There are spelling rules in English, even if they are difficult to understand, so pronouncing a word correctly usually does help you spell it correctly. Here are the 100 most often mispronounced English words ("mispronunciation" among them). Several common errors are the result of rapid speech, so take your time speaking, correctly enunciating each word. Careful speech and avid reading are the best guides to correct spelling.
Don't say: acrossed | Do say: across
Comment: It is easy to confuse "across" with "crossed" but better to keep them separate.
Don't say: affidavid | Do say: affidavit
Comment: Even if your lawyer's name is ''David,'' he issues affidavits.
Don't say: Old-timer's disease | Do say: Alzheimer's disease
Comment: While it is a disease of old-timers, it is named for the German neurologist, Dr. Alois Alzheimer.
Don't say: Antartic | Do say: Antarctic
Comment: Just think of an arc of ants (an ant arc) and that should help you keep the [c] in the pronunciation of this word.
Don't say: Artic | Do say: Arctic
Comment: Another hard-to-see [c] but it is there.
Don't say: aks | Do say: ask
Comment: This mispronunciation has been around for so long (over 1,000 years) that linguist Mark Aronoff thinks we should cherish it as a part of our linguistic heritage. Most of us would give the axe to "aks."
Comment: Two syllables are enough for "athlete."
Don't say: barbituate | Do say: barbiturate
Comment: Don't forget this word contains three others: bar+bit+u+rate
Don't say: bob wire | Do say: barbed wire
Comment: No, this word wasn't named for anyone named ''Bob;'' it should be "barbed wire," although the suffix -ed, meaning ''having,'' is fading away in the U.S.
Don't say: bidness | Do say: business
Don't say: a blessing in the skies | Do say: a blessing in disguise
Comment: This phrase is no blessing if it comes from the skies. (Pronounce it correctly and help maintain the disguise.)
Don't say: Calvary | Do say: Cavalry
Comment: It isn't clear why we say, ''Mind your Ps and Qs'' when we have more difficulty keeping up with our Ls and Rs. Had there been a cavalry in Jesus' time, perhaps Calvary would not have been so tragic.
Don't say: cannidate | Do say: candidate
Comment: You aren't being canny to drop the [d] in this word. Remember, it is the same as "candy date." (This should help guys remember how to prepare for dates, too.)
Don't say: card shark | Do say: cardsharp
Comment: Cardsharps probably won't eat you alive, though they are adept at cutting your purse strings.
Don't say: carpool tunnel syndrome | Do say: carpal tunnel syndrome
Comment: This one is mispronounced (and misspelled) several different ways; we just picked the funniest. Carpal means ''pertaining to the wrist.''
Don't say: caucaphony | Do say: cacophony
Comment: There is no greater cacophony [kæ'kafêni] to the ears than to hear the vowels switched in the pronunciation of this word.
Don't say: The Caucases | Do say: The Caucasus
Comment: Although there are more than one mountain in this chain, their name is not a plural noun.
Don't say: chester drawers | Do say: chest of drawers
Comment: The drawers of Chester is a typical way of looking at these chests down South but it misses the point.
Don't say: chomp at the bit | Do say: champ at the bit
Comment: "Chomp" has probably replaced "champ" in the U.S. but we thought you might like to be reminded that the vowel should be [æ] not [o].
Don't say: close | Do say: clothes
Comment: The [th] is a very soft sound likely to be overlooked. Show your linguistic sensitivity and always pronounce it.
Don't say: coronet | Do say: cornet
Comment: Playing a crown (coronet) will make you about as popular as wearing a trumpet (cornet) on your head; reason enough to keep these two words straight.
Don't say: dialate | Do say: dilate
Comment: The [i] in this word is so long there is time for another vowel but don't succumb to the temptation.
Don't say: diptheria | Do say: diphtheria
Comment: The ''ph'' in this word is pronounced [f], not [p].
Don't say: doggy dog world | Do say: dog eat dog world
Comment: The world is even worse than you think if you think it merely a "doggy-dog world." Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news.
Don't say: drownd | Do say: drown
Comment: You add the [d] only to the past tense and past participle.
Don't say: elec'toral | Do say: e'lectoral
Comment: The accent is on the second, not the third, syllable and there is no [i] in it; not "electorial." (By the way, the same applies to "mayoral" and "pastoral.")
Don't say: excape | Do say: escape
Comment: The good news is, if you say "excape," you've mastered the prefix ex- because its meaning does fit this word. The bad news is, you don't use this prefix on "escape."
Don't say: expresso | Do say: espresso
Comment: While I can't express my love for espresso enough, this word was borrowed from Italian well after the Latin prefix ex- had developed into es-.
