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).
Commonly Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English
It’s easy to mispronounce words in English for several reasons. First, because many English words come from different languages, it can be difficult to know how to pronounce them. Other words get new pronunciations in conversational and dialectical use. Check out these commonly mispronounced words and see which parts of your vocabulary you could improve.
Mispronounced Words That Start With A
Do you get confused between Antarctic and Antartic? Only one is correct, and the same goes for the rest of these pairs of mispronounced words that begin with A.
- Do say: across | Don't say: acrossed
It is easy to confuse across with crossed but better to keep them separate.
- Do say: affidavit | Don't say: affidavid
Even if your lawyer's name is David, he issues affidavits.
Do say: Alzheimer's disease | Don't say: old-timer's disease
While it is a disease of older patients, it is named for the German neurologist, Dr. Alois Alzheimer.
- Do say: Antarctic | Don't say: Antartic (ant-ar-tic)
Just think of an arc of ants (an ant arc) and that should help you keep the [c] in the pronunciation of this word.
- Do say: Arctic | Don't say: Artic
Another hard-to-see [c], but it is there.
- Do say: ask | Don't say: aks or axe
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."
- Do say: athlete, athletic | Don't say: athelete, atheletic
Two syllables are enough for athlete.
- Do say: Australia | Don't say: Ostraya
This pronunciation particularly bothers Australians themselves, most of whom can manage the [l] quite easily, thank you.
Mispronounced Words That Start With B
This list of commonly confused words may be a blessing in disguise! Take a look at these commonly mispronounced words that begin with B.
- Do say: barbed wire | Don't say: bob wire (or barb wire)
No, this word wasn't named for anyone called Bob or Barb. It should be barbed wire, indicating that the wire has tiny barbs on it.
- Do say: barbiturate | Don't say: barbituate
Many people leave out the [r] sound when pronouncing this word. However, the word barbiturate comes from the class of drugs made with barbituric acid.
- Do say: a blessing in disguise | Don't say: a blessing in the skies
This phrase is no blessing if it comes from the skies. Pronounce it correctly and help maintain the disguise.
- Do say: business | Don't say: bidness
The change of [s] to [d] before [n] is from the dialect of the Southern United States. But it’s especially important to pronounce this word correctly in business contexts.
Mispronounced Words That Start With C
Some people consider mispronounced words to be a cacophony on their ear! Develop a cache of perfectly pronounced term with this list of words that start with C.
- Do say: cache (cash)| Don't say: cachet (cash-ay)
The French word cache means “a hidden place.” Some people confuse it with the French cachet, meaning “prestige.”
- Do say: cacophony (ca-caw-fone-ee)| Don't say: caucaphony (caw-ca-fone-ee)
There is no greater cacophony to the ears than to hear the vowels switched in the pronunciation of this word.
- Do say: candidate | Don't say: cannidate
You aren't being canny to drop the [d] in this word.
- Do say: cardsharp | Don't say: card shark
You may be surprised to hear that card shark isn’t an actual phrase. Its mispronunciation from cardsharp over the years, however, has led to card shark being more popular in America than the original phrase.
- Do say: carpal tunnel syndrome | Don't say: carpool tunnel syndrome
This one is mispronounced and misspelled several ways. Carpal means ''pertaining to the wrist.''
- Do say: The Caucasus (caw-cah-suhs) | Don't say: The Caucases (caw-cah-says)
Although there are more than one mountain in this chain, their name is not a plural noun.
- Do say: cavalry (cav-al-ree)| Don't say: Calvary (cal-vah-ree)
These are actually two different words: cavalry means “an army on horseback,” while Calvary denotes the hill on which Jesus was crucified in the Bible. They’re definitely not interchangeable, so be sure you’re choosing the right word.
- Do say: champ at the bit | Don't say: chomp at the bit
Chomp has probably replaced champ in the U.S., but we thought you might like to be reminded that the vowel should be [a] not [o].
- Do say: chest of drawers | Don't say: chester drawers
The drawers of Chester is a typical way of looking at these chests down South, but it misses the point.
- Do say: clothes | Don't say: close
The [th] is a very soft sound likely to be overlooked. Show your linguistic sensitivity when pronouncing it.
- Do say: cornet (kor-net) | Don't say: coronet (kor-oh-net)
If you’re talking about a brass instrument similar to a trumpet, use cornet. A coronet is a royal crown. They might both be present at a coronation, but they are very different items.
Mispronounced Words That Start With D and E
There’s no escape from judgement if you mispronounce a word incorrectly. However, studying this list of commonly mispronounced words that start with D and E can help you out, especially when speaking in front of a crowd.
- Do say: dilate (dye-late)| Don't say: dialate (dye-ah-late)
The [i] in this word is so long there is time for another vowel, but don't succumb to the temptation.
