50 Words You May Have Been Mispronouncing Your Whole Life

Entertainment | By Harriet King | July 16, 2018

The English language is a funny thing. Well, maybe not so much funny as it is frustrating, if you know what we mean. For some reason we ditched the whole easy and 'phonetic' thing that most other languages stick to quite religiously in favor of some truly bizarre pronunciation rules.

If you're a native English speaker, we're sorry to dump all of this on you. It can be quite disheartening discovering that you haven't even mastered your mother tongue yet, especially if you have dreams of learning another language. You might want to put those Spanish lessons on hold for now!

We bet once you take a look through some of these commonly mispronounced words you're going to feel at least a little bit embarrassed. But don't worry, it really does happen to the best of us! If you really want a good laugh we suggest you check out number 39 immediately.

1. Chipotle

You know what these are - they're the chili peppers that make Mexican food hot. They're smoky and delicious so long as you have the stomach for a little spice. Unfortunately for you, serving staff in Mexican restaurants have probably been laughing behind your back every time you've asked for a dish containing it.

"Chipotle" is not pronounced "chip-oat-lay". That's not how Mexicans tend to pronounce the letter 'I'. Nor is it pronounced "chip-otel", which you may also have heard people use. That just sounds like a chip hotel, which would be something completely different, and wonderful in its own right, but still very wrong. The correct pronunciation is "cheep-oat-lay", like you've found a cheap bed to lay your oats down for the night. Hopefully that strange image will help you remember how to say it right in future.

2. Cache

Ever phoned through to an IT help desk and gone through the same old routine a hundred times? Turn it on and off, check everything's plugged in, and clear your cache. It's a stock answer, and both you and the person you're speaking to are both probably rolling your eyes as you go through the motions. Well, now you can feel smarter than them, because they probably pronounced "cache" wrong.

It's the second 'c' that does it, it just makes the word look like there should be more going on with the sound then there actually is. You do not pronounce it "catch", like you've just caught a ball. Nor does it rhyme with "sashay", you fabulous thing. Spoken correctly, it sounds exactly like "cash" as in money. We bet you feel a bit better for knowing this now!

3. Gyro

This is a word that has a few different meanings, and how you're most familiar with it will depend on where you live in the world. In the UK, a gyro is the welfare payment you may be entitled to receive if you're unemployed. If you're scientifically minded, you might use it as an abbreviation of 'gyroscope', as in the device which measures angle and rotation. If you're like us, though, then it's a spicy Greek meat sandwich, and it tastes amazing.

So how should we ask for it when we want one? Well, not like "juh-eye-ro" for a start, which is the most common way it's misused. Not "gee-roh" either. And if you're thinking it's "guy-row" you're still way off. What you're looking for is a "yee-roh". The G is silent, and fools everyone.

4. Ennui

This word is almost as hard to define as it is to pronounce. It's a bit like being tired, but not quite. It's also a bit like being apathetic, but not quite that either. It's somewhere between the two, and at the same time somehow more artistic. "Ennui" is best defined as a feeling of something lacking, being energy, spirit or interest. Another way to put it could be an extreme feeling of discontentment. Whatever it is, it's not great!

Look at the word and try to get your head around it. How do you say it out loud? "EN-OO-EYE", right? Nope. Try again. Did you go with "EN-OO-EE"? Good effort, but you're still off target. It's "On-wee". "Ennui" is actually a French word by origin, and the French really love to go deep on those vowels.

5. Espresso

This one should be obvious just by looking at the word, but so many people make the same mistake when they're ordering their daily coffee, and we don't want you to feel stupid if you find out you're one of them when we explain what the mistake is. Some of us here have made the same error, we promise.

This morning life-saver, a super strong shot of black coffee which the Italians make by grinding coffee beans and then steaming them, is actually pronounced exactly as it's spelled. There's no trick to it, and it's not trying to hide anything from you, just say it as you see it. So that means it's not "ex-presso". That 'x' that so many people think they see just isn't there. It's "ess-presso". Always has been, always will be.

6. Prescription

If you've been getting this one wrong, then maybe it's time to think about picking up some new prescription glasses. See what we did there? How did you pronounce that word in your head when you read it? Just like the word 'espresso' before it at number five, 'prescription' doesn't have any fancy tricks to it - it is pronounced exactly as it is spelled, too.

There's something about the human brain that sometimes messes with words that start 'pre' and spins the 'r' and the 'e' around for us before the sound comes out of our mouths. If you want your doctor to write a note for you so you can pick up some medication, then what you're looking for isn't a "pur-script-shun". This is another word that's said exactly as it's spelled, and it's "pre-script-shun".

7. Candidate

We bet you thought this word was an unlikely candidate to turn up on this list. Surely everyone knows how to say it correctly - it feels like it's used on the news ten million times every time there's an election going on? We don't know exactly where things went wrong with this word, but we're here to clear things up.