Don't say: excetera | Do say: et cetera
Comment: Latin for "and" (et) "the rest" (cetera) are actually two words that probably should be written separately.
Don't say: expecially | Do say: especially
Comment: Things especial are usually not expected, so don't confuse these words.
Don't say: Febyuary | Do say: February
Comment: We don't like two syllables in succession with an [r] so some of us dump the first one in this word. Most dictionaries now accept the single [r] pronunciation but, if you have an agile tongue, you may want to shoot for the original.
Don't say: fedral | Do say: federal
Comment: Syncopation of an unaccented vowel is fairly common in rapid speech but in careful speech it should be avoided.
Don't say: fillum | Do say: film
Comment: We also do not like the combination [l] + [m]. One solution is to pronounce the [l] as [w] ("film" [fiwm}, "palm" [pawm]) but some prefer adding a vowel in this word.
Don't say: fisical | Do say: fiscal
Comment: In fact, we don't seem to like any consonants together. Here is another word, like athlete and film that is often forced to swallow an unwanted vowel.
Don't say: flounder | Do say: founder
Comment: As verbs, both words have similar meanings with "flounder" meaning to make a lot of errors or to have trouble moving; however, to "founder" is to totally fail.
Don't say: foilage | Do say: foliage
Comment: Here is another case of metathesis, place-switching of sounds. Remember, the [i] comes after the [l], as in related "folio."
Don't say: For all intensive purposes | Do say: For all intents and purposes
Comment: The younger generation is mispronouncing this phrase so intensively that it has become popular both as a mispronunciation and misspelling.
Don't say: forte | Do say: fort
Comment: The word is spelled "forte" but the [e] is pronounced only when speaking of music, as a "forte passage." The words for a strong point and a stronghold are pronounced the same: [fort].
Don't say: Heineken remover | Do say: Heimlich maneuver (or manoeuvre, Br.)
Comment: This term is mispronounced many different ways. This is just the funniest one we have heard. This maneuver (manoeuvre) was named for U.S. surgeon Henry Jay Heimlich (1920- ).
Don't say: heighth | Do say: height
Comment: The analogy with "width" misleads many of us in the pronunciation of this word. 'erb herb Does, ''My friend Herb grows 'erbs,'' sound right to you? This is a U.S. oddity generated by the melting pot (mixed dialects). Initial [h] is always pronounced outside America and should be in all dialects of English.
Don't say: hi-archy | Do say: hierarchy
Comment: Remember, hierarchies go higher than you might think. This one is pronounced "higher archy" and not "high archy."
Don't say: in parenthesis | Do say: in parentheses
Comment: No one can enclose an expression in one parenthesis; at least two parentheses are required.
Don't say: interpretate | Do say: interpret
Comment: This error results from the back-formation of "interpretate" from "interpretation." But back formation isn't needed; we already have "interpret."
Don't say: irregardless | Do say: regardless
Comment: "-Less" already says ''without'' so there is no need to repeat the same sentiment with "ir-." idn't isn't Again, the struggle of [s] before [n].
Don't say: jewlery | Do say: jewelry
Comment: The root of this word is "jewel" and that doesn't change for either "jeweler" or "jewelry." The British add a syllable: "jewellery"
Don't say: jist nor dis | Do say: just
Comment: As opposed to the adjective "just," this word is always unaccented, which encourages vowel reduction. However, it sounds better to reduce the [ê] rather than replace it with [i].
Don't say: Klu Klux Klan | Do say: Ku Klux Klan
Comment: Well, there is an [l] in the other two, why not the first? Well, that is just the way it is; don't expect rationality from this organization.
Don't say: lambast | Do say: lambaste
Comment: Better to lambaste the lamb than to baste him remember, the words rhyme. "Bast" has nothing to do with it.
Don't say: arnyx | Do say: larynx
Comment: More metathesis. Here the [n] and [y] switch places. Mind your [n]s and [y]s as you mind your [p]s and [q]s.
Don't say: Laura Norder | Do say: law and order
Comment: The sound [aw] picks up an [r] in some dialects (also "sawr" and "gnawr"). Avoid it and keep Laura Norder in her place.
Don't say: leash | Do say: lease
Comment: Southern Americans are particularly liable to confuse these two distinct words but the confusion occurs elsewhere. Look out for it.
Don't say: libel | Do say: liable
Comment: You are liable for the damages if you are successfully sued for libel. But don't confuse these discrete words.
