Celebrities with the most difficult names to pronounce

Some celebrities change their names for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because an established actor has the same name. That’s how Michael Douglas became Michael Keaton. Other times a celebrity may feel like his or her birth name is a bit unwieldy for fame. There’s nothing wrong with being called Neta-Lee Hershlag, but it doesn’t roll off the tongue like “Natalie Portman.” Some celebs stick with their names, though, even if the layperson may have issues pronouncing them. Hey, that’s our problem, not theirs, but here are some celeb names that still give our brains a workout.

 
1 of 25

Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

She’s about to turn only 25 and has been nominated for three Academy Awards. That includes one for her impressive turn as the lead in “Lady Bird.” However, her decidedly Irish first name has baffled many a film fan since she first made noise in “Atonement.”

 
2 of 25

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Chiwetel Ejiofor
Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ejiofor’s name looks more intimidating than it actually is. That being said, it definitely can feel imposing when you first lay eyes on it. Get used to saying it, though, because he’s technically in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (even if we haven’t seen Baron Mordo since “Doctor Strange”) and is voicing Scar in the new “Lion King.”

 
3 of 25

Steve Buscemi

Steve Buscemi
Mike Pont/FilmMagic

Here’s a name we’ve been debating for years. Everybody seems to have a different way of saying “Buscemi.” Reportedly though, the former firefighter is pretty chill about people pronouncing his name however they see fit. So don’t sweat it if you aren’t confident in your particular take on “Buscemi.”

 
4 of 25

Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes
Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for Studio Canal

You want to say “Ralph.” Of course you do. That’s understandable, because Mr. Fiennes spells his first name like Chief Wiggum’s son. However, it’s actually pronounced like “Raif.” "Fiennes" isn’t a walk in the park either.

 
5 of 25

Chloe Sevigny

Chloe Sevigny
Dominique Charriau/WireImage

Chloe isn’t the easiest of first names, but the last name is the real puzzler here. Maybe you deduce that the “g” is silent. You could still pronounce “Sevigny” a few different ways, depending on how you want to emphasize different syllables.

 
6 of 25

Quvenzhane Wallis

Quvenzhane Wallis
Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Essence

Spoiler alert: It’s not the “Wallis” that trips people up. It was impressive that the child actress got such attention for her performance in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Unfortunately for us it meant having to try and figure out how to say her first name, which is a bit of a tongue twister. Even trickier? Trying to spell it without looking it up.

 
7 of 25

Ioan Gruffudd

Ioan Gruffudd
Vera Anderson/WireImage

No disrespect to anybody who was involved in the making of the first two “Fantastic Four” movies, but it was something of a relief that Gruffudd didn’t become a bigger star. Otherwise we’d have to deal with trying to figure out how to pronounce both of his names. Surely in his native Wales, people have no issues with his moniker. If only he had decided to Anglicize his name. Then he would have been known as “John Griffith.”

 
8 of 25

Mia Wasikowska

Mia Wasikowska
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

A lot of people complain about Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” movies, but they were major box office successes, making Wasikowska a legitimate movie star. If you want to see her in a more critically acclaimed movie, check out “The Double.” If you want to pronounce her last name right, brush up on your Polish.

 
9 of 25

Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong'o
Ismael Quintanilla/Getty Images for SXSW

We feel like we’re getting pretty good at saying Lupita Nyong’o’s name, and we’re only going to get more practice going forward. She burst out of the gates with her Oscar win, and now finds herself in the worlds of Star Wars and Marvel. Oh, and “Us” is just burning up the box office. Don’t be too afraid of the apostrophe. Just go for it.

 
Zach Galifianakis
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

The star of the “Hangover” movies may honestly have a name that’s tougher to spell than it is to pronounce. That being said, nobody who sees the name “Galifianakis” for the first time is going to have an easy time for it. When he was coming up on the comedy scene, a lot of hosts and emcees probably had to ask him ahead of time how, exactly, to say his name. Based on the fact he’s a star who spends most of his time in rural North Carolina, he was probably pretty relaxed about it.

 
11 of 25

Stellan Skarsgard

Stellan Skarsgard
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

There are those who know him as “Stellar Skateboard,” but that’s mostly a riff on how the Swedish’s actors name trips people up. It’s not as hard as you might think, as it mostly is pronounced how it looks. However, when you seen it written properly, there is an accent mark over the second “a” that we rarely see here in the United States. That definitely can cause trepidation.

