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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: How Do You Pronounce Louisa?

T. writes:
Because I have an Annalise, I don't know if I could use the name Louisa on my current to-be-born baby (too much "ise" - ?), but I wanted to know how people pronounce the name Louisa before I seriously consider it. My grandmother says loo-EEZ-ah, but I've always pronounced it and thought of it as loo-EESE-ah, and I think they sound like two different names. I wouldn't want to name my baby loo-EEZ-ah. Can we have a poll to determine what the common pronunciation is?

Thank you!

Good idea! This reminds me of a high school acquaintance who had to work hard to get people to say LESS-lee instead of LEZ-lee: I'd never realized there were two ways to pronounce it, and now I note which one it is when a Lesley introduces herself.

I say Louisa loo-EEZ-ah (and Louise "loo-EEZ"), and because I find it so fun to say I probably overdo a W sound: more like loo-WEEZ-ah. I use the Z sound for Louise and Eloise, too. I think if I wanted a soft S I would use the name Luisa: because I pronounce Luis "loo-EES," it would come naturally to me to use the soft S with Luisa. (Which is a silly and arbitrary thing, since I also say Louis with a soft S. But the Luis(a) spelling draws my attention to it in a way Louisa doesn't---maybe I think of Louisa as coming from Louise instead of from Louis.) Or I might use Lucia (pronouncing it loo-SEE-ah) to get similar sounds.

Let's put a poll over to the right: How do YOU pronounce Louisa? [Poll closed; see results below.]


Kailee said...

I pronounce the name with an "S" sound. I think maybe because I was obsessed with the book "Little Women" growing up and I had always heard the author's name, Louisa May Alcott, pronounced with the softer "S" sound.

Susan said...

As far as I can remember, I've always heard Louisa with a Z sound. And like Swistle, I like to hear the "w" a little bit.

I don't think adding a Louisa to Annalise as a sibset is too much "ise" at all. I think the two names sound great together, regardless of how you pronounce Lousia.

I do think you'll have a hard time keeping people from saying Louisa with a "z" sound. Swistle's suggestion of "Luisa" is interesting -- I think that might actually work.

MelissaInk Designs said...

I do Z ... without even thinking about it.

Would Lucia be a nice alternative here?

beyond said...

If I hear Louisa, I take note of the pronunciation, because I know that there isn't just one. But otherwise I say loo-EEZ-ah, probably because I associate it with Louise loo-EEZ.
To my ears, loo-EESE-ah is more of a spanish alternative (often spelled Luisa, as others have mentioned), although I may be wrong.
I LOVE Louisa and Louise and their nicknames (Lou, Lulu) and I think Annalise and Louisa make a great pair.
Good luck!

Suzanne said...

I was going to say exactly what Kailee said - I associate the name with Louisa May which I've always heard with the "s".

Louisa is at the top of our future girl-name list, although now I think I'll bump it down to middle-name status, since I DON'T like it pronounced with a "z" and that seems to be the most popular way. It's funny how much that one tiny thing can change my opinion of a name.

Patricia said...

I pronounce--and hear-- Louisa like Swistle does, loo-WEEZ-ah.

I looked up the name on behindthename-dot-com:

Gender: Feminine
Usage: English
Pronounced: loo-EEZ-ə [key]
Latinate feminine form of LOUIS

Behind the name gives this pronunciation for Luisa:

Gender: Feminine
Usage: Spanish, Italian
Pronounced: LWEE-sah (Spanish), loo-EE-zah (Italian) [key]
Feminine form of LUIS

I would pronounce Luisa with the "s' sound you prefer (still with a 'w' sound too, though), but I think your daughter would still be called Loo-EEZ-ah by many even with that spelling.

If you're open to other suggestions, Baby Name Wizard's Expert Name Matchmaker suggests these names for a sister of Annalise:

Some actual sister names of sisters of girls named Annalise from the same website:

I love the name Louisa and wonder why it's not in the Top 10 (instead of below the Top 1000), right up there with Isabella. And really I think the standard English pronunciation of Louisa with a 'z' actually works better with Annalise, making each name sound more distinct, yet sounding so well together:

Annalise and Louisa (Loo-EEZ-ah)

Ashley said...

I pronounce it with the Z instead of the S. And with a slight W, too. But like Swistle, I tend to pronounce Luisa with no W, and an S rather than Z. Growing up, I knew a lady named Louisa who went by Weez, though, so maybe that's why I pronounce it that way?

I asked my husband to pronounce Louisa, and he just looked confused and said "...loo-EYE-zuh?", so...I'm not sure where he's getting his pronunciation guides from, but I definitely heard a Z sound in that mangled name, too.

Patricia said...

Kailee's comment about the pronunciation of Louisa May Alcott's name got me wondering if the author's name is usually pronounced with the 's' sound (instead of the way I've always pronounced it, with a 'z' sound). This online pronunciation website confirms Kailee's pronunciation: forvo-dot-com/word/louisa_may_alcott/

I found another website that pronounces Louisa with an 's' sound too: pronouncenames-dot-com/pronounce/louisa. Perhaps these differing pronunciations are regional? A number of girls' names seem to have more than one pronunciation.

If you strongly prefer the 's' pronunciation and are willing to gently correct those who pronounce your daughter's name the other way, I think those closest to your LouiSa would soon be using that pronunciation consistently.

Patricia said...

