20 Hard to Pronounce Words You’re Probably Getting Wrong

We all know the embarrassing feeling of discovering we’ve mispronounced a word for years. On the other hand, some words are so commonly mispronounced that the “correct” pronunciation sounds downright strange.

Don’t feel bad if you’ve been mispronouncing some of these tricky words. A living language like English evolves and thrives precisely because it is spoken every day. Some choose to adhere to rigid rules (known as linguistic prescription) of grammar and pronunciation, and take pleasure the precision of English grammar and vocabulary. Others prefer the descriptive linguistics approach, which doesn’t apply judgments like correct or incorrect, but instead looks at how language is actually used.


In other words, as long as people can understand you, you are successfully using language for its primary purpose: communication.


01 – Accede


How to say it: ak-SEED


May be mispronounced: a-SEED


What it means: to consent, give approval; yield to another’s wishes


02 – Alias


How to say it: AY-lee-iss


What it means: an assumed name taken on temporarily, sometimes by a criminal or fugitive


03 – Anathema

How to say it: uh-NATH-uh-muh

What it means: someone or something that one strongly dislikes or loathes

04 -Anemone

How to say it: uh NEH muh nee

What it means: a flower in the buttercup family; a sedentary marine animal, as in sea anemone

05 – Apocryphal

How to say it: uh-POK-ruh-fuhl

What it means: of questionable authenticity, as in a story or statement

06 – Camaraderie

How to say it: kah-muh-RAH-duh-ree

May be mispronounced: kahm-RAH-duh-ree

What it means: easy familiarity and friendship, often built over time

07 – Colloquialism

How to say it: kuh-loh-kwee-uh-liz-uhm

What it means: a word, phrase, or expression that is conversational rather than formal

08 – Debauch

How to say it: dih-BAWCH

What it means: to lead away from virtue; to corrupt morally

09 – Demagogue

How to say it: DEM-uh-gog

What it means: a leader who appeals to popular passions and prejudices to gain support

10 – Emollient

How to say it: ih-MOL-yuhnt

What it means: making smoother or less harsh; a substance with a soothing effect on the skin

11 – Epitome

How to say it: ih-PIT-uh-mee

May be mispronounced: eh-pi-TOME

What it means: a person or thing that characterizes a whole category to which it belongs

12 – Espouse

How to say it: ih-SPOWZ

May be mispronounced: ex-POWZ

What it means: to follow or support an idea or theory as a cause

13 – Espresso

How to say it: eh-SPRES-oh

May be mispronounced: ex-PRESS-oh

What it means: a strong coffee of Italian origin, made by forcing hot water through coffee beans

14 – Fatuous

How to say it: FACH-oo-uss

May be mispronounced: FAT-choo-uss

What it means: foolish, inane; devoid of intelligence

15 – Forte

How to say it: for-TAY

May be mispronounced: fort

What it means: a strong point or a strength

16 -Grandiloquent

How to say it: gran-DILL-uh-kwuhnt

What it means: extravagant, lofty, or bombastic in style or manner, especially language

17 – Hegemony

How to say it: hih-JEH-muh-nee

May be mispronounced: hedge-ih-MOAN-ee or homo-JENNY

What it means: authority, leadership, or influence by a dominant social group

18 -Inchoate

How to say it: in-KOH-it

What it means: only partly in existence; partially formed, as in an idea

19 -Knell

How to say it: nel

What it means: the sound of a bell rung slowly to announce death or a funeral

20 -Maelstrom

How to say it: meyl-struhm

What it means: a violent whirlpool

by Olivia Valdes for ThoughtCo

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