Educating Siri: Teach her nicknames and how to correctly pronounce your name

Siri, out of the box is reasonably good at understanding what I say, even in my Australian accent. As long as you speak clearly, slowly and with as little background noise as possible she understands.

However soon after kicking off with your new iPhone 4S and Siri you may find the urge to make her interact a little better.

I’ll share a trick with you that will help you do two things:

  • Refer to your contacts with nicknames instead of their first and last name
  • Get her to say your name correctly if her pronunciation is a bit off

Educate Siri via Adress Book

The trick to both of these is to understand the nickname field in the iPhone address book. Siri will use the nickname field if you filled in for you and your contacts.

So for example if you want to say “Call Billy” instead of “Call Bill Blogs” (assuming that that is how you have Bill in your address book) all you need to do is put “Billy” in as this contact’s nickname.

Take a look at the following screen shots.

Start by finding the entry in your address book and clicking edit, then at the bottom choose “add field” and from the next screen choose “nickname“.

Edit the record in your address book

Then you will see that you’ve a new field, that you can enter the person’s nickname.

Enter the nickname

That’s it you can then close address book and start referring to your contact as “Billy” and Siri will know who you’re talking about.

Teach Siri to say your name correctly

Use the same method to have Siri say your name correctly. If you place an nickname in your address book entry, Siri will then use that instead of your first name, which is the default. So she’s not getting the pronunciation correct spell your name phonetically in the nickname field and teach her how to say it.

You can also use this trick to have some fun with Siri, currently she’s calling me Lord Peter which I think is appropriate! Put anything you like in the nickname field and she starts to have a bit of personality.


  1. Rob says

    “Sue”, at least in English, is pronounced “Soo” and not, as Siri keeps saying, “Syoo” It’s a fairly common name, even in the USA so you think they’d get that right. I’ve also never heard of a lawyer “syooing” someone, at least not in a court of law, and not in public :-)

  2. Rob says

    “Sue”, at least in English, is pronounced “Soo” and not, as Siri keeps saying, “Syoo” It’s a fairly common name, even in the USA so you think they’d get that right. I’ve also never heard of a lawyer “syooing” someone, at least not in a court of law, and not in public :-)

    At least he no longer forces me to mispronounce the word, even if he refuses to do so himself.

    • says

      Rob, the iOS 5.1 update that is available now apparently fixes some diction things but it says for Australian users; not sure where you’re from, but may help?

      Update it and see how you go!

  3. Josh says

    If your having issues with Siri not spelling name right type it the proper way and select and hit speak listen closely how it’s pronounced if you pronounce like her she spells it correct way.

  4. vic says

    This is a great article – however hasnt been able ot help me. my boyfreind is english but has a muslim name, Ufaq phonetically “ooh-fack” when i say this to siri she replies that she does not understand “you frequently asked questions” i can see she is trying as that spells U-FAQ but not quie the point. i added a nickname to make it easier and it put the nickname in as the message content instead of the receiver, i am confused with what to try next!!

    • says


      Sounds like an interesting problem.

      Here’s a work around.

      Go to your record in your address book and had your boy friend as your “spouse” – there is a field for that.

      Then when using Siri try “call my boyfriend” or “call my husband” (something spouse related) and Siri should know who you’re talking about.

      Let me know if that works for you.


  5. Jamal says

    You can use this same trick for any word. For instance, I’m in an organization called BDPA. But Siri and the voice recognition software on the keyboard (in text messages, notes, etc.) kept interpreting it as “BD PA” instead of “BDPA.” That was a small difference, but it still annoyed me so I made contact called “BD PA” and gave it the nickname “BDPA.” The rule with nicknames is that Siri will always call a contact by a nickname even if you say their actual name. So even though Siri is hears “BD PA,” she thinks that I am refering to a person and calls “them” by the nickname “BDPA.” You could do the same thing for any word Siri has trouble pronouncing.

    • says

      Jamal, great point, I’ve got a few of these nicknames setup now for friends in my address book that Siri don’t cope with…

      • Zœia says

        My nickname is pronounced differently to the spelling but she reads the spelling and not the real name. How do you change this?

    • says

      Hi Jason.

      If you’re in Contacts (used to be address book)

      Choose a card, if there is no field for Nickname, click ‘add field’ from the ‘card’ menu – then choose nickname.

  6. Richard Murphy says

    You would think that the iPhone5 would be able to cope with an Irish accent its got a UK English voice but NOOO can any one suggest a fix

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