Ashley, your husband's pronunciation of Louisa isn't all that "mangled". I think it's a carryover of an 18th century pronunciation of the name (when Sophia was sometimes pronounced so-FIE-uh and Maria as ma-RYE-uh). There is a Louisa County, Iowa, where Louisa is pronounced as low-WHY-zuh.

Southern jezeBelle said...

In the south we exaggerate the W. It would be proncounced loo-WEES-uh. I know a few gals with the name and they're all pronounced the same. However with Louise and Eloise I give more of a Z sound.

T said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! This is so interesting! It's nice to have input from different areas of the country.

I think I'm hesitant to consider Luisa instead of Louisa, even though I recognize that the pronunciation would be so much simpler, because we are a Very Caucasian sort of family, with no Spanish sorts of heritage at all. I think people would think we were Trying Too Hard or something if we choose a name that appears to be of a different nationality than our own, if that makes sense. I think that's partly why we choose Annalise instead of Anneliese, too (although people could think we're German, based on our looks, so it wouldn't be as much of a stretch).

Anyway, your thoughts? Do you think it's strange when a family chooses a child's name from a different heritage than what they appear to be?

(Side note: this will be our third child; our oldest is named Matthew.) (And another side note: don't feel like your comments will make or break our decision, because we still have a while to decide and have a couple of names we're still throwing around.)

Thanks, everyone!

Swistle said...

T.- You know, I do agree: I'd feel funny spelling it Luisa, now that I think about it.

Candice said...

T - much like you, it had not occurred to me that people might pronounce Louise and Louisa the same way! I have always used the "s" and not the "z" sound, but it appears from the poll that I am in the minority! i agree with your thoughts on Luisa -- to me it looks like the male name Luis w/an "a" tacked on the end. In general, though, I do thinking introducing your two daughters as "Annalise and Louisa" is a bit of a tongue twister -- perhaps too much of the same "l" and "s" sounds.

I'm not sure if it's the sounds you like or the "feel" of the name, but Louisa makes me think of Louisa May Alcott and that late-19th century era . . . which makes me think of names like Willa and Clara (which both have the "a" ending and an "L" sound.) Just some thoughts! Best of luck naming your daughter!

Megz said...

Yes I might think Luisa was a bit strange on a Causasian girl. I was going to say that once people knew how you prefer to pronounce it then they would get it right from then on. But then I think of my own daughter Kathleen who certain people always call Katherine even though they know her real name. So be prepared for certain people to possibly pronounce it wrong no matter what.

For the record I pronounce it Loo-WEEZ-a. I also say Loo-EE for Louis though.

Your comments made me wonder how you pronounce Annalise? Does it rhyme with Fleece (short E) or Fleas (long E)?

I think Anna-leece and Loo-weez-a go nicely together with the different "i" sounds. Anna-leez and Loo-weez-a is too much "ee" in my opinion.

Congratulations and good luck.

Luisa said...

My name is Luisa, actually, and I'm Caucasian. I've never gotten any weird looks or comments about my heritage's relation to my name or its spelling. In fact, I get a lot of compliments on my name! Personally, I much prefer the soft 's' spelling, but people who don't know how I spell it do tend to pronounce it with a 'z' sound, which can get annoying. I generally make sure to emphasize the 's' when I introduce myself, and then people pronounce it correctly. I love my name, and can't imagine being named anything else.

That being said, I think Luisa or Louisa pronounced with a soft 's' is a little too similar to Annalise, and for that reason alone I would suggest either Louisa with a 'z' sound or another name entirely.

Meg said...

I pronounce it Loo-eese-ah but that might be a british thing ??
I just had to add I LOVE Loo-see-ah (lucia) it's one of my good friends names, we all call her ludie, it's nice and I prefer it to Loo-sha (lucia)
good luck with the new arrival

Slim said...

Whitebread Northerner transplanted to the South, and I would pronounce it with an S sound. I love the name -- we'd have used it if any of our kids had been girls, but no.

Jenny Grace said...

I know exactly one Louisa, and she pronounces it Loo-eese-ah, so it has honestly never occurred to me that there was a second option.

Anonymous said...

I've know three people named Louisa and they all pronounced their names (or their parents did, depending on their age) a little differently. One was Lew-ee-za; one Lew-ee-sa; one Lo-ee-sa.

I also knew a girl named Lewissa, spelled that way so people would get the pronunciation correct (like Lewis, with an "a"!). This is my favourite pronunciation, though I'm not as fond of how it looks.

I love the name, in all its variations!

Natalie said...

I've always said "loo-EE-sah." It's the only way I've heard the name, that I've noticed. I never questioned it until recently when I saw someone comment on a baby name board that it reminded them of the word "wheeze." I was like... What?

I was born and raised in Texas, FWIW.

M.Amanda said...

Never really thought about it, but I always pronounced Louise as Lew-eez, Louisa as Lew-eez-ah (Louise with ah at the end), and Luisa as Lew-ees-ah (the male Luis with ah at the end).

Louisa said...

My name is Louisa and I pronounce it Loo-ee-sa with a soft "s". I love the way my name sounds, the way it looks, and that it is unique today and old-fashioned. It's a family name for me too. There's no need shy away from using it as a first name. When someone mispronounces it, I quickly mention "it's an 's', not a 'z', loo-ee-sa". That usually does the trick. Anyway, I just love being a Louisa!