- Do say: diphtheria | Don't say: diptheria
The ''ph'' in this word is pronounced [f], not [p].
- Do say: dog-eat-dog world | Don't say: doggy dog world
The world is even worse than you think if you believe it merely a "doggy-dog world." Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news.
- Do say: drown | Don't say: drownd
You add the [d] only to the past tense (drowned) and past participle.
Do say: electoral | Don't say: electorial
There’s no [i] in this word. The same rule applies to mayoral and pastoral.
- Do say: escape | Don't say: excape
Even though the prefix ex- means “out of,” it’s not the right way to say escape. It comes from the old French word eschaper, which combines the prefix ex- with cappa, the Latin word for “cloak.” The word’s transition into and out of French makes the ex- into an es- prefix.
- Do say: espresso | Don't say: expresso
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 the es- prefix.
- Do say: et cetera | Don't say: excetera
Latin for "and" (et) "the rest" (cetera) are actually two words that should be written separately.
- Do say: especially | Don't say: expecially
Especially is the adverb form of the adjective especial. Some may pronounce the word with an [x] to indicate that an event is unexpected, but it’s not the same word.
Mispronounced Words That Start With F
Several words on this list are mispronounced because people think they require a French flair. However, words like foyer are pronounced just as they’re spelled in American English.
- Do say: February (Feb-roo-air-ee) | Don't say: Febuary (Feb-you-air-ee)
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.
- Do say: federal (fed-err-all) | Don't say: fedral (fed-rall)
Syncopation of an unaccented vowel is fairly common in rapid speech but in careful speech it should be avoided.
- Do say: film | Don't say: fillum
We also do not like the combination [l] + [m]. Try to resist adding another vowel in between these consonants.
- Do say: fiscal | Don't say: fisical
Some people pronounce the monetary term fiscal the same way they’d pronounce the word physical. But these words should not be confused with each other.
- Do say: foliage (foh-lee-age) | Don't say: foilage (foy-ull-age)
Remember, the [i] comes after the [l], as in related folio.
- Do say: for all intents and purposes | Don't say: for all intensive purposes
This may be another surprise for people who have been pronouncing this phrase as for all intensive purposes. The younger generation is mispronouncing this phrase so intensively that it has become popular both as a mispronunciation and misspelling.
- Do say: forte (for-tay) | Don't say: fort (fort)
If you’re speaking about a military stronghold building, use the word fort. If you’re describing a music phrase played at a stronger volume, use forte.
- Do say: founder | Don't say: flounder
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.
- Do say: foyer | Don't say: foy-ay
It’s tempting to make the elegant entrance to a home sound extra fancy with a French pronunciation. However, in American English, you can say “foy-ur.”
Mispronounced Words That Start With G, H and I
It can be difficult for others to interpret your meaning when they hear you mispronounce basic words. Scan these words to see which others you might be mispronouncing.
- Do say: GIF (jiff) | Don't say: GIF (ghiff)
Steve Wilhite, who created the term GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) in 1987, prefers the pronunciation of GIF with a soft [g] to rhyme with “Jif,” the peanut butter brand. But popular usage has given this word a common mispronunciation similar to the first sound of gift.
- Do say: height | Don't say: heighth
The analogy with width misleads many of us in the pronunciation of this word because we try to end the word with the "th" sound. The initial [h] and the final [t] is always pronounced.
- Do say: Heimlich maneuver (or manoeuvre, Br.) | Don't say: Heineken remover
This term is mispronounced many different ways. This maneuver (manoeuvre) was named for U.S. surgeon Henry Jay Heimlich.
- Do say: hierarchy (hi-err-ar-key) | Don't say: hi-archy | (hi-ar-key)
Remember, hierarchies go higher than you might think. This one is pronounced "higher archy" and not "high archy."
- Do say: interpret | Don't say: interpretate
This error results from the back-formation from interpretation. But back formation isn't needed; we already have interpret.
Mispronounced Words That Start With J and L
Learning how to speak English correctly means that you’re liable for any miscommunication caused by pronouncing words incorrectly. Get your pronunciations straight with these words that start with J and L.
- Do say: jewelry (jool-ree) | Don't say: jewlery (joo-luh-ree)
The root of this word is jewel and that doesn't change for either jeweler or jewelry. The British add a syllable: jewellery.
- Do say: just | Don't say: jist nor jus
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].
- Do say: larynx (lare-inks) | Don't say: larnyx (lare-nicks)
Here the [n] and [y] switch places. Mind your [n]s and [y]s as you mind your [p]s and [q]s.
- Do say: law and order | Don't say: Laura Norder
The sound "aw" picks up an [r] in some dialects (also "sawr" and "gnawr"). Avoid it and keep Laura Norder in her place.