 
12 of 25

Djimon Hounsou

Djimon Hounsou
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

There’s nothing like an unusually played “j” to cause problems for people who are just trying to cruise through saying somebody’s name. Also, a lot of these actors are in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which speaks to just how many people have shown up in those movies. Anyway, the consensus seems to be that his first name is pronounced “JAI-min.” It’s the “D” that’s silent.

 
13 of 25

Joe Manganiello

Joe Manganiello
Gabriel Olsen/WireImage

There are a lot of tricky letters in the burly actor’s last name to potentially mislead you. How are you going to handle that “G?” Is it “Nello” or “Knee-ello?” Just watch “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.” He’s got a big role, and he plays himself.

 
14 of 25

Amanda Seyfried

Amanda Seyfried
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for JNSQ Wines

You are almost definitely being misled by the “Mean Girls” actress' last name. There are a lot of different ways to pronounce it, but are you saying “SIGH-fred?” If not, you are apparently saying it wrong. One assumes her not-too-bright character in “Mean Girls” may have had trouble figuring that out too.

 
15 of 25

Idina Menzel

Idina Menzel
Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

OK, so you probably aren’t at risk of pulling a John Travolta and saying “Adele Dazeem.” Still, after that how could we not include Menzel in our list of hard-to-pronounce names. Hey, it isn’t easy. Hopefully if you say her name wrong she’s willing to…let it go.

 
16 of 25

Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Theron has been a huge star for years. She has an Oscar. But nobody seems to agree on how to say either of her names. Case in point: We looked up multiple websites claiming to explain how to pronounce celebrity names for this article. We saw three different pronunciations for Theron’s name provided. At least two of those have to be wrong.

 
17 of 25

Gillian Jacobs

Gillian Jacobs
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

This is an easy one to screw up in a specific way. We’re used to the name “Jillian.” You could easily pronounce the “Community” star’s name as “Jillian.” However, it’s actually pronounced with a hard “G.” For once, your intuition is wrong.

 
18 of 25

Mahershala Ali

Mahershala Ali
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

“Ali” is a breeze, but this first name is intimidating. However, the guy has two Oscars now, so you’d better learn to pronounce it properly. It may look a little daunting, as it isn’t a common first name in much of the world, but it’s one you can sound out with a little practice. By the way, apparently his full first name is Mahershalalhashbaz.

 
19 of 25

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix
ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

It feels like Phoenix has been around long enough that most people have locked in on his first name. That being said, if you had never heard of the soon-to-be Joker before, you could easily trip up on his first name. It’s not obvious that it begins with a “Wah” sound if you don’t hear it pronounced first.

 
20 of 25

Mariska Hargitay

Mariska Hargitay
Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images

Hargitay’s first name is deliberately trying to mislead us! It’s not the kind of crime that would be investigated on “Law and Order: SVU,” but it is annoying for pedants. Apparently despite the absence of an “H” in her name, it’s pronounced “Marishka.” Who would have thought?

 
21 of 25

Timothee Chalamet

Timothee Chalamet
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Image

Don’t worry about the unusual spelling on his first name. It’s pronounced just like “Timothy.” To pronounce his last name, just remember that it’s French. That should help. Also, he was in “Lady Bird” with Saoirse Ronan. That’s a tough name combo right there.

 
22 of 25

Zendaya

Zendaya
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Tommy Hilfiger

She has only one name, but a ton of people get it wrong. Most people say it “Zen-DIE-uh.” Apparently, it’s “Zen-DAY-uh.” Either way, Zendaya is, and forever will be, Meechee.

 
23 of 25

Zosia Mamet

Zosia Mamet
Nicholas Hunt/WireImage

Two “Z” names in a row. Leave it to wordsmith David Mamet to give his daughter a tricky first name. By the way, she’s married to an actor. His name? Evan Jonigkeit. If she had taken his last name, she could have topped the “difficult to pronounce name” list.

 
24 of 25

Domhnall Gleeson

Domhnall Gleeson
Monica Schipper/Getty Images

What is it about Irish names that trip up so many of us Americans? Gleeson’s father, Brendan, is a fine actor, and so is Domhnall. One of them has a much easier name to say, though. Also, Domhnall also has a brother who is named Ruairi. Good thing he’s not famous.

 
25 of 25

Melissa Benoist

Melissa Benoist
Victor Boyko/Getty Images For Christian Dior

Television’s Supergirl has a last name that is unexpectedly intimidating. When you hear how you pronounce it (it rhymes with moist), then it looks obvious. Before that, though, it feels like it could go multiple ways. Frankly, “Benoist” is harder to pronounce that Supergirl’s name on Krypton: Kara Zor-El.

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.



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