Don't say: libary | Do say: library
Comment: As mentioned before, English speakers dislike two [r]s in the same word. However, we have to buck up and pronounce them all.
Don't say: long-lived | Do say: long-lived
Comment: This compound is not derived from ''to live longly'' (you can't say that) but from ''having a long life'' and should be pronounced accordingly. The plural stem, live(s), is always used: "short-lived," "many-lived," "triple-lived."
Don't say: masonary | Do say: masonry
Comment: We have been told that masons are most likely to insert a spare vowel into this word describing their occupation but we know others do, too. Don't you.
Don't say: mawv | Do say: mauve
Comment: This word has not moved far enough away from French to assume an English pronunciation, [mawv], and should still be pronounced [mowv].
Don't say: mannaise | Do say: mayonnaise
Comment: Ever wonder why the short form of a word pronounced "mannaise" is "mayo"? Well, it is because the original should be pronounced "mayo-nnaise." Just remember: what would mayonnaise be without "mayo"?
Don't say: miniture | Do say: miniature
Comment: Here is another word frequently syncopated. Don't leave out the third syllable, [a].
Don't say: mute | Do say: moot
Comment: The definition of "moot" is moot (open to debate) but not the pronunciation: [mut] and not [myut].
Don't say: mis'chievous | Do say: mischievous
Comment: It would be mischievous of me not to point out the frequent misplacement of the accent on this word. Remember, it is accented the same as mischief. Look out for the order of the [i] and [e] in the spelling, too and don't add another [i] in the ending (not mischievious).
Don't say: nother | Do say: other
Comment: Misanalysis is a common type of speech error based on the misperception of where to draw the line between components of a word of phrase. "A whole nother" comes from misanalyzing "an other" as "a nother." Not good. Not good.
Don't say: nucular | Do say: nuclear
Comment: The British and Australians find the American repetition of the [u] between the [k] and [l] quaintly amusing. Good reason to get it right.
Don't say: nuptual | Do say: nuptial
Comment: Many speakers in the U.S. add a spurious [u] to this word, too. It should be pronounced [nêpchêl], not or [nêpchuêl].
Don't say: off ten | Do say: often
Comment: The [t] was silent in the pronunciation of the word "often" until circa 19th century English when more people became able to write and spell. Today the [t] is widely pronounced in England, the British Isles, Australia and in some regions of the U.S. Most U.S. dictionaries show both pronunciations, frequently showing the unspoken [t] as the most preferred.
Don't say: ordinance | Do say: ordnance
Comment: You may have to use ordnance to enforce an ordinance but you should not pronounce the words the same.
Don't say: orientate | Do say: orient
Comment: Another pointless back-formation. We don't need this mispronunciation from "orientation" when we already have "orient." (See also "interpretate")
Don't say: ostensively | Do say: ostensibly
Comment: Be sure to keep your suffixes straight on this one.
Don't say: Ostraya | Do say: Australia
Comment: This pronunciation particularly bothers Australians themselves, most of whom can manage the [l] quite easily, thank you.
Don't say: parlament | Do say: parliament
Comment: Although some dictionaries have given up on it, there should be a [y] after [l]: [pahr-lyê-mênt]
Don't say: perculate | Do say: percolate
Comment: Pronouncing this word as "perculate" is quite peculiar. (Also, remember that it means ''drip down'' not ''up.'')
Don't say: pottable | Do say: potable
Comment: The adjective meaning "drinkable" rhymes with "floatable" and is not to be confused with the one that means "capable of being potted."
Don't say: perogative | Do say: prerogative
Comment: Even in dialects where [r] does not always trade places with the preceding vowel (as the Texan pronunciations "differnce," "vetern," etc.), the [r] in this prefix often gets switched.
Don't say: perscription | Do say: prescription
Comment: Same as above. It is possible that we simply confuse "pre-" and "per-" since both are legitimate prefixes.
Don't say: persnickety | Do say: pernickety
Comment: You may think us too pernickety to even mention this one. It is a Scottish nonce word to which U.S. speakers have added a spurious [s].
Don't say: preemptory | Do say: peremptory
Comment: The old pre-/per- problem. Do not confuse this word with "preemptive;" the prefix here is per-.
Don't say: prespire | Do say: perspire
Comment: "Per-" has become such a regular mispronunciation of "pre-," many people now correct themselves where they don't need to.
Don't say: plute | Do say: pollute
Comment: This one, like "plice" [police], spose [suppose], and others, commonly result from rapid speech syncope, the loss of unaccented vowels. Just be sure you pronounce the vowel when you are speaking slowly.
