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BMW is a legendary vehicle brand that’s had a major impact on the automotive industry — and is deeply integrated into the public consciousness. When one thinks of the quintessential luxury car, BMW often comes to mind. However, despite its ubiquitous nature, most people pronounce BMW all wrong, says the German automaker. Find out the right way to pronounce the name of the iconic luxury car brand.

BMW is pronounced ‘Bee-em-vee’ — not ‘Bee-em-double-you’

Logo for BMW, showing that most people pronounce the name wrong for the luxury car brand
BMW logo | Philippe Oursel via Unsplash

People say words in different ways, such as tomato, data, leisure, adult, apricot, and crayon. Also, pronunciation differs in various countries, particularly when languages don’t use specific consonants or sounds.

For example, when I was younger, I had a job as a voice actor in Thailand. To get to the recording studio at the office, I took a bus every day. The name of the street for the office is “Pinehurst.” However, in Thai language, there is no “st” sound, so it’s pronounced, “Pinehurt.” 

So, when I boarded the bus to go to work for the first time — and told the driver my drop-off point is “Pinehurst,” she had a look of confusion. The bus driver then said, “No, no! Pinehurt!” After that, I had to say the Thai pronunciation of “Pinehurt” so Thai people would understand me.

A similar thing happened with the BMW luxury car brand. There’s often a difference between its correct pronunciation in German — and how it’s said by most English speakers. According to the automaker, the correct way to pronounce BMW is “Bee-em-vee” — not “Bee-em-double-you.” In German language, “w” is pronounced as “vee.”

As detailed by the Sun, Select Car Leasing polled 1,000 people about car names. A remarkable 95% didn’t know the correct way to pronounce BMW. They thought it’s how the letters normally sound in English: “Bee-em-double-you.” However, the right to say it is “Bee-em-vee.”

How did BMW get its name?

The letters in the BMW luxury car brand name stand for “Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH.” From German to English language, this roughly translates to “Bavarian Engine Works Company.”

The “Bavian” part of the name is a nod to the automaker’s origin in the state of Bavaria in Germany. Also, “Engine Works” refers to the company’s original product range of engines. Initially, BMW produced engines for airplanes in 1913. It supplied them for German airplanes in World War I. At the time, most people didn’t travel by car. 

Front view of 2023 BMW 3 Series, showing the correct way to pronounce the name for the luxury car brand
2023 BMW 3 Series | BMW

After the war in 1918, the German company focused on producing railway brakes and built-in motors. Also, in 1920, it temporarily changed its name to Knorr-Bremse AG. However, the BMW name returned in 1922. 

The first vehicle produced by the automaker was a motorcycle in 1923 — the R 32. And in 1933, BMW brought its first self-developed car to the market: the BMW 303.

Other car names that many people mispronounce

BMW isn’t the only car brand name that many people say incorrectly. The next most common one that survey respondents mispronounced is Hyundai. The right way to pronounce it is “Hun-day.” However, 94% of respondents thought it was “Hi-un-die.”

The third most problematic — at 91% — is Volkswagen. In German, “v” is pronounced like an “f,” so the correct pronunciation for Volkswagen is “Fokes-vah-gun.”

Another one is for French automaker Renault. The poll showed that only 44% of people didn’t realize that you should pronounce Renault as “Reh-noh.”

So, the next time you see a BMW luxury car or a vehicle from these other car brands, remember that some names take on different sounds from their true pronunciations. It’s “Bee-em-vee” — not “Bee-em-double-you.”