Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

The town of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was named in honour of Isaac Barré, an Anglo-Irish officer of Huguenot extraction who was born in Dublin in 1726. The earliest official pronunciation of the place name was close to “Wilkes-Barry” (or “BA-reih” : current in Dublin for the name, the /a/ as in “trap”). Compare that adapted French surname Barré to the loan word ballet which in the British Isles is said as /ˈbæl.eɪ/ [“BAL-leih”].

Col. Barré* had many friends amongst the American colonists, and, as the Rt. Hon. Isaac Barré, he opposed the hated Stamp Act. Through his fiery oratory in Parliament he popularised the designation “Sons of Liberty” applied to American rebels.

Toponymically, a Wikipedia contributor —writing in the Talk page for the “Wilkes-Barre” article— implies something stronger than a tradition in the “Barry” rendering— a certain kind of chain of custody :

I’ve resided in Wilkes-Barre for the better of 50 years. The name is pronounced as “wilks-barry”. This is how it is pronounced on all area television and radio stations; this is the language being used in the Luzerne County courthouse, the county seat. All these attempts at change are nothing more than local colloquialisms.




*Note of Isaac Barré’s rank –




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