How to speak Charleston

Here in Charleston, we have a very distinct dialect that can be quite confusing to our visitors.  You may have found yourself looking at different downtown Charleston street names and thinking “How in the world do I pronounce that?” Well don’t worry, you aren’t the only one.  Here’s a quick cheat sheet on how to pronounce some of those pesky names as well as some fun facts…


Barre – BARE • ree
Isaac Barre was an Irishman who later become a prominent member of Parliament and ally to the American colonists. He has several streets named after him all along the east coast as well as the town of Barre, Massachusetts and the city of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Beaufain – BYOU • fain
Hector Berenger De Beaufain was a Frenchman who moved to Charleston in 1733 and would later become Collector of Customs in Charleston.

Clemson – CLEMP • sun, CLEM • sun
Thomas Green Clemson, was a diplomat, an agriculturalist and a mining engineer.  He was also married to the daughter of John C. Calhoun.  When he passed away in 1888, he left most of his estate to be used to establish a college that would teach scientific agriculture and the mechanical arts and that led to the present day Clemson University.   So don’t let the ESPN commentators fool you – there is no Z in Clemson

Guignard – GIN • yard, GIN • yurd
The Guignard family emigrated to Charleston from France around 1737.  They later moved to Lexington county where they established different businesses and were prominent members of their community.

Hasell – HAY• zul
Hasell Street was one of the many streets destroyed during the Great Fire of 1838.

Huger – u • GEE
Brig. Gen. Isaac Huger fought in the Cherokee War and the American Revolution.  He later served in the SC Senate and the House of Representatives.

Legare – luh • GREE
You will find one of Charleston’s most historic mansions on Legare Street.  32 Legare to be exact and most Charlestonians know this as The Sword Gate House.  Solomon Legare originally built the Sword Gate House and is the man for whom Legare Street is named.  (Currently the Sword Gate House is on the market for merely $17,500,000!)

Moultrie – MOOL • tree
Col. William Moultrie commanded Fort Sullivan (now Fort Moultrie) during the Revolutionary War.

Prioleau – PRAY • low
Samuel Prioleau was a lawyer who served as the 26th mayor of Charleston from 1824-1825.

Sans Souci – san • SOO • see
Sans Souci (also known as Sans Souci on the Ashley) was a 300 acre plantation in this area of present day downtown Charleston.  Sans Souci is a French phrase that translates to “without concern”

Vanderhorst – VAN • der • HORST, VAN • dross
The Vanderhorst family was established in South Carolina towards the end of the 17th century by Baron Johannes Van Der Horst, a Dutch army officer.


Want to learn more pronunciations?  Visit SCIWAY for a more detailed list.