Yes, They Say ‘Byoona Vista,’ But Can You Guess How Coloradans Say ‘Arriba?’

July 19, 2019

While Coloradans don’t have an accent to speak of, we sure have our set ways of pronouncing certain things. It trips up out-of-towners and freshly-minted new Coloradans all the time.

This goes waaaaay deeper than any of the bar top arguments you can get into over Denver street names. Once you strike out across the Centennial State, simple spats over how you say Acoma, Galapago or Zuni will almost seem quaint.

To avoid the barely discernible eyerolls you might earn when you say ‘Louie-ville’ rather than ‘Lewis-ville,’ keep this map handy.

  • Arriba (AIR-i-buh) - not ar-REE-buh
  • Arvada (Ahr-vad-ah) - Honestly, we’re still fighting this one out. Ahr-vay-da, Ahr-vad-ah. To-may-to, to-mah-to
  • Berthoud (BURR-thud) - Hello. I'm in Berthoud.
  • Buena Vista (BYOO-nuh Vista) - The one-time head lettuce capital of the United States pronounces it as a play on beautiful, rather than the proper Spanish.
  • Bowie (BAO-ee) - Bowie was once named Wauneta, which was a pretty swank name.
  • Cañon City (CAN-yun City) - Quick show of hands, who knew that the city's nickname is "Climate Capital of Colorado"?
  • Dacono (Da-koh-no) - It’s a portmanteau. Seriously.
  • De Beque (De Beck) - There are only seven retail marijuana stores in Mesa County and four of them are in De Beque.
  • Del Norte (Del NORT) - The e is dropped. Not sure where we lost it.
  • Fruita (FROOT-uh) - I have been informed there are people who say FROO-ee-tah. For shame.
  • Limon (LIME-on) - Like the magical ingredient in Sprite
  • Lochbuie (Lock-BOO-ee) - This is just FUN to say
  • Louisville (Lewis-ville) - Sorry, Kentucky.
  • Lyons (Lions) - True story, I once heard an NPR newscaster pronounce the name of the town like it was located in the east of France (Lee-own). I giggled.
  • Niwot (nye-watt) - According to The Denver Post, the Arapaho word for “left hand” is actually Nowooth. We really messed this one up.
  • Olathe (Oh-LAY-tha) - This is where we get our sweet corn. It’s damn good.
  • Ouray (YOU-ray) - Not OOOOO-ray.
  • Paonia (Pay-OWN-yuh) - Shout out to KVNF.
  • Saguache (suh-WATCH) - Folks usually give it a try or three before we jump in to save you. It’s more fun that way.
  • Salida (Suh-LIE-duh) -
  • San Luis (San LOO-ees) - Same thing applies to the valley name too.

Reader Suggestions!

  • Arvada (Ahr-VAH-da) - Is there a third way to say Arvada? Denverite's @AshleyDean thinks so. Have you heard it this way?
  • Genoa (je-NO-uh) - Lookout reader Kate L pointed out that this Eastern Plains town is a long way from the port city in Italy.
  • La Junta (la HUNT-ah) - @catalystcm_jeff reminded us of this one and the next.
  • Las Animas (lahs ANNA-muss) -
  • Westminster (West-min-ster) - @hruddy reminded us there are folks that add an 'e' to this suburb's name. Please don't. It is not West-min-e-ster.
  • Montrose (Mon-TROSE) - Not mont-rose. Ron Meecham poked us on Facebook with the proper way to say this Western Slope city.

Did we miss one or you have a bone to pick? Hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.

Sources: CPR in-house pronunciation and style guide, 9News, The Denver Post and countless newsroom arguments.


Inspired by conversations with people in the community, we're taking a week to produce a short series of stories about Colorado through the lens of languages used here. Here's one at Denverite about how the attorney general's office is trying to do a better job of serving Colorado's Spanish-speaking fraud victims. The series is another way for us to consider our state and who lives here, but it's also a test balloon and a call for feedback and ideas — do you have a language-related story you think we should know about? Let us know: dburdick@cpr.org.