Poll: How Do You Pronounce ‘Shannara?’

The book arrives
The Annotated Sword of Shannara

Fantasy is filled with strange names.

It’s part of the charm of the genre. It is far easier to get lost in a strange world if that world is all the different from our own. That includes names for places and people.

For many people, the first time they come to Terry’s work is by viewing one of those names: Shannara. It is in the very title of the book that a new reader picks up and handles for the first time. The creation of the name is lost to even Terry. But it is arguably the most important name in his work, having become not only the family name but the title of the overall series.

With the news a week ago concerning the possibility that The Elfstones of Shannara will be adapted into a television series by Sonar Entertainment, Farah Films, and MTV, it opens up some interesting dilemmas. One of those is pronunciations. If the show is green lit into production—and we all hope it will be—there are pronunciations to consider.

And ‘Shannara‘ is arguably the most important.

Today’s poll question is a simple one:

How do you pronounce Shannara?

I’ve only heard the name said two ways in my life. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways. I grew up reading the series, saying it how 95% of people say it. Then I met Terry and my mind was blown. He says it like one of the 5%! I have since changed over to how he pronounces it, figuring if it is good enough for the creator, it’s good enough for his webmaster!

Here are the poll options:

  • Shan (rhymes with can)-UH-RUH
  • Shuh-NAR (rhymes with car)-uh
  • Other



65 responses to “Poll: How Do You Pronounce ‘Shannara?’”

  1. I met him 11-12 years ago at a book club event after highschool in Kalispell, MT and he expressed surprise that “Of all the names in these books, I thought Shannara [Shan-UH-RUH] is the one everyone would get right.” He was the only one in the room that pronounced it “his way”!

  2. I pronounced in Shuh-nar-ah for my whole life.

    until I went to a reading with Terry and I too had my eyes opened to the “correct” pronunciation. I say it Terry’s way now.

  3. Like the song… Sha-nah-nah…. but with a “rah” at the end: Sha-nah-rah.

    I’ve read the comments about how Terry pronounces it, and you would think that him being the author and all, he would say it correctly… but alas, that isn’t the case. Shan-UH-RUH? Nope… sorry Terry. Try again. 🙂

    Gary

  4. I voted the majority (Shuh-NAR-rah).

    Although Shannara is the title, other than in commericals for the show and other media related things, I doubt the word will be said much at all within the actual TV series.

    What about the pronunciation of Ohmsford? I’ve heard this two ways:

    1: (Ahh)msford
    2: (Oh)msford (from the term Ohm for measuring electrical resistance)

    My mind more often goes to (Ahh)msford, but I have a feeling I’m in the minority here. I’ve heard others say it that way, so I know I’m not the only one, but I’m betting (Oh)msford is the majority. Thought it would be interesting to see what others here have to say 🙂

  5. yeah, it wasnt untill i meet terry at a reading that i had been pernoucing it wrong all along, i still cant force myself to pronouce it right. oh well. nar ryhms with car.

  6. Sha-na-ra, it always sounded okay and made sense to me… Why have all those a’s and make uh’s…..? Oh well, seems like I need to change that now….

  7. I have “mis-pronounced” it my whole life, until I recently watched a youtube video of Terry, and was stumped by his pronunciation. I have converted. But I voted this poll the way I have always said this. I suspect that MTV wants to know how most readers are saying it. Very curious to see how this epic tale is pronounced on the small screen.

  8. Sorry, I’m an English major, so this is something that’s always bugged me. If you break it down by syllables, it’s Shan-na-ra or Shan-nar-a, so it can be pronounced:
    SHAN-na-ra
    shan-NA-ra
    shan-na-RA
    SHAN-nar-a
    shan-NAR-a
    shan-nar-A
    There really is no way to get a SHUH or SHAW sound out of those letters. This led to many an argument with friends growing up. (And now. Some things never change.) My pronunciation is SHAN-nar-a (fourth one down on my list) because as a name (Jerle Shannara) the sound flows better.

    • Well, Mr. English Major, if you took grade four English classes, then you would remember that the stressing of certain syllables over others ultimately depends on the pronunciation that is demanded by the consonants that surround the vowels. (On both sides) In the case of double consonants, sometimes the separation into syllables does split them. But their combination is meant to reinforce their pronunciation as a solid unit, and their placement always puts them in the stressed part of the word. There are only a very few exceptions in the English language, but I only remember one of them now: accept. The word accept, because c is pronounced differently in both syllables, ends up becoming a two-stressed word. AK-SEPT. Other than that, check for yourself — there are rarely any incidents in the English language that cause double consonants to avoid being stressed. However, that is exactly what you are saying happens here. Instead, you are placing the stressed syllable with one vowel and one consonant — ar.
      I am just learning now, like you, how Brooks pronounces Shannara. Up until now I always wondered why I had difficulty reconciling the popular pronunciation, sha-nAR-a, with the way it’s spelled, shAN-a-ra. But now that I know, it makes perfect sense. Because it is not the r that is doubled, it is the n. SHAN-a-ra. If the r was doubled, it would undoubtedly be pronounced sha-nAR-a. There is no u, no w, and no o, so I doubt there would be an aw or au or oa sound anywhere in the word. Brooks, when he created the word, was relying, not on his fancy imagination, or on some English degree, but on basic language construction, something we all are taught in the early grades.

