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Date: Aug 26 2007


Author: sweety_bubbly


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100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English

Now that Dr. Language has provided a one-stop cure for the plague of misspelling, here are the 100 words most often mispronounced English words ("mispronunciation" among them). 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. 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 sayDo SayComment


acrossedacrossIt is easy to confuse "across" with "crossed" but better to keep them separate.
affidavidaffidavitEven if your lawyer's name is ''David,'' he issues affidavits.
Old-timer's diseaseAlzheimer's diseaseWhile it is a disease of old-timers, it is named for the German neurologist, Dr. Alois Alzheimer.
AntarticAntarctic Just think of an arc of ants (an ant arc) and that should help you keep the [c] in the pronunciation of this word.
ArticArctic Another hard-to-see [c]—but it is there.
aksask 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."
athelete, atheleticathlete, athleticTwo syllables are enough for "athlete."


barbituatebarbiturateDon't forget this word contains three others: bar+bit+u+rate
bob wirebarbed wireNo, 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.
bidnessbusinessThe change of [s] to [d] before [n] is spreading throughout the US and when the unaccented [I] drops from this word the [s] finds itself in the same environment as in "isn't" and "wasn't."
a blessing in the skiesa blessing in disguiseThis phrase is no blessing if it comes from the skies. (Pronounce it correctly and help maintain the disguise.)


CalvarycavalryIt 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.
cannidatecandidateYou 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.)
card sharkcardsharpCardsharps probably won't eat you alive, though they are adept at cutting your purse strings.
Carpool tunnel syndromeCarpal tunnel syndromeThis one is mispronounced (and misspelled) several different ways; we just picked the funniest. Carpal means ''pertaining to the wrist.''
caucaphonycacophonyThere is no greater cacophony [kو'kafêni] to the ears than to hear the vowels switched in the pronunciation of this word.
The CaucasesThe CaucasusAlthough there are more than one mountain in this chain, their name is not a plural noun.
chester drawers chest of drawersThe drawers of Chester is a typical way of looking at these chests down South but it misses the point.
chomp at the bitchamp 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 [æ] not [o].
closeclothesThe [th] is a very soft sound likely to be overlooked. Show your linguistic sensitivity and always pronounce it.
coronetcornet 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.


dialatedilateThe [i] in this word is so long there is time for another vowel but don't succumb to the temptation.
diptheriadiphtheriaThe ''ph'' in this word is pronounced [f], not [p].
doggy dog worlddog-eat-dog worldThe 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.
drownddrownYou add the [d] only to the past tense and past participle.
duck tapeduct tapeDucks very rarely need taping though you may not know that ducts always do—to keep air from escaping through the cracks in them.


elec'torale'lectoralThe 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.")
excapeescapeThe 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."
expressoespressoWhile 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-.
exceteraet ceteraLatin for "and" (et) "the rest" (cetera) are actually two words that probably should be written separately.
expeciallyespeciallyThings especial are usually not expected, so don't confuse these words.


FebyuaryFebruaryWe 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.
fedralfederalSyncopation of an unaccented vowel is fairly common in rapid speech but in careful speech it should be avoided. See also "plute" and read more about the problem here.
fillumfilmWe 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.
fisicalfiscalIn 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.
flounderfounderSince it is unlikely that a boat would founder on a flounder, we should distinguish the verb from the fish as spelling suggests.
foilagefoliageHere is another case of metathesis, place-switching of sounds. Remember, the [i] comes after the [l], as in related "folio."
For all intensive purposesFor all intents and purposesThe younger generation is mispronouncing this phrase so intensively that it has become popular both as a mispronunciation and misspelling.
fortefortThe 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].


Heineken removerHeimlich maneuver (or manoeuvre, Br.)This term is mispronounced many different ways. This is just the funniest one we have heard. This maneuver (manoeuvre) was named for US surgeon Henry Jay Heimlich (1920- ).
heighthheightThe analogy with "width" misleads many of us in the pronunciation of this word.
'erbherbDoes, ''My friend Herb grows 'erbs,'' sound right to you? This is a US oddity generated by the melting pot (mixed dialects). Initial [h] is always pronounced outside America and should be in all dialects of English.
hi-archyhierarchyRemember, hierarchies go higher than you might think. This one is pronounced "higher archy" and not "high archy."


in parenthesisin parenthesesNo one can enclose an expression in one parenthesis; at least two parentheses are required.
interpretateinterpretThis error results from the back-formation of "interpretate" from "interpretation." But back formation isn't needed; we already have "interpret." (See also 'orientate')
irregardlessregardless"-Less" already says ''without'' so there is no need to repeat the same sentiment with "ir-."
idn'tisn'tAgain, the struggle of [s] before [n]. (See also "bidness" and "wadn't")


jewleryjewelryThe root of this word is "jewel" and that doesn't change for either "jeweler" or "jewelry." The British add a syllable: "jewellery" (See also its spelling.)
jist nor disjust 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].


