Use ‘Phonetic Names’ to get iPhone 4S’s Siri to pronounce names correctly

Want your iPhone 4S’s Siri to pronounce people’s names correctly?

Then use the Phonetic First/Last Name fields. Once you fill them in properly, Siri won’t mispronounce your name or those of your friends and family.

To set a phonetic field in iOS 5, go to a contact’s entry from your iPhone, tap “Edit,” scroll to the bottom, and tap “Add Field.” Choose “Phonetic First Name” and/or “Phonetic Last Name” and fill them in.

To set a phonetic field in Mac OS X Lion’s Address Book, go to a contact’s entry, click “Edit,” In the “Card” menu, choose “Add Field” and “Phonetic First/Last Name.” When synced with iCloud, those phonetic names will appear on your iOS devices and iCloud-capable computers.

[Attribution: Shawn Blanc. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Arline M.” for the heads up.]


    1. It’s a way to define how to pronounce a difficult word or name.

      It would have been nice to see a link to a dictionary of the phonemes that Siri knows and what they translate into.

      1. Even better, why not have Siri fill in the phonetic pronunciation for you? We should be able tap the microphone icon (on an iPhone) while the cursor is in the phonetic name field, Siri then spells it the way “she” hears it. From that moment on, Siri would listen for that pronunciation and call up the associated entry. A user could then go through their entire address book sayng the names of people (even nicknames), and Siri would help Siri become better. In fact, it would be nice to see a “teach me” feature built in to the final release of Siri.

  1. this makes perfect sense. Back on Mac system 8 you could type sentences or much more, and have the Mac speak it in any one of a number of different voices. You quickly learned that phonetic spelling was the trick with many words. Nothing really new, but it’s nice that there are now separate data fields for phonetic spellings. Nice touch.

  2. Unfortunately there is a bug relating to phonetic entry fields in the iOS Contacts App. When you enter your last name in the phonetic field, the phonetic spelling becomes the sort spelling as well . After I created a phonetic last name field for myself, I couldn’t locate my contact info except to do a search. I found it later in the place where one might expect it if the phonetic spelling were the actual spelling. Crazy bug, Apple!

    1. I noticed the same thing. Thanks for confirming it. I consider that a bug too, and I reported it to Apple via I hope they change it so last name sorting really sorts by last name. By the way, the Lion address book also has the same behavior.

        1. This has nothing to do with Siri. It’s a bug in Lion’s address book and the iOS contacts app. The preference is set to sort by last name, but it’s sorting by a different field instead.

    2. I found a work around for this. Siri doesn’t care whicha phonetic name field you use. It seems to search every field. So put the phonetic name in the phonetic field corresponding to the part of the name (last or first) that you don’t use for sorting. For example, if you sort by last name, place the phonetic last name in the phonetic first name field, and vice-versa. You can even use the nickname field instead. You will have to pronounce only that part of the name to refer to that person. Use the microphone to add the tags.

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