mispronounced-words-in-english

17 Commonly Mispronounced Words in English: How to Say Them Correctly (With Video)

English can be so weird.

Why are there so many words that look completely different than they sound?

English pronunciation can be so complicated that even native speakers go their whole lives mispronouncing certain words.

There are probably at least a few that you have been saying incorrectly without knowing it.

Well, not anymore!

We will teach you 17 of the most often mispronounced words in English, including some very common words that you will encounter all the time.

Master their pronunciation and you might even have a thing or two to teach a native English speaker!
 


 

17 Common English Words You’ll Never Mispronounce Again

In the list below, we will spell out the common incorrect pronunciations as well as the correct pronunciation for each word. We will put the stressed syllables in bold.

mispronounced-words-in-english

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As you watch the videos, click on the interactive subtitles for an instant definition and native pronunciation of any word. When you are done watching, there are flashcards (with pictures and audio) and fun quizzes to make sure you remember everything. Best of all, you can practice anytime, anywhere with the FluentU iOS and Android apps.

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1. Açaí

How it is mistakenly pronounced: “Uh-kai” or “Ah-kai

How it is actually pronounced:Ahh-sai-ee”

Açai berries are a type of South American fruit.

Even native English speakers mispronounced this word for a while when açaí bowls first became popular in the U.S.

Let’s all go out for açaí bowls, I’m starving!

2. Flautist

How it is mistakenly pronounced:Floo-tist”

How it is actually pronounced:Flah-tist” (U.S.) or “Floh-tist” (U.K.)

A flautist is a musician who plays the flute. Flutist (pronounced “floo-tist”) is an older word that is also an appropriate way to use to describe a flute player, but mostly in the U.S. Typically, Americans will say flutist while the rest of the world’s English speakers will say flautist.

Tyler is an accomplished and talented flautist.

3. Definitely

How it is mistakenly pronounced: “Dee-fie-ant-lee” or “Def-in-it-lee”

How it is actually pronounced:Def-in-it-lee”

Not only is this word sometimes mispronounced by non-native speakers, but its spelling is also butchered (destroyed) by just about everyone.

Who knows why? It kind of sounds how it is spelled, but we just cannot get “definitely” right! We might spell it “definately” or “defiantly” for years, even after being corrected. It is a cursed word.

I’m definitely going to study my English lessons tonight.

4. Library

How it is mistakenly pronounced:Lie-bear-ee”

How it is actually pronounced:Lie-brair-ee”

The “r” sounds in this word are hard for a lot of non-native speakers to figure out. Though it is clearly spelled with an “r” right next to the “b,” even native speakers tend to leave it out.

We went to the local library to check out some books.

5. Itinerary

How it is mistakenly pronounced: “Eye-tin-air-ee” or “Eye-ten-ee-air-ee”

How it is actually pronounced: “Eye-tin-er-air-ee”

When you plan to go on vacation somewhere, you will probably make a list of things you plan to do while you are there. This would be known as an itinerary, but boy is that word weird to say!

Just remember to pronounce it how it is spelled, even if it sounds weird, and you will be good to go.

Sophia wrote up an itinerary for our trip to the Bahamas.

6. Pronunciation

How it is mistakenly pronounced: “Pro-nun-say-shun”

How it is actually pronounced: “Pro-nun-see-ay-shun”

Well this is kind of a pun, huh? Pronunciation is mispronounced a lot, but it is quite the complex word to say (and to spell!) due to all those syllables.

 The correct pronunciation will be listed in your textbook.

7. Pseudonym

How it is mistakenly pronounced:Puh-soo-doh-nim” or “Soo-doh-name”

How it is actually pronounced:Soo-doh-nim”

A pseudonym is a fake name used by authors or artists. It is a great example of the silent “p” sound, which is found frequently in English.

J.K. Rowling used a pseudonym when she started writing crime fiction.

