I just read an interesting question here on Greenwich Mean Time.

I'm interested to know when Greenwich received its peculiar pronunciation. Has it always been pronounced as "GREN-ich" (/ˈɡrɛnɪtʃ/), and is it just a simple contraction or something more?

I'm from Northern England and would say that GREN-ich is used nationally and globally, but I agree with Wikipedia that I've heard it pronounced GRIN-ich in London.


4 Answers 4


Greenwich was originally Grenevic in Old English, and so has probably never been “Green-witch”.

Similarly, Norwich in Norfolk is pronounced “nor-itch”, and was originally spelt Northwic.

  • 2
    +1: N.B. In OE Gipeswic would have been pronounced yippeswitch.
    – Robusto
    Jun 9, 2011 at 18:53
  • @Robusto. Ipswitch wasn't a good example - I changed it
    – mgb
    Jun 9, 2011 at 19:16
  • Thanks Martin. I find it interesting that it is written GREEN-wich in modern English. In our neck of the woods we have Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich: all pronounced something-witch. (It's Ipswich of course not Ipswitch).
    – Dizzley
    Jun 9, 2011 at 19:22
  • The Cheshire town is "Northwich" and is pronounced like that. Norwich is pronounced Nor-itch as you say. I wonder if the differences are regional?
    – Dizzley
    Jun 9, 2011 at 19:29
  • @Dizzley - very likely the differences are regional: the town of Greenock in Scotland is pronounced with the long E sound ("ee") not short E ("eh"): TV newscasters frequently pronounce it wrongly, presumably influenced by Greenwich's short E.
    – AAT
    Jun 9, 2011 at 20:56

Two processes at work: pre-cluster shortening followed by wyn-dropping.

pre-cluster shortening:

break ~ breakfast
green ~ Greenwich
goose ~ gosling
waist ~ waistcoat


historical one > an
husband > hussy
inwards > innards
always > allus
will > 'll
-wich, -wick > -ich, -ick

In his Historical Wyn Dropping, Jack Windsor Lewis says

Placenames abound throughout Britain ending -wich and -wick most of which retain their spellings with w but have long dropped their wyns eg Alnwick, Berwick, Bromwich, Chiswick, Greenwich, Harwich, Keswick, Norwich, Smethwick, Warwick, Woolwich. Some have restored their wyns if they ever lost them eg Droitwich, Hardwick, Ipswich, Nantwich, Sandwich and Lerwick. Surnames are more likely to have been re-spelt more phonetically as in the cases of Garrick and Crummle(s) the latter of which also exists as Cromwell.

Check his note on Current Wyn Dropping.


I guess I was taught wrong in school, what a shame. Green, as in the color two EE together (long Es) as sounded out in the color Green> wich should be sounded out just as it is spelled out,and should sound like the word witch(who can fly on a broom.) Thus you have the word (Greenwich) a woman colored green who can fly a broom ), and I thought they were all burned at the stake.Come to Greenwich , NY,12834 and they will gladly tell you how to pronounce this word .They even have a school insignia of a Green colored woman flying on a broom,(a witch) Green-witch

  • 8
    Greenwich, NY is pronounced differently from Greenwich, England. Just like Woburn, MA is pronounced different from Woburn, England, and Houston, TX is pronounced differently from Houston St. in Manhattan, and Theodore Roosevelt pronounced his name different from Franklin D. Roosevelt, and nobody outside of New Jersey knows how to pronounce the last name "Kean" properly. May 29, 2012 at 17:10

Greenwich in South London was originally (locally) pronounced "Grin idge" or "Grin itch". The pronunciation "Gren idge" is a recent pollution from (middle-class) newcomers to the area and one that also reflects a US inflection, e.g. Grenidge Village. Older local people do not like the new inflection imposed from 'without'.

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