Can You Pass This City Name Spelling Bee?


By: Beth Hendricks

7 Min Quiz

Image: Angela May/ Moment/ Getty Images

About This Quiz

This world is full of unique and interesting places. Can you believe there’s a spot named, simply, “Aa,” out there on our vast planet? Of course, there is! You can find it in Estonia, once part of the Russian Empire. That’s one of the shortest place names anywhere. Contrast that with Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales. We don’t even know how to pronounce that one!

Interesting city names aren’t unique to far-flung locales. The United States is full of odd, funny and tricky city spellings, too. How about Pflugerville, Texas? Have you ever been to Skaneateles, New York? Can you imagine a place named Zzyzx, California? There aren’t even any vowels in that one! 

We decided to combine our love of geography with our affinity for spelling bees into this two-in-one geospelling quiz. (That’s what we’re calling it, anyway!) Can you identify the proper way to spell the French city where the Hall of Mirrors is located? Do you know which way to order the letters in the name of Iceland’s capital? Can you identify the correct spelling of New Mexico’s most populous city? Spell your way to quiz glory with these known (and not-so-known) city names. It’s like a trip around the world, from A to Z!

You may toast with this beverage on New Year’s Eve, but how do you spell the name of the city Bob Dylan sang about with Carl Perkins?

Perkins and Bob Dylan co-authored the song, “Champaign, Illinois,” which Perkins subsequently released his 1969 album titled, “On Top.” Champaign got its start in the mid-1850s when a railroad track was first laid nearby.


This Mexican city’s name is pronounced “Wah-ha-kah,” but you’d never know it from its spelling. Which of these is correct?

Did you guess “Oaxaca?” If so, give yourself a big high-five because that one certainly doesn’t look like it sounds. Oaxaca is the fifth-largest state in Mexico but is the most-diverse biologically. There are more than 700 species of birds alone!


King Edward II is buried in this southwestern English town, which was also featured in the “Harry Potter” movie franchise. What is the town’s name?

Gloucester, England, is situated on River Severn, the longest of its type in Great Britain. Gloucester is the burial site of King Edward II, located at Gloucester Cathedral, which can be spotted in the “Harry Potter” franchise.


This is the capital and largest city in Iceland, but do you know how to spell it?

Reykjavík is the capital — and largest — city in Iceland, an island country situated in the Atlantic Ocean. Iceland is situated just south of the Arctic Circle so if you visit, be sure to pack a coat!


The 2012 movie, “The Avengers,” was largely filmed in this city, the most populous in New Mexico. How is it spelled?

Albuquerque is New Mexico’s most populous city and has seen its fair share of activity related to the Hollywood lifestyle. It served as a filming location for 2012’s “The Avengers” and Seth MacFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”


Ten miles from Paris, this locale is best known as the site of numerous treaties. Which of these is it?

Have you ever heard of the Treaty of Versailles or the Treaty of Paris? The first one came at the end of World War I and the second marked the end of the American Revolution. Versailles has previously served as the capital of France.


West Highland Way, a hiking footpath, gets its start in this Scottish town, a popular retreat for retired folks. Do you know how to spell it?

Milngavie, located near Glasgow, Scotland, is the beginning of the 95-mile footpath known as the West Highland Way. It is considered one of Scotland’s Great Trails and combines both level and hilly sections.


An Australian country singer originally included this town in the song, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” later popularized with Americanized lyrics. What is the name of the town in the original version?

Maroochydore is the fourth Australian city mentioned in the original version of “I’ve Been Everywhere,” a song that was later popularized with U.S.-based lyrics by the unforgettable Johnny Cash.


This city found itself at the center of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. How do you spell it?

Guadalajara, Spain, found itself at the center of many of the battles of the Spanish Civil War and suffered significant damage as a result. Town development plans as of late have focused on rebuilding the area to its one-time greatness.


More than 12 million people call this city, whose name means “western peace,” home. How is it spelled?

Xi’an is, appropriately, located in western China which helps its “western peace” meaning make a whole lot more sense. Despite its unusual spelling, the city’s name is pronounced “she-ann.”


You’ve probably heard someone say, “From here to...” this town. Which is the correct spelling?

If someone tells you it’s from “here to Timbuktu,” all they mean is that it’s really far away. Seems fair since, for most of us, Timbuktu is 5,000 (or more) miles away, in Western Africa.


Slovenia’s oldest city is this place, which isn’t spelled anything like it sounds! Which of these is correct?

Pronounced “Patooey,” Ptuj is the oldest recorded city in Slovenia, with records dating back as far as the Stone Age. Ptuj was later used as a military fort for the Romans, thanks to its strategic positioning along an important waterway.


A sandwich shop and India’s capital share a similarly-sounding name, but not a similar spelling. Which is correct for the city?

Delhi, India, is a city that has a city within it — New Delhi, to be specific, the capital of the country of India. If you’re looking for a sandwich, though, you’ll want to stop by a deli, whether you’re in Delhi or otherwise.


Companies like LG, Samsung and Hyundai call this Korean capital home. What is it?

Seoul, more formally known as Seoul Special City, is the capital of South Korea and home to multiple Fortune 500 companies like those mentioned in our question. At least a dozen others are headquartered here.


This capital city of Alaska sits at the base of a mountain by the same name. How is it spelled?

