Quick Summary of Difficult Spelling Words
English Spelling Is Tricky
It’s no secret that the English language is complex. There are grammar rules that have a questionable number of exceptions, words that are spelled the same but have different meanings depending on how they’re pronounced (e.g., (to) produce /prəˈd(j)uːs/ and produce /ˈprəʊd(j)uːs/), and silent letters.
There are also words that are spelled so strangely, that it seems as if someone was playing a prank on us. We’ll be going over 15 of these difficult-to-spell words, and then show you how to make sure you’re spelling them correctly.
15 Hard-To-Spell Words
Below, we’ll be going over 15 words that are hard to spell, including what they mean and how to pronounce them.
Acquiesce /ˌækwiˈes/ is a verb that is pronounced a-kwee-es and means “to accept or agree passively, without arguing.”
He didn’t want to fight, so he acquiesced to her request.
Bologna /bəˈləʊnjə/ is a noun that refers to “a large sausage made of various types of meat, often sliced and put in sandwiches.” Technically, the correct pronunciation of this word is bo-lo-nya, but it’s commonly pronounced as ba-lo-nee.
Timmy wanted a bologna and cheese sandwich.
Colonel /ˈkɜrnəl/ is a noun that means “commissioned officer of high rank in the military.” It looks like it would be pronounced co-lo-nel, but it’s actually pronounced like kur-nuhl. Think of kernel in popcorn kernel next time you have to say this word out loud.
He was promoted to Colonel after only two years.
Conscientious /ˌkɑːnʃiˈenʃəs/ is an adjective that describes someone as “meticulous, careful” or who “follows their conscience.” This word is pronounced kaan-shee-en-shuhs. What makes this word challenging is that the “-sc-” and the “-t-” produce the same /ʃ/ (or “sh”) sound.
She was a bright and conscientious student.
Dilate /daɪˈleɪt/ can be difficult for some people to spell, but only because it’s commonly mispronounced as “di-a-late.” However, that pronunciation is incorrect. The correct pronunciation sounds like dai-layt. This verb means “to become larger or widened,” or “to cause a part of the body to enlarge, widen, or expand.”
The ophthalmologist needed to dilate my eyes for the exam.
Fuchsia /ˈfjuːʃə/ refers to an ornamental bush with deep pink, red, and purple flowers that hang. Fuchsia also refers to a vivid, deep, reddish-purple color. The “-ch-” in this word is what throws writers off. When pronounced out loud, this word sounds like “fyoo-shuh.”
I was looking for a fuchsia-colored dress for prom.
Indict /ɪnˈdaɪt/ means “to charge someone with a crime, fault, or offense.” When said out loud, the “-c-” does not get pronounced. Instead, this word is pronounced like in-dite.
He was indicted on all misdemeanor charges.
Jewelry /ˈdʒuːəlri/ is another case of a word that’s often misspelled, simply because it’s also often mispronounced. When said aloud, many people say jew-ler-ry, but the correct pronunciation sounds like jool-ree. This noun refers to “personal ornaments like rings, necklaces, and bracelets that people wear as decorations.”
I can only wear gold jewelry because I’m allergic to everything else.
Mischievous /ˈmɪstʃɪvəs/ is an adjective that describes a person or animal who “enjoys playing tricks and annoying people,” or describes an act or thing as “intended to cause harm or trouble.” This word is pronounced like mis-chuh-vuhs when said out loud.
My puppy is going through a mischievous phase.
More than half of the letters in nauseous /ˈnɔːʃəs/ are vowels, and figuring out in which order they go can be tricky for a lot of people. This adjective describes someone as “affected with nausea or as if they need to vomit.” It can also mean “an offensive taste or smell.”
The smell of a milk carton that someone had forgotten to throw away made him nauseous.
Onomatopoeia /ɑːnəˌmætəˈpiːə/ is a noun that is defined as “the formation of a word (thing or action) by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it, such as buzz and hiss.” This word has double the number of vowels than it has consonants, and figuring out their order can be challenging. The correct pronunciation of this word sounds like aa-nuh-maa-tuh-pee-uh.
Comic books contain a lot of onomatopoeia to help readers understand what’s going on.
Okay, someone was definitely playing a joke on us when they formed this word. If you think about it, it’s basically the letter “q” with five silent vowels after it. Queue /kjuː/ can function as a noun (a line or sequence of people or vehicles waiting their turn or a list of data items, commands, etc.). But it can also function as a verb (take one’s place in a queue or arrange in a queue), and sounds like kyoo when said out loud.
I had five songs in the queue about to start playing.
Wednesday /ˈwenzdeɪ/ refers to the day of the week that follows Tuesday and comes before Thursday. When said out loud, this word is pronounced like wenz-day, but the way it’s spelled makes it seem like it’s pronounced wed-nes-day (but it’s not).
I’m going out of town on Wednesday.
Worcestershire /ˈwʊstərʃər/ is a county in the West Midlands of England. Worcestershire sauce is a sauce made of vinegar, sugar, and other spices. This word is pronounced like wu-stur-shr, and the spelling of the word looks like there’s at least one syllable too many.
I asked for a bit of Worcestershire sauce to go.
Admittedly, yacht /jɑːt/ is more of a strange spelling than it is difficult. And that’s because when said aloud, there’s no “tch” sound in it. Instead, it sounds like yaat when pronounced. This noun refers to “a large sailing boat” or “a large motor-driven craft used for pleasure sailing.”
We rented a yacht for the bachelorette party.
It’s Not You, It’s English
These are only 15 of the innumerable difficult English words to spell. These words (and many others) can be hard to spell correctly, regardless if you’re an English language learner or a native speaker.
So, how do you make sure you always use the right spelling? By using LanguageTool as your writing assistant. Not only can this multilingual text editor ensure proper spelling, but it can check for many other types of errors and suggest stylistic improvements.