25 Super Strange Wisconsin Town Names

Aahh, weird Wisconsin, how I love you. Truth is, I appreciate a well-named town. And by well-named, I just mean strange. Here are 25–and believe me, that’s just a sampling–of Wisconsin’s oddly named communities:

  1. Arkansaw (Pepin County)
    Arkansaw, Wis. was named after the Arkansas River. I’m not sure when someone decided to replace the ‘S’ with a ‘W,’ but who am I to question their logic?
  2. Avalanche (Vernon County)
    I have to wonder if an introvert named this town as a strategic way of deterring others from moving in. We’re on to you, citizens of Avalanche…
  3. Bluff Siding (Buffalo County)
    Evidently, Bluff Siding got its name from the rocky bluffs near the town site. Props to the very practical town-namer of Bluff Siding.
  4. Bosstown (Richland County)
    I find myself sitting up extra straight while driving through the tiny town of Bosstown.
  5. Cleghorn (Eau Claire County)
    I like this one because it sounds like the name of a character from Harry Potter.
  6. Dairyland (Douglas County)
    Shouldn’t this be our capital?
  7. Disco (Jackson County)
    I dream of a town where everyone has moves like Travolta. Said town shall be named…Disco.
  8. Embarrass (Waupaca County)
  9. Fence (Florence County)
    Apparently the town of Fence was named after an American Indian hunting method. As in, they’d build a fence, deer would jump over it and then get impaled. Hmph. That is a surprisingly graphic backstory for a pretty basic town name.
  10. Gotham (Richland County)
    Batman would live here if this town was pronounced the way a lot of people think it’s pronounced. But au contraire! The name actually rhymes with “Loath them.”
  11. Footville (Rock County)
    I always tell folks I’m from Evansville, but technically, I grew up outside the teeny tiny town of Footville in Rock County. Once, I ran out of gas on the west end of town. I was able to roll my car all the way down to the southeastern end of town, where the community’s only gas station was located. Thank you, Footville, for having a rockstar name and also for being topographically advantageous for those of us who are prone to running on E. 😀
  12. Institute (Door County)
    I went to a bar here once. It was called Institute Saloon, I believe. My friends and I had a lovely time. That is all.
  13. Ixonia (Jefferson County)
    Didyaknow? Ixonia was named when some townsfolk decided to draw letters from a hat. I bet these peeps had mad Scrabble skills.
  14. King (Waupaca County)
  15. Luck (Polk County)
    Fun fact: Singer-songwriter Regina Spektor worked at a butterfly farm in Luck. #MindBlown
  16. Mishicot (Manitowoc County)
    Mishicot means “hairy leg.” And this, my friends, is the most useful nugget of knowledge you will consume all month.
  17. Oconomowoc (Waukesha County)
    So there are probably hundreds of hard-to-pronounce Native American town names in Wisconsin, but Oconomowoc is one of my favorites because it stumps every single out-of-towner. Hehe. Aside from my evil regard for baffling nonnatives, I also like that the name Oconomowoc derives from Coo-no-mo-wauk, which is the Potawatomi term for “waterfall.”
  18. Pardeeville (Columbia County)
    Partyyyy peeeeeople. Who wouldn’t wanna call this place home? I know I would.
  19. Random Lake (Sheboygan County)
    I’m unsure of the origins of this one. Maybe it was just a random name? If anyone knows, comment below!
  20. Rural (Waupaca County)
    Somewhat of a lazy naming job I suspect, but I kinda like it.
  21. Sheboygan (Sheboygan County)
    I don’t know why, but every time I say Sheboygan out loud, I find myself really laying on the Wisconsin accent: Shah-BOYYYY-geaann. Such dramatized pronunciation makes this Was-CANNNN-sin girl very happy. 🙂
  22. Taycheedah (Fond du Lac County)
    I am seriously considering naming my first pet cat this. Tay for short (obvi).
  23. Tichigan (Racine County)
    It’s like someone had a few too many brandy old-fashioned sweets and thought it a good idea to give their town a name that sarcastically alludes to our next door neighbor.
  24. Weyauwega (Waupaca County)
    It’s native american for “old woman.” Use this information very cautiously please. Allow me to be more frank: Maybe don’t use this word in Mom’s next birthday card? :/
  25. Winnebago (Winnebago County)
    I didn’t find this name too amusing…until I learned Winnebago literally translates to “dirty water people.” Now that’s giggle-worthy.