If you head north to the United States’ most northern member of the Union, you’ll find Juneau as Alaska’s capital city. It sits at the base of Mount Juneau, which rises 3,576 feet into the sky.


Located on the Tigris River, this capital of Iraq is often in the news. Do you know how to spell it?

Baghdad is the capital of Iraq. That’s not to be confused with a small town in Florida named the same, but spelled “Bagdad.” Baghdad is located along the Tigris River and has been a major seat of culture and government in the Middle East for centuries.


The Great Sphinx and the Great Pyramid are located in this Egyptian city, which is properly spelled in which answer choice below?

The Great Pyramid and the Great Sphinx are situated at the Giza Plateau in — you guessed it — Giza, Egypt, on the banks of the Nile River. Today, the complex is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.


“Cool water” is what this Nigerian capital’s name translates to, but how is it spelled?

Nairobi, Kenya, earned its name from a Maasai phrase that translates to “cool water.” Perhaps you don’t think of an African country as being “cool.” The name was most likely derived from the Nairobi River in the center of the city.


You’ll find the Alhambra, an Arab palace, in this city in Spain. Which is the correct spelling?

The Alhambra is an Arab palace, so its presence in the heart of Spain (Granada, to be specific) may seem a bit peculiar. Muhammad I of Granada occupied the Alhambra in the 13th century.


There’s a famous “leaning tower” in this Italian city. Where would you need to travel to get a picture of it?

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, maybe you’ve heard of it? This tourist attraction in Pisa, Italy, is — in fact — leaning, and has been since the 12th century. The ground beneath it being too soft to support its weight is the culprit for the unusual sight.


This Ohio city chose a Greek word for its name because it means “hospitality.” Which is the correct spelling of the city’s name?

Xenia, Ohio, earned its name after a pastor suggested the Greek term, “Xenia,” because of its meaning: hospitality. Xenia, Ohio, is situated near Dayton and holds the distinction of being the only U.S. city whose name starts with an “X.”


Enjoy smelling good? You can thank a resident of this German city. How do you spell it?

Eau de Cologne, as in a type of sweet-smelling perfume, did get its start in Cologne, Germany. Cologne is one of Germany’s largest cities and sits on the Rhine River.


The “Paris of the Middle East” was a nickname once given to this Lebanese city. How do you spell its name?

Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, was once called the “Paris of the Middle East.” It was at the height of its cultural significance just after World War II, until a civil war inside its borders wreaked havoc.


If you want to visit Nepal’s capital, you better be sure you know its proper spelling. Which is it?

Usually pronounced with a silent “H,” Kathmandu is Nepal’s capital city, located amid the Himalayan Mountains. In 2015, the area endured a significant earthquake that caused extensive damage throughout the city.


New Zealand’s largest city resides in the north of the country and is named what?

Auckland is situated in the northern part of New Zealand and is the country’s largest locale. Auckland has the highest Polynesian population of any country in the world, with roughly 1.6 million total residents.


The 2014 Winter Olympics took place in this Russian city, which is spelled correctly in which of these choices?

Sochi, Russia, is its country’s largest resort city and has played host on the international stage multiple times — not only the 2014 Winter Olympics but also the 2018 FIFA World Cup.


Originally named Branson, this Michigan city probably had fewer spelling mistakes before it became known as which of these?

Kalamazoo is located in the southwestern corner of Michigan, a city that was formerly named Branson after the man who founded it. The word “Kalamazoo” came from a Native American tribe that inhabited the area.


The Titanic was born in this Northern Ireland city, whose name is so simple it can be complicated. How do you spell it?

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and is one of those words that is both simple and challenging. This city is home to the Titanic, which famously sunk on its first voyage after striking an iceberg.


Poland’s fourth-largest city is this one, which sits on the Oder River. How is it spelled?

Wroclaw sits in western Poland on the banks of the Oder River. Its name is believed to be attributed to Duke Vratislav I, with “Vratislav” and “Wroclaw” being equivalent in the Polish and Czech languages.


A city in Massachusetts and a city in England share this name. What is it?

Worcester, Massachusetts, is named for Worcester, England, and the two not only share a name but the same spelling. The U.S. version of Worcester is located in close proximity to Boston.


Many people travel to this city in Thailand to check out its Buddhist temples. How is the city’s name spelled?

Phuket City is located in the southwestern corner of Thailand and is one of the country’s oldest cities. It is particularly noted for its Buddhist temples, which draw tourists and visitors year-round.


The Chinese symbols for this large city combine to mean “Upon the Sea.” How do you spell its actual name?

Shanghai is one of China’s largest and most prosperous cities, perched along the Yangtze and Huangpu Rivers. The Chinese symbols that represent its name combine to mean “Upon the Sea.” How appropriate!


Residents of this town may answer to the word “Weegies.” What city do they represent?

Residents of Glasgow are often called “Glaswegians,” which got shortened to “Weegies” over the years. Glasgow is Scotland’s most populous city and one of its most popular tourist locations.


Put this Hawaiian capital city on your itinerary if you’re headed that direction. Which is the proper spelling?

Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and a must-see for anyone making the trek to the United States’ 50th state. It is located on the island known as Oahu and is west of Pearl Harbor.


This is the longest place name in South Africa ... and it’s a doozy! Give it your best shot — which is it?

Sorry! We just had to throw a really tough one in there. Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein holds the distinction of being the longest place name in South Africa. We think it would compete for one of the longest anywhere!


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