  9. I pronounced it sha-NA-ra for many years then read Terry say that he pronounced it differently than most people do so I started saying sha-na-RA. Recently I saw a youtube video of him doing a reading in a bookstore and realized my mistake. Redirecting the brain yet again. i just want to say it like he does. He is the creator!

  10. Many years ago I attended a bookshop event where Terry was reading a passage from a new book – a real cliffhanger! He was very firm on how Shannara is pronounced – someone in the audience suggested he was wrong! So now it’s Terry’s way

  11. Shannara is one word …nn means it is said ‘hard’ .NN … so it ia Shann-ara .. double letters are always ‘hard .. Nagging is Nagg-ing Not Nag-ging … its said without breaking into syllables … so to me it has always and always will be Shannara one word

  12. I guess I am influenced by Japanese. “Shan” and “nara” are pronounced “Shuh-n” and “nah-ra.” So, Shuh-NAR-ah has always been how I’ve pronounced it. Afraid I won’t change, even if Terry does pronounce it another way.

  13. I’ve always pronounced it Shu NAR uh also. And always will because I’m old and stuck in my ways lol. I remember Terry saying years ago that when it comes to pronunciations of names in his books, he doesn’t really go into it when fans ask him about it, as he feels once the story is out there and we read it, it becomes ours so however we pronounce it is fine to him. Or something such as that. I’m really paraphrasing here. I guess this becomes important however when it becomes a TV show and will be pronounced over and over again.

  14. I think this is a great and really important point. I think that the poll results are showing what most people would expect to hear in the TV show. Seems like a small item, but I think it may actually have a big effect on long-time readers.

    • Well, Scott, you’re probably right. However, I think Terry will prefer to have his actors/producers pronounce it the way it is spelled. After all, it is probably a little insulting to have a word that he thought everyone would get right, being pronounced wrong. Would you want anyone calling you du-BELL-ing? The pronunciation lies with the double consonant, right? So, it sounds like double-ing?

  15. My stepdad got me hooked on this little over 2 years ago, and we have both pronounced it like Shuh-NAR (rhymes with car)-uh. Even seeing Terry pronounce it differently hasn’t changed our way. I always hoped I had it right, though.

  16. I’ve always pronounced it shuh-nar-a. I think it would be fun to start a poll with everyone voting on the five favorite names we would like to hear Terry pronounce. There was an earlier post that mentioned the Ellcrys. That is one I’ve always been curious about. Shawn, if you or Terry had time, you guys could do a video post pronouncing the winning names. Just a thought. Could be something fun we all can partipate in to get some positive energy going for the upcoming tv series.

  17. I never considered another pronunciation other than the “rhymes with CAR” way until I saw Terry say it the other way in an interview somewhere… then I was bummed because I figured I’d been wrong for the last 20 years or so. Now I am glad to see that 75% of all Shannara fans are wrong too!

  18. When I first read the series, I pronounced it shan-NAR-a (rhymes with car), as did my father when I suggested he read them. Then I heard TB pronounce it SHANN-a-ra (rhymes with can), and have since been pronouncing it that way. At first, I forced myself to, but now I just do it. My dad still pronounces it the other way. As for other words/names from the series…

    Leah – I always pronounce it as Lee, not Leia or Lay.
    Ohmsford – I always pronounce it as Awmsford, even though it’s a long o sound.
    Ellcrys – El-criss.
    Allanon – The name Al followed by the word anon. My dad says all anon.
    Ilse Witch – Like ‘Ill Switch’, but faster so it sounds like one word. My dad says isle switch, but again, faster so it sounds like one word.
    Jarka Ruus – Jarka Ru, influenced by French I would assume, with a soft j (like the s in treasure). My dad says Jarka Rooz, with a hard j (like in job).
    Tanequil – Tan-eh-quill. My dad says Tane (rhymes with rain) quill.
    King of the Silver River – Keeng uv thuh (soft th, as in the) Sill-ver Riv-ver. I know, so different am I.

  19. I always pronounced Shannara like Shanon… Nara… like a girls name! I don’t see Car or Can … Hu Ru anywhere in there! Remember the name is Elvish so the words are fluid like water in a stream.

    Shannara… like Shanon…Nara!

    Eric

  20. I’ve always imagined it as Shuh-NAR-uh, but will have to train myself for SHAN-uh-ruh now. It reminds me of going to college in the midwest (from the northeast), where carbonated soft drinks are “pop” (pronounced “pahp”) instead of “soda”.

    For me, Ohmsford is OHMS-ferd, although sometimes it’ll come out ohms-FORD, like a family owned car dealership.

  21. Phonetically one would expect it be Shah-naruh \ ʃæ – nɑrə \ or Shah-nara \ ʃæ – nɑrɑ \ or possibly Sha-naruh \ ʃɑ – nɑrə \ or Sha-nara \ ʃɑ – nɑrɑ \, but if the author himself prefers pronouncing it “Shahnuhruh” \ ʃænərə \, then that is the way we should go…

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