- Do say: lease | Don't say: leash
Southern Americans are particularly liable to confuse these two distinct words but the confusion occurs elsewhere. Look out for it.
- Do say: liable | Don't say: libel
You are liable for the damages if you are successfully sued for libel. But don't confuse these discrete words.
- Do say: library | Don't say: libary
As mentioned before, English speakers dislike two [r]s in the same word. However, we have to buck up and pronounce them all.
Mispronounced Words That Start With M and N
It may feel mischievous to pronounce words like nuclear and moot as nucular and mute. However, these pronunciations can confuse your listener. Take a look at this list of commonly mispronounced words that start with M and N.
- Do say: masonry | Don't say: masonary
Masons are most likely to insert a spare vowel into this word describing their occupation, but others are known to do this, too.
- Do say: mauve | Don't say: mawv
This word has not moved far enough away from French to assume an English pronunciation, "mawv," and should still be pronounced "mowv."
- Do say: mayonnaise | Don't say: man-naise
Ever wonder why the short form of a word pronounced "mannaise" is "mayo"? It's because the original should be pronounced "mayo-naise."
- Do say: miniature (min-ee-ah-ture) | Don't say: miniture (min-ih-ture)
There’s a reason why the shortened version of miniature is mini. Make sure you pronounce all four syllables in this word.
- Do say: moot | Don't say: mute
Just because a topic is moot, or irrelevant, doesn’t mean it’s mute, or silent.
- Do say: mischievous (mis-chiv-ous) | Don't say: mischevious (mis-chee-vee-ous)
Many people put four syllables in this word. But an easy way to remember its pronunciation is to say its root word – mischief – and add the suffix -ous.
- Do say: nuclear | Don't say: nucular
The British and Australians find the American repetition of the [u] between the [c] and [l] quaintly amusing. Good reason to get it right.
- Do say: nuptial (nup-shul) | Don't say: nuptual (nup-shu-ull)
Many speakers in the U.S. add a spurious [u] to this word, too.
Mispronounced Words That Start With O
Need to orient yourself in these commonly confused words? Once you learn how to pronounce them, you’ll find ways to say them often!
- Do say: other | Don't say: nother
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."
- Do say: often | Don't say: off ten
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.
- Do say: ordnance | Don't say: ordinance
You may have to use ordnance to enforce an ordinance but you should not pronounce the words the same.
- Do say: orient | Don't say: orientate
Another pointless back-formation. We don't need this mispronunciation from orientation when we already have orient.
- Do say: ostensibly | Don't say: ostensively
Be sure to keep your suffixes straight on this one. It sounds like extensively, but ostensibly is an entirely different word.
Mispronounced Words That Start With P
If you feel like this list is a bit pernickety, you’re probably right. But it’s never a bad idea to let the correct pronunciation of a word percolate for a bit longer before you say it out loud.
- Do say: enclosed in parentheses (pare-en-the-sees) | Don't say: enclosed in parenthesis (pare-en-the-sis)
No one can enclose an expression in one parenthesis; at least two parentheses are required.
- Do say: parliament | Don't say: parlament
Although some dictionaries have given up on it, there should be a [y] after [l]: "pahr-lyê-mênt."
- Do say: percolate | Don't say: perculate
Pronouncing this word as "perculate" is quite peculiar. Also remember that it means ''drip down'' not ''up.''
Do say: pernickety | Don't say: persnickety
You may think us too pernickety to even mention this one. It is a Scottish nonce word to which U.S. speakers added a [s] over a century ago. Outside the U.S., the term is pernickety.
- Do say: peremptory | Don't say: preemptory
The old pre-/per- problem. Do not confuse this word with preemptive; the prefix here is per-.
- Do say: perspire | Don't say: prespire
Per- has become such a regular mispronunciation of pre-, many people now correct themselves where they don't need to.
- Do say: pollute | Don't say: plute
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.
- Do say: potable | Don't say: pottable
The adjective meaning "drinkable" rhymes with floatable and is not to be confused with the one that means "capable of being potted."
- Do say: prerogative | Don't say: perogative
Even in dialects where [r] does not always trade places with the preceding vowel (as the pronunciations "differnce" or "vetern"), the [r] in this prefix often gets switched.
- Do say: prescription | Don't say: perscription
Many people simply confuse pre- and per- since both are legitimate prefixes.
- Do say: probably | Don't say: probly, prolly
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.
- Do say: pronunciation | Don't say: pronounciation
Just as misspelling is among the most commonly misspelled words, pronunciation is among the most commonly mispronounced words. Don’t mistake it with its noun form pronounce.
- Do say: prostate | Don't say: prostrate
The difference between these words is more than the letter [r]. The prostate gland is a totally different word than prostrate, which means “lying on the ground, face down.”
