Is it Pronounced “Ten Er Eef Ay” or “Tenor Reef”?


I suspect that few visitors to the largest of the Canary Islands arrive by air without thinking of Tenerife  having been the site of the deadliest accident in aviation history, one in which 583 persons died when a pair of Boeing 747s collided. The good news is that the runway on which the collision took place is on what’s now known as Tenerfie North, and most non-Teutonics fly into Tenerife South.

Mount Teide, at 12,198 feet, is the world’s third tallest volcano, and well worth driving up through Teide National park to gawk at up close, if not for itself, then for the fact that when you turn around you will find yourself actually looking down at clouds. Unless high winds are blowing, you can take a cable car to La Rambieta, 163 meters below the summit, but it’s expensive—25 euros (over three euros per minute!)—and you’re apt to be sharing the car with as many as 43 others, many of them German. The jaw-droppingly huge rock formations, Acantilados de Los Gigantes, on the island’s west coast, nearly as notable, are probably best seen from the sea. Sign up for a dolphin-spotting excursion; you’ll get your money’s worth even if the dolphins are on strike!

Want to hear Silbo, the remarkable “whistled language” the original inhabitants of another of the Canaries developed to communicate across deep ravines and gullies? It’s still spoken, or at least whistled, on La Gomera, to which you sail on a ferry in only 40 minutes from Los Cristianos.

British tourists tend to plentiful around Los Cristianos and Playa de las Americas. If you’d rather a more Spanish feel, it is necessary to head for the island’s capital, Santa Cruz, which abounds in disappointing restaurants. On the north side of the island, it’s the Germans who are rather more abundant. A great many British-owned shops on the southern part of the island offer “tins” of baked beans of the sort beloved back in Scunthorpe. Why anyone would wish to ingest anything so boring in a place where pinchos de encurtidos and mejillones rellenos, for instance, are offered in nearly every bar and cafe is unknown to this correspondent.

There is much controversy over the pronunciation of the island’s name. Some insist it’s ten-er-EEF-ay. But it really should be Tenor Reef.

In Golfo del Sur, popular with tourists who falsely imagine it to have something to do with golf—and by those who often lop the second “o” off Golfo—there are several bars in which persons from the North enjoy singing karaoke, and one in which the world’s most aggressive, least credible, Tina Turner impersonator takes palpable pleasure in humiliating male tourists. It’s fun to witness!

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Comments (Showing 5 of 5)

  • callum9999 at 3:54am May 07, 2013

    Every Spaniard I’ve spoken to has called it Ten-er-eef-ay whereas every English speaking person has called it Tenner–reef.

    I assumed that the first one was therefore the “right” way to say it and the second is the Anglicised version?

  • mnscout at 6:25am May 07, 2013

    Thanks for the write up. Was there last month. Unfortunately, the day I scheduled for the volcano, I got really sick. So no volcano this time. I stayed in El Medano and loved it for a small town feel. Thought Las Americas was a little bit too crowded for my tastes.

  • LupineChemist at 12:35pm May 07, 2013

    Native English speaker in Spain. It’s Ten-air-EE-fay. Don’t worry, it’s anglicised enough with a standard accent that way.

  • Orion at 7:10pm May 08, 2013

    I asked a friend how to pronounce “Tenerife”. He said he only visits “Elevenerife”.

  • LapLap at 12:04am May 09, 2013

    English father, Spanish mother and speak both languages.
    There are 5 vowels in Spanish, the same 5 vowels used in PAT, PET, PIT, POT & PUT.
    There is no “ee” (it’s PIT not PEET or PETE) and there is no “ay” (PET not PAYT)

    It’s Ten-er-if-eh

    And whilst I’m here:

    Alicante – It’s Ali-can-teh NOT Al-ee-can-tay


    Chorizo – It’s chor-ith-oh or chore-iss-oh NOT Chor-eet-zow

    Barça – is the football club ONLY, it isn’t a nickname for the city of Barcelona. If Barcelona is too many letters to type and you want to use something shorter the real abbreviation is Barna. For some reason, many British people get hugely irritated when this is pointed out.

    ¡De nada majos!

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