8. Salmon

How it is mistakenly pronounced:Saul-mon” or “Saul-man”

How it is actually pronounced:Sam-in”

So many words in English have silent “l” sounds. Think of words like half, calf, talk, walk, and would. We just love shoving the letter “l” into whatever word we want!

In the case of this tasty fish, the “l” is silent as well.

I had salmon for lunch yesterday.

9. Subtle

How it is mistakenly pronounced:Sub-tell”

How it is actually pronounced:Suh-tell”

We have been covering a lot of words with silent letters in this article, but “subtle” really takes the cake (is exceptional) for being an odd one. Silent “b” sounds in English are rare, but they do pop up.

The metaphors in this novel are quite subtle.

10. GIF

How it is mistakenly pronounced (up to debate): “Jiff”

How it is actually pronounced: “Giff”

You have definitely seen a GIF (the abbreviation for “Graphics Interchange Format”) online. It is a small image file, often with a quick animation or motion.

The pronunciation of this word has been the subject of many memes through the years. Even Steve Wilhite, the inventor of the GIF file format, claims that it is pronounced “jiff.”

But you could argue that “jiff” is not correct, since GIF is an abbreviation. “Graphics” has a hard “g,” so it is only sensical that GIF be pronounced with a hard “g” as well.

Did you see that GIF of a cat doing a backflip? Hilarious.

11. Chimera

How it is mistakenly pronounced:Chim-air-uh” or “Kim-air-uh”

How it is actually pronounced:Kie-mear-uh”

Honestly, this word does not pop up in English very often. How many casual English conversations involve a chimera, a fire-breathing mythical beast with lion, goat and snake parts? Still, it is a very commonly mispronounced word among native and non-native speakers.

How cool would it be to see a real-life chimera?

12. Gyro

How it is mistakenly pronounced: “Guy-ro” or “Gee-ro” or “Hee-ro”

How it is actually pronounced: “Yee-ro”

A gyro is a Greek wrap made with shredded meat that is cooked on a vertical rotisserie. English-speakers in the U.S. and the U.K. love this dish, but everybody seems to pronounce it wrong. To be fair, you do not see words with a silent “g” in English very often. The correct pronunciation comes from the original Greek word.

I usually order a lamb gyro with a side of hummus when I eat at the Greek restaurant down the street.

13. Ask

How it is mistakenly pronounced: “Axe”

How it is actually pronounced: “Ah-sk”

Pronouncing “ask” is weirdly uncomfortable, but saying “axe” is somehow easier. Lots of native and non-native English speakers get this one wrong for that very reason.

Note that in black communities in the U.S., “axe” can be considered a proper pronunciation.

I must ask John where he left the library books.

14. Wednesday

How it is mistakenly pronounced:Wed-nez-day”

How it is actually pronounced:Wenz-day”

Why on earth is Wednesday spelled like that? Apparently, it is due to the word’s German origins. “Wednesday” was pronounced more like “Wodan’s Day” in old German, a tribute to the Anglo-Saxon god Wodan.

On Wednesdays we wear pink.

15. Stomach

How it is mistakenly pronounced:Stoh-mahk” or “Stoh-match”

How it is actually pronounced:Stum-ick”

It is a bit weird to pronounce “ach” as “ick,” but that is how “stomach” is properly pronounced.

My stomach is killing me, I need some food.

16. Meme

How it is mistakenly pronounced: “Mehm” or “Mee-mee”

How it is actually pronounced: “Meem”

If you are guilty of mispronouncing this word, do not fret. This word was almost never used until the rise of Internet memes, so it makes sense why it would confuse some people.

Did you see that meme about the moth and the lamp? Hilarious.

17. Bury

How it is mistakenly pronounced:Buh-ree”

How it is actually pronounced:Bare-ee”

“Bury” and “berry” are homophones, meaning they have the same pronunciation, if you were interested in a fun fact.

Let’s bury the evidence, nobody will ever know.

 

English words can be quite complex when it comes to pronunciation. With a little bit of hard work, any English learner can definitely figure them out. It just takes some context, the proper pronunciation and a desire to master the English language. Good luck!


Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.

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