Klu Klux KlanKu Klux KlanWell, 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.


lambastlambasteBetter to lambaste the lamb than to baste him—remember, the words rhyme. "Bast" has nothing to do with it.
larnyxlarynxMore metathesis. Here the [n] and [y] switch places. Mind your [n]s and [y]s as you mind your [p]s and [q]s.
Laura Norderlaw and orderThe sound [aw] picks up an [r] in some dialects (also "sawr" and "gnawr"). Avoid it and keep Laura Norder in her place.
leashlease Southern Americans are particularly liable to confuse these two distinct words but the confusion occurs elsewhere. Look out for it.
libelliableYou are liable for the damages if you are successfully sued for libel. But don't confuse these discrete words.
libarylibraryAs mentioned before, English speakers dislike two [r]s in the same word. However, we have to buck up and pronounce them all.
long-livedlong-livedThis 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."


masonarymasonry 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.
mawvmauve This word has not moved far enough away from French to assume an English pronunciation, [mawv], and should still be pronounced [mowv].
mannaisemayonnaise 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"?
minitureminiatureHere is another word frequently syncopated. Don't leave out the third syllable, [a].
mutemootThe definition of "moot" is moot (open to debate) but not the pronunciation: [mut] and not [myut].
mis'chievous'mischievousIt 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).


notherotherMisanalysis 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.
nucularnuclear The British and Australians find the American repetition of the [u] between the [k] and [l] quaintly amusing. Good reason to get it right.
nuptualnuptialMany speakers in the US add a spurious [u] to this word, too. It should be pronounced [nêpchêl], not or [nêpchuêl].


oftenofenWe have mastered the spelling of this word so well, its spelling influences the pronunciation: DON'T pronounce the [t]! This is an exception to the rule that spelling helps pronunciation.
ordinanceordnanceYou may have to use ordnance to enforce an ordinance but you should not pronounce the words the same.
orientateorientAnother pointless back-formation. We don't need this mispronunciation from "orientation" when we already have "orient." (See also "interpretate")
ostensivelyostensiblyBe sure to keep your suffixes straight on this one.
OstrayaAustraliaThis pronunciation particularly bothers Australians themselves, most of whom can manage the [l] quite easily, thank you.


parlamentparliamentAlthough some dictionaries have given up on it, there should be a [y] after [l]: [pahr-lyê-mênt]
perculatepercolatePronouncing this word as "perculate" is quite peculiar. (Also, remember that it means ''drip down'' not ''up.'')
pottablepotableThe adjective meaning "drinkable" rhymes with "floatable" and is not to be confused with the one that means "capable of being potted."
perogativeprerogativeEven 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.
perscriptionprescriptionSame as above. It is possible that we simply confuse "pre-" and "per-" since both are legitimate prefixes.
persnicketypernickety 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].
preemptoryperemptoryThe old pre-/per- problem. Do not confuse this word with "preemptive;" the prefix here is per-.
prespireperspire"Per-" has become such a regular mispronunciation of "pre-," many people now correct themselves where they don't need to.
plutepolluteThis 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. Read here for more on the problem.
(probly, prolly)probably 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.
pronounciationpronunciationJust as "misspelling" is among the most commonly misspelled words, "pronunciation" is among the most commonly mispronounced words. Fitting, no?
prostrateprostateThough a pain in the prostate may leave a man prostrate, the gland contains no [r].


realatorrealtor As you avoid the extra vowel in "masonry," remember to do the same for "realtor," the guy who sells what the mason creates.
revelantrelevant Here is another word that seems to invite metathesis.
reoccurrecurYou don't have to invent a new word from "occur." We already have a verb "recur" that does the trick.
respiterespite Despite the spelling similarity, this word does not rhyme with despite; it is pronounced ['re-spit]. Give yourself a permanent respite from mispronouncing it.


sherbertsherbet Some of the same people who do not like two [r]s in their words can't help repeating the one in this word.
siliconesiliconSilicon is the material they make computer chips from but implants are made of silicone.
snucksneakedI doubt we will get "snuck" out of the language any time soon but here is a reminder that it really isn't a word.
sosesoThe 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."
spadespayYou can have your dog spayed but so long as she is a good dog, please don't spade her.
spitting imagespit and imageThe very spit of someone is an exact likeness. "The spit and image" or "spit image" emphasizes the exactness.
stobstubIn some areas the vowel in this word has slid a bit too far back in the mouth. Don't choke on it.
stompstampStamps are so called because they were originally stamped (not stomped) on a letter. You stamp your feet, too.
suitsuiteIf 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.
supposablysupposedlyAdding –ly to participles is rarely possible, so some people try to avoid it altogether. You can't avoid it here.
supremistsupremacistThis word is derived from "supremacy," not "supreme." A supremist would be someone who considers himself supreme. You know there is no one like that.


tacttack If things are not going your way, do not lose your tact—that would be tactless—but take a different tack.
take for granitetake for grantedWe do tend to take granite for granted, it is so ubiquitous. But that, of course, is not the point.
tenanttenetA tenant is a renter who may not hold a tenet (a doctrine or dogma).
tenderhookstenterhooksTenters 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.
TiajuanaTijuanaWhy make Spanish words more difficult than they already are? Just three syllables here, thank you.
triathalontriathlonWe don't like [th] and [l] together, so some of us insert a spare vowel. Pronounce it right, spell it right.


upmostutmostWhile this word does indicate that efforts are up, the word is "utmost," a(!) historical variation of "outmost."


verbageverbiage Here is another word that loses its [i] in speech. Pronouncing it correctly will help you spell it correctly.
volumptuousvoluptuousSome voluptuous women may be lumpy, but please avoid this Freudian slip that apprises them of it.


wadn'twasn'tThat pesky [s] before [n] again. See "bidness" and "idn't."
waysway"I have a ways to go" should be "I have a way to go." The article "a" does not fit well with a plural.
wetwhetIn the Northeastern US the sound [hw], spelled "wh," is vanishing and these two words are pronounced the same. Elsewhere they should be distinguished.


yokeyolk 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.


zuologyzoology Actually, we should say [zo], not [zu], when we go to the zoo but we'll let that pass. The discipline, however, must be pronounced [zo-'ah-luh-gee].
100 Most Often Misspelled Words and Phrases in English

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