiah

    Thank you! I always want to pronounce a name right. It is so very difficult to find the right pronunciations for a lot of the pagan related names. In USA we seem to think it is our right and privilege to call other countries how we think they should be pronounced, too -so it is an overall problem, I guess. One that comes to mind is Cuba who two boys, who were recent immigrants, rode my school bus, and corrected me, “No meesus, say Koo-bah”. Another one is Cambodia, which is Kampbu-jee-ah. Neither one of these is hard to pronounce, any more than Me-he-co, for Mexico. These are pretty widely known to be the correct pronunciations -so why don’t we use them? Anytime something comes up about names, i think of the story of Rumpelstiltskin. Names are very important.

    • Midori Ren

      Another country one: Iran is pronounced Ee-rahn. As an Iranian native said in her autobiography (which I read for a class and now mysteriously can’t find…), ‘Eye-ran is a sentance, Ee-rahn is a country.’ I’ve heard that Iraq is Ee-rahk and Pakistan is Pah-kee-stahn (if I remember correctly – only Iran sticks our in my memory because I read it), but both were from an Iranian professor so may have been partly his own accent colouring the pronunciation.

      • Rachel Obadiah

        Yes, nephew from Iran laughed at that -“So, ‘I ran’ where?”. What really confused him, at first was Eye-ran-ee-un. :Ee-un” had no meaning in either language, and he thought people over here just make our own words, and that really seemed to distress him at first.

  • Curt Brasier

    8. Odin

    I’d always called Norse allfather god “OH-din,” but apparently it’s “OATH-in.”

    Perhaps it is ‘Oath-in’ in the UK but in Scandinavia it is ‘OOH-DIN’. Another Scandinavian God whose name is mispronounced is ‘Tor’ which is properly pronounced ‘TOOR-AH’ with a trill on the ‘R’. Sadly, when the Scandinavians came to Scotland the people were unable to pronounce the God of Thunder’s name correctly and ‘THOR’ was as close as they could come, and it stuck! So how do the pronounce Thomas?

    Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/starlight/2018/04/8-commonly-mispronounced-names-of-gods-and-goddesses/#1xWg4OWqiICkr7XQ.99

  • Kristen Kras

    I constantly have trouble trying to figure out how to pronounced Badb! I mean, they change the spelling from older Irish to newer Irish but many people insist on using older Irish spelling! Why?! Also, Odin doesn’t seem to care if I mispronounce his name as I get it pretty close. He has many names anyway 🙂 Technically Odin is Woden in the UK. See what I mean about having different names, same deity? If you can’t pronounce Uranus, go with the Caelus LOL. There is another problem in itself, is it Ceelus or Caylus…. Ah well.

    • Midori Ren

      I’ve heard it’s Bayv, from Morgan Daimler’s book Pagan Portals: The Morrigan Meeting the Great Queens though she also says there’s more than one pronunciation.
      And Thor was once Thunor in the UK, according to British History Podcast, who also mentions Woden.

  • Midori Ren

    I mispronounced Morrigan for so long she just had me call her Lady Crow until I learned to say it correctly. And I still sometimes go back to the old wrong pronunciation, so Lady Crow is usually what I call her still.

  • Andrea V

    And there I was thinking I was all clever because I learned that it wasn’t “heh-kate” I was dealing with, it was “heh-kah-tee” or “heh-kah-tay”… and now I learn even that was wrong!
    I said the correct way out loud a moment ago, and I apologised, and a Brewer’s Blackbird just landed on the stoep (verandah) outside my back door (where my desk faces) and sang a little song and then flew off.
    And just like that, I got it right!
    Thank you!

  • Ivlia Blackburn

    Brigid seems to be pronounced either Breed or Green (where the ‘j’ has the sound as in the French ‘bonjour’) depending on whome you speak to, I have several friends called Brigid and the pronunciation seems to depend on the region of Ireland they come from, different areas having different accents and ways of saying things. As to Uranus, I was always taught that was the Latin form of his name and would surely, therefore, be pronounced in the Roman way, not the Greek. As for Odin, I asked a friend who is not only an Odinist but also a scholar in Norse mythology and fluent in the language and he assures me that the pronunciation is Ōdin and Ōdinist (for those who worship him).

  • ChapTim45

    The truth is that we do NOT know how these names were pronounced in the ancient days. Yes, there were rules of pronunciation, but these rules were not always followed, and that was especially for names in classical Greek. Plus, different regions had difference accents, so there were likely many pronunciations.

    You can get closer to the original by foregoing the Anglicization and looking at the original language, but don’t get all self-righteous about it like some Christians when they say “JAY-sus” (instead of Yeshua).