There are tons more worth noting! Which would you like to see on this list? Add your favorites below!

Mariah Haberman hosts the nation’s longest-running tourism TV show, Discover Wisconsin. She hails from Evansville, where she was brought up in a family of seven in a small farmhouse outside of town. Some of her favorite memories include Lake Michigan fishing trips with her Dad, showing sheep at the Rock County Fair and buzzing around the farm on an ATV with her little brother. Watch Discover Wisconsin Saturdays at 10 a.m. on FSN Wisconsin’s outdoor block. (Twitter: @DiscoverWI)



153 replies
  1. John Thatcher
    John Thatcher says:

    Where the Arkansas river runs through Kansas, it is known as the r-CAN-sass river; after it leaves Kansas it eventually gets to Arkansas, where it’s called the r-can-SAW river. My guess is that they spelled it “Arkansaw” so that there would be no confusion in the pronounciation.

  2. Suzanne
    Suzanne says:

    Soldiers Grove.
    Big Foot.
    And those are just a few of a long list…..

  3. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    It’s not a Wisconsin town but in Florida where I now live we frequently make jest of Opp, Alabama as the “city that couldn’t spell opportunity.”
    PS: I can remember a commercial in which a boss was talking via phone to an employee and asked “how are things going in…” “Oconomowoc” says the employee, to which the boss replies ” on account of what?” Lol

    • Jeff Guidinger
      Jeff Guidinger says:

      Kirchhayn is in Washington County on CTH T or Western Avenue to locals. The word is derived from “Church” or “Kirche and the word “Hayn” is derived from: Hayn is a village and a former municipality in the Mansfeld-Südharz district, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. When the German’s settled in Kirchhayn, Wisconsin in the 1800’s, they built a church (David’s Star) Lutheran church and named the area Kirchhayn.

  4. Lane
    Lane says:

    Kirchhayn…Ozaukee county, Wi. Pronounced Keer-kein. Only has like 70 people living there at most and only has one bar and a auto dump. That is the town. Home of the great country singer Josh Thompson!

  5. Michele
    Michele says:

    What about Sextonville?
    My sister and I would always crack up about that. I believe it wasn’t too far from Partyville?
    Also, Boaz (its “Bows”, not “BO-azz”, right?) & Muscoda – a good test to see if someone is from WI. Will they say “MUS-co-dah” or “MUSS- kah-day”??

  6. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    I grew up near Weyauwega and was taught it was Indian for “Hear We Rest”. It’s between two rivers and they had to pull their canoes out there.

  7. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    Urne ( pronounced ER- KNEE, like the name Ernie).. Looks much like Urine.. ha ha. Buffalo County. Not far from Praag, WI. – home of Buck Knuckles.. the ” you just gotta see it” bar. ( rhymes with Frog).

  8. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Leipsig, WI… Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Waldo, WI… But I can proudly say I was born in Sheboygan and call Ixonia home.

  9. Jean
    Jean says:

    I know it takes all the fun out of it, but Pardeeville was named after James Pardee. The James Pardee that dammed up the Fox River, created a mill here, brought in the railroad, and basically made the village into something fairly big at the turn on the century. Unfortunately, it’s not the bustling center of economy it once was, but we like our quiet little town.

  10. Ami
    Ami says:

    Growing up, my mom told me the (likely untrue) story SHE was told of how Eleva got its name:

    A man was in the process of painting “Elevator” on the area’s water tower, fell partway through, and died, having only completed the first five letters. And thus Eleva was named.

    (Why they would paint “elevator” on the water tower is beyond me, making the story a load of hooey in my book, once I was old enough to think it through logically. Lol.)

    • jsample
      jsample says:

      When I was in high school one of the clubs I belonged to flew to Europe. Some students were on the plan with us from New York. They thought Wisconsin was located near California but they knew how to spell Wausau from the commercials.

  11. Bob
    Bob says:

    I like that Victory and Retreat in SW Wisconsin are less than 10 miles apart. I knew a guy who was from Luck, Wisconsin — he called himself “s**t out of Luck!” By the way, is it GREEN Bay or Green BAY ?