Mispronounced Words That Start With R
Regardless of what you’re talking about, pronouncing words correctly is always a relevant skill. See how many R words you've been mispronouncing.
- Do say: realtor (real-tor) | Don't say: realator (real-a-tor)
As you avoid the extra vowel in masonry, remember to do the same for realtor, the guy who sells what the mason creates.
- Do say: regardless | Don't say: irregardless
The suffix -less already says ''without'' so there is no need to repeat the same sentiment with the prefix ir-.
- Do say: relevant | Don't say: revelant
Here is another word that seems to invite metathesis. People often switch the [v] and [l] sounds, probably because of similar words such as revolution.
- Do say: respite (res-pit) | Don't say: respite (res-pite)
Despite the spelling similarity, this word does not rhyme with despite; it is pronounced "'re-spit." Give yourself a permanent respite from mispronouncing it.
Mispronounced Words That Start With S and T
Hearing common words said in the wrong way supposedly makes English teachers stamp their feet. Keep your teacher happy by clearing up these words that start with S and T.
- Do say: sherbet | Don't say: sherbert
Some of the same people who do not like two [r]s in their words can't help repeating the one in this word.
- Do say: silicon | Don't say: silicone
Silicon is the material they make computer chips from but implants are made of silicone.
- Do say: sneaked | Don't say: snuck
I doubt we will get snuck out of the language any time soon, but here is a reminder that it isn't the proper past tense form of sneak.
- Do say: so | Don't say: sose
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."
- Do say: spay | Don't say: spade
You can have your dog spayed but please don't spade her.
- Do say: stamp | Don't say: stomp
Stamps are so called because they were originally stamped (not stomped) on a letter. You stamp your feet, too.
- Do say: stub | Don't say: stob
If you’ve ever stubbed your toe, you might not care about the proper pronunciation in that painful moment. But afterward, be sure you’re saying stub instead of stob.
- Do say: suite (sweet) | Don't say: suit (soot)
If you wear it, it’s a suit. If you live it in, it’s a suite, as in a living room suite or a suite of rooms.
- Do say: supposedly | Don't say: supposably
Supposably isn’t a word at all. Supposedly means “allegedly” or “so I’ve been told.”
- Do say: supremacist | Don't say: supremist
This word is derived from supremacy, not supreme.
- Do say: tack | Don't say: tact
You can try a different tack, or course of action, if things aren’t going your way. However, you may want to use discretion, or tact.
- Do say: take for granted | Don't say: take for granite
If you’re assuming something will always be available, you’re taking it for granted. Taking something for granite would be mistaking the type of rock the object is, and is probably not what you’re trying to say.
- Do say: tenet | Don't say: tenant
A tenant is someone who rents from a landlord. A tenet is a strongly held belief.
- Do say: tenterhooks | Don't say: tenderhooks
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.
- Do say: triathlon (tri-ath-lon) | Don't say: triathalon (tri-ath-a-lon)
We don't like [th] and [l] together, so some of us insert a spare vowel. People also may mistake it for marathon when they add the extra [a]. Pronounce it right, spell it right.
Mispronounced Words That Start With U and V
When working on your verbiage, try your utmost to make your meaning as clear as possible to listeners. There may be more commonly mispronounced words that start with U and V than you think.
- Do say: utmost | Don't say: upmost
While this word does indicate that efforts are up, the word is utmost, is a historical variation of outmost.
- Do say: verbiage (ver-bee-age) | Don't say: verbage (ver-bage)
Here is another word that loses its [i] in speech. Pronouncing it correctly will help you spell it correctly.
- Do say: voluptuous | Don't say: volumptuous
Some voluptuous women may be lumpy, but please avoid this Freudian slip that apprises them of it.
Mispronounced Words That Start With W, Y and Z
Did this alphabet of commonly mispronounced words whet your appetite for more? If so, examine your own speech and see how many words you may be pronouncing incorrectly.
- Do say: wasn't | Don't say: wadn't
That pesky [s] before [n] again. See "bidness" and "idn't."
- Do say: whet | Don't say: wet
In the Northeastern US the sound [hw], spelled "wh," is vanishing and these two words are pronounced the same. Elsewhere they should be distinguished.
- Do say: yolk | Don't say: yoke
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.
- Do say: zoology (zo-ol-oh-gee) | Don't say: zuology | (zu-ol-oh-gee)
Actually, we should say [zo], not [zu], when we go to the zoo.
Improving Your Speech and Spelling
Learning how to pronounce these common words can help you communicate more clearly. Several common errors are the result of rapid speech, so take your time speaking, correctly enunciating each word. The same rule applies to writing – it’s easy to spell words incorrectly if you’re rushing. Check out a list of 100 commonly misspelled words in English to improve your spelling as well as your pronunciation.