Don't say: probly, prolly | Do say: probably
Comment: Haplology is the dropping of one of two identical syllables such as the [ob] and [ab] in this word, usually the result of fast speech. Slow down and pronounce the whole word for maximum clarity and to reduce your chances of misspelling the word.
Don't say: pronounciation | Do say: pronunciation
Comment: Just as "misspelling" is among the most commonly misspelled words, "pronunciation" is among the most commonly mispronounced words. Fitting, no?
Don't say: prostrate | Do say: prostate
Comment: Though a pain in the prostate may leave a man prostrate, the gland contains no [r].
Don't say: Realator | Do say: Realtor
Comment: As you avoid the extra vowel in "masonry," remember to do the same for "realtor," the guy who sells what the mason creates.
Don't say: revelant | Do say: relevant
Comment: Here is another word that seems to invite metathesis.
Don't say: respite | Do say: respite
Comment: Despite the spelling similarity, this word does not rhyme with despite; it is pronounced ['re-spit]. Give yourself a permanent respite from mispronouncing it.
Don't say: sherbert | Do say: sherbet
Comment: Some of the same people who do not like two [r]s in their words can't help repeating the one in this word.
Don't say: silicone | Do say: silicon
Comment: Silicon is the material they make computer chips from but implants are made of silicone.
Don't say: snuck | Do say: sneaked
Comment: I doubt we will get "snuck" out of the language any time soon but here is a reminder that it really isn't a word.
Don't say: sose | Do say: so
Comment: The phrase "so as" has been reduced to a single word "sose" even when it is not called for. "Sose I can go" should be simply "so I can go." By the way, the same applies to alls, as in "Alls I want is to never hear 'alls' again."
Don't say: spade | Do say: spay
Comment: You can have your dog spayed but so long as she is a good dog, please don't spade her.
Don't say: stob | Do say: stub
Comment: In some areas the vowel in this word has slid a bit too far back in the mouth. Don't choke on it.
Don't say: stomp | Do say: stamp
Comment: Stamps are so called because they were originally stamped (not stomped) on a letter. You stamp your feet, too.
Don't say: suit | Do say: suite
Comment: If you don't wear it (a suit [sut]), then it is a suite [sweet], as in a living room suite or a suite of rooms.
Don't say: supposably | Do say: supposedly
Comment: Adding -ly to participles is rarely possible, so some people try to avoid it altogether. You can't avoid it here.
Don't say: supremist | Do say: supremacist
Comment: This word is derived from "supremacy," not "supreme." A supremist would be someone who considers himself supreme. You know there is no one like that.
Don't say: tact | Do say: tack
Comment: If things are not going your way, do not lose your tact that would be tactless but take a different tack.
Don't say: take for granite | Do say: take for granted
Comment: We do tend to take granite for granted, it is so ubiquitous. But that, of course, is not the point.
Don't say: tenant | Do say: tenet
Comment: A tenant is a renter who may not hold a tenet (a doctrine or dogma).
Don't say: tenderhooks | Do say: tenterhooks
Comment: Tenters are frames for stretching cloth while it dries. Hanging on tenterhooks might leave you tender but that doesn't change the pronunciation of the word.
Don't say: Tiajuana | Do say: Tijuana
Comment: Why make Spanish words more difficult than they already are? Just three syllables here, thank you.
Don't say: triathalon | Do say: triathlon
Comment: We don't like [th] and [l] together, so some of us insert a spare vowel. Pronounce it right, spell it right.
Don't say: upmost | Do say: utmost
Comment: While this word does indicate that efforts are up, the word is "utmost," a(!) historical variation of "outmost."
Don't say: verbage | Do say: verbiage
Comment: Here is another word that loses its [i] in speech. Pronouncing it correctly will help you spell it correctly.
Don't say: volumptuous | Do say: voluptuous
Comment: Some voluptuous women may be lumpy, but please avoid this Freudian slip that apprises them of it.
Don't say: wadn't | Do say: wasn't
Comment: That pesky [s] before [n] again. See "bidness" and "idn't." ways way "I have a ways to go" should be "I have a way to go." The article "a" does not fit well with a plural.
Don't say: wet | Do say: whet
Comment: In the Northeastern US the sound [hw], spelled "wh," is vanishing and these two words are pronounced the same. Elsewhere they should be distinguished.
Don't say: yoke | Do say: yolk
Comment: Another dialectal change we probably should not call an error: [l] becomes [w] or [u] when not followed by a vowel. Some people just confuse these two words, though. That should be avoided.
Don't say: zuology | Do say: zoology
Comment: Actually, we should say [zo], not [zu], when we go to the zoo.
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