  12. Becky Chase
    Becky Chase says:

    Umm traveling around to different states and being able to drive thru Blue Ball, Intercourse, and Paradise in a matter of a few min in Pennsylvania, nothing surprises me anymore! I guess growing up in Wisconsin these names all seem normal to me!

  13. gary gilbertson
    gary gilbertson says:

    newry in vernon county…cream in buffalo county waumandee in buffalo or trempeleau county
    bloomindale in vernon county, ferryville in crawford county, beetown in grant county, lynxville in crawford county, clyde in iowa county

  14. JoAnn Dunaj
    JoAnn Dunaj says:

    Weyauwega, I was always told that this was the Idian word for “Here we rest” because of the river and lake they would stop here in Weyauwega and rest.

    • Jack
      Jack says:

      Legend says that the name was given when the village applied to the state for a name and included the request, “Please hustle.”

  15. Jean
    Jean says:

    Bloomer Wi. jump rope capital of the world. (Still to beat rate of 72 jumps in 10 seconds) and famous Main street cafe pies.

  16. Julia
    Julia says:

    Random Lake was called Random Lake after when it was founded, the surveyors found a “random lake ” and the name has stuck since. It’s something we Random Lakers learn in the third grade.

  17. Patricia Boe
    Patricia Boe says:

    Cleghorn was named after the man named James Cleghorn, which owned the farm I grew up on before my dad bought it. We did have their white house cookbook, but don’t know who has that now.

  18. Danny Kleven
    Danny Kleven says:

    Postville-Green county and Shantytown in Marathon County. Klevenville in Dane County. Avon in Rock County Shopiere in Rock County. Orfordville-Rock County Leydon (outside of Janesville.

  19. Mary
    Mary says:

    Before they renamed the area as Alpine Valley, the area was known to locals as Skunk’s Misery ( Walworth County near East Troy.)

  20. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Whitewater. My father was listening to the broadcast on the radio of a basketball game between Whitewater and another school. The announcer, obviously from out of state, kept calling it Whih-TOO-whih-ter, thinking it was an Indian name.

  21. kelley
    kelley says:

    I live in pardeeville,trust me no one exactly WANTS to live here. There’s not much of a party. Columbia County sheriff’s are right down town they don’t take kindly to people having a good time.

  22. Rob
    Rob says:

    You can drive up Highway 27 out of Prairie du Chien and go (Eastman) to see the (Seneca) indians near (Mt Sterling) where there is a ( Fair View) of the (Rising Sun) and the (Liberty Pole) on your way to Viroqua.

  23. Bill
    Bill says:

    I was listening to an audio book a couple of years ago, when the narrator ran into Oconomowoc and utterly massacred it. To his credit, he got it right in subsequent iterations.

  24. Kari
    Kari says:

    Luck is also the Yo-Yo capital of the world! The Duncan yo-yo factory was in Luck for years, (however, hasn’t been for years now). My dad worked there!

  25. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    How about another town that has been mispronounced many times, BOSCOBEL, Grant County. As a child, I was told it got it’s name from the old farmers wife calling her cows each night, Come BOSS come BELL!

  26. Chris
    Chris says:

    I saw a group of speakers several years ago in Waukesha. Collin Powell was among the troupe of knowledge givers. He started by saying how glad he was to be in “Wa-kee sha.” lol

  27. Janet
    Janet says:

    Gratiot-Lafayette County. Pronounced gra (short a as in apple) sh*t. Heard an announcer on the radio pronounce it as gra tea ot. It was always a funny name to say as a kid. Felt like we could swear without getting into trouble.

  28. Linda
    Linda says:

    Loved seeing my hometown of Pardeeville on the list!!! I’m used to the “Really??” question when giving my address. Love it here. Small town, gorgeous park, lovely lakes. 🙂

  29. jeannie perry
    jeannie perry says:

    i’ve been in every county, and FEEL like i’ve been in every town, but there are a few here i hadn’t known! a friend of mine once got lost and stopped in a cafe’ and said, “excuse me, i’m looking for romance.” the waitress said, “aren’t we all, buddy?!”