Sometimes, when we're very familiar with a word, we get lazy with the way we say it. Then other people hear us say that word and think that's the way it's supposed to be said, and so the lazy pronunciation spreads. "Candidate" is one of those words. It's not pronounced "can-uh-date". Look at the word, how could it be? That 'd' in the middle isn't going anywhere, it's got to be spoken out loud. "Can-da-date" is the word you're looking for.

8. Sherbet

Before we get into the pronunciation, can we just all take a second to appreciate the wonder of sherbet? How does adding fruit juice to milk result in something so amazing? Whoever came up with it should have won all the awards, and then had them taken away because they chose a difficult name for their new invention. Though some people can't pronounce it, we can all agree it's delicious.

This one is spelled wrong almost as often as it's spoken wrong. It isn't "sure-bert", like your friend Bert just said something wise. It isn't "sher-bert" either, however much you love those old Austin Powers movies. There's no 'r' at the end of the word, and what you should actually be saying is "sure-bit", like you're dealing with a very confident little piece of data.

9. Sudoku

This word is hard to pronounce, but probably not as hard as the puzzle is to complete. Ever since these number games made their way across the world from Japan a few years ago, and became a regular feature in newspapers, we've all found out how good or bad we are at basic math and realized how much we rely on calculators on a daily basis. If there's one thing we know for sure, it's that these will keep you busy enough on any long-haul flight.

Because the word is of Japanese origin, the pronunciation isn't obvious. You look at the way it's spelled and you want to say "Suh-doe-coo", but you're not quite right. "Suh-dock-oo" isn't right either, even though you've probably heard that one before as well. "Soo-doe-coo" is the way to say it, nice and smooth.

10. Niche

This is a specialized word for specialized situations and is used most of all in the world of business, when someone is describing what they do that makes them unique in the marketplace. If you can find a product or service that you can perform better than anyone else, and you can make your living from it, then you'll have found your niche in the market. When you do, you'll probably want to get the pronunciation correct.

There are men and women who sit on the boards of Fortune 500 companies and talk about finding their next "nitch", and they better hope their ideas are better than their pronunciation, because that's wrong. The soft 'c' means they should really be looking for their "neesh". Now that we've cleared that up, feel free to use it at your next job interview.

11. Affluent

Isn't this what we all aim to be? Cash rich, care free, able to do what we want and when we want. For the majority of being, being affluent is the definition of living the dream. Money buys time, security and opportunity. Not everyone can get there, and not everyone can even say the word out loud correctly. Master this one and maybe you'll end up getting there one day.

This is a bit of a tricky one, so we'll use capital letters to make our point - it's all about where you put the stress on the word. Most people go for "aff-LOO-ent", with all the emphasis on the middle. It should actually be "AFF-loo-ent", with the emphasis on the beginning. So, if you get the start right, the rest follows naturally. A bit like making money.

12. Kibosh

This is one of our favorite words. You can use it to put an end to almost anything. Don't feel like going out tonight? Put the kibosh on it. Is your partner making plans you don't agree with? Put the kibosh on it. Don't want to do this job anymore? Put the kibosh on it. You can basically put the kibosh on anything - it's so useful. And yet almost everyone gets it wrong.

This word is not pronounced "ki-bosh". We know that's the way you and everyone else has said it for your whole life, but it's not right. It should be "key-bosh", which somehow just doesn't seem as good. Nobody really knows where the word came from; it started appearing in English during the 19th Century and is sometimes attributed to author Charles Dickens.

13. Açaí

There are several ways that people are wrong about açai. For a start, it isn't the name of the berries you eat. Açaí berries aren't like strawberries, they actually come from a small South American tree, and "Açaí" is the name of the tree itself. Now that we're talking about it, we're suddenly craving an açaí smoothie bowl!

Secondly, the accents on the letters make the pronunciation quite tricky. It certainly isn't 'akk-aye', which sounds a lot more like a bad attempt at a Scottish accent. The accents tell us how to say it correctly, but as they're not used in the English language, most people can't follow them. The right way is "ah-sah-ee", and the word somehow packs three syllables into only four letters. It takes longer to say than it does to write.

14. Asterisk

Most commonly known these days as the symbol on your phone that sits the other side of the zero from the hashtag and doesn't get as much love, the asterisk has a number of uses. When placed at the end of a word, it's a reminder to check the footer of a page for more detail. It can also be used for censorship, like striking out the middle of curse words.

Maybe because we see the symbol so much more often than we have to name it or say it out loud, we frequently mispronounce it. It's not "ass-tricks". There's no horseplay involved, and the 'e' in the middle isn't silent. It isn't "ass-ter-ix" either, that's a popular French cartoon character. "As-ter-isk" is the right and proper way to refer to this versatile little star.

15. Wheelbarrow

We wheely hope you've been getting this one right - and we're already sorry for that terrible joke. Everybody who enjoys gardening probably has a wheelbarrow, and they're a standard tool of the trade for builders, too, so how come people can't say the word properly? It will definitely remain a bit of a mystery to us, if we're being honest.

It should be said exactly as it sounds, but we think it's the 'l' and 'w' sounds that get mixed up in the brain and cause problems. You've probably heard someone you know call it a "wheel-barrel". That would be a barrel for