      • Gordon Glass
        Gordon Glass says:

        Hi Mariah. That was me in your story about Romance Wisconsin, Did you get the story from Jeannie Perry? Here’s the real story; Many years ago I was out booking for my band and was trying to book into a bar in Romance. I couldn’t find the town so I stopped in a restaurant in Genoa, Wisconsin, walked up to the counter and said, “Excuse be, but I’m looking for Romance”. A fellow I knew from Richland Center (My home town) was seated at a table but I hadn’t seen him when I came in, piped up and said, “Aren’t we all, Gordie. Aren’t we all”

          • Julie
            Julie says:

            Funny – I never even heard of Romance, WI, until I saw an old rerun of HeeHaw. One of the cast said, “HeeHaw would like to salute Romance, Wisconsin. Population – 20”. I had to look it up and was surprised to see that Romance, WI did exist.

    • jeannie perry
      jeannie perry says:

      i pass thru INO frequently (there is nothing there but a tavern along the road)…it always makes me think of an eager child in a classroom, knowing the answer, waving his hand, callingm “I KNOW! I KNOW” : )

  30. Julie
    Julie says:

    Hustler (Juneau County)
    Ino (Bayfield County)
    Imalone (Rusk County)
    Moquah (Bayfield County) – pronounced MUCK-wah
    Cornucopia (Bayfield County)
    Esofea (Vernon County)

  31. KiKimmberlee
    KiKimmberlee says:

    Always loved the name LacDubutamore. ( SP?) in Fox Valley near Oshkosh until one day when we pulled over and read the historical marker to find out it was French for “Lake of the mound of the dead”. Referring to an Indian massacre where the tribe was backed up against the lake and massacred and buried there. Sure ruined that idea lick sounding name for me!

  32. Matt
    Matt says:

    There once was a man from Manitowoc
    Who walked all the way to Oconomowoc.
    When he got there,
    He was heard to declare,
    “I’m so tired I ca’ no mo’ walk!”

  33. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    My all time favorite is Loretta WI (for obvious reasons), and Pittsville south of
    Marshfield is the funniest!

    • jeannie perry
      jeannie perry says:

      pittsville calls itself the exact center of wisconsin (turns out that is if you draw an X, not a plus sign, across the map). i’m sure they’ve heard many jokes about the center of wis. being the pits!

    • jeannie perry
      jeannie perry says:

      i’ve been thru beautiful downtown wonewoc many times…it always makes me think of that pop tune, “the lion sleeps tonight” — the background singers are chanting, “a-wim a wac, a-wim a wac.”

  34. Jo Ann
    Jo Ann says:

    Chenequa-Waukesha County
    Muskego-Waukesha County
    Markesan-Green Lake County
    Shiocton-Outagamie County
    Suamico-Brown County

  35. Patrick Bonngard
    Patrick Bonngard says:

    I have a few towns you’ve never heard of:
    Lena,wi Burkhardt,wi Eau Claire,wi Siren,wi Whitehall wi just to name a few

  36. Angela
    Angela says:

    We live is St Nazianz in Manitowoc county. It’s great to hear people slaughter that one. Near here there is a town named Memee, it makes me giggle every time.

  37. Karen Gabriel
    Karen Gabriel says:

    New Holstein
    Brown Deer
    Menomonee Falls in Waukesha Cnty
    Menomonie in Dunn Cnty
    Menominee in Menominee Cnty
    4 Cleveland’s in Wi & 6 Clifton’s

  38. Jeff Guidinger
    Jeff Guidinger says:

    Ino, Bayfield county. You say it like it looks… I KNOW. Between Ashland and Iron RIver Wisconsin on STH 2.

    • jeannie perry
      jeannie perry says:

      i know! i go thru ino often. there is nothing there but one bar (with good food)! it always makes me picture an eager kid in class, eager to answer the question, waving his arm and going, I KNOW! I KNOW!

  39. Philip Mundt
    Philip Mundt says:

    Oil City, White City, Avalanche, Dilly. And of course in Clark County is Globe, which could just as easily be known by an acronym of the three county Highways that intersect in the middle of village. Count t Highway H, County Highway o, and County highway G. (HOG)


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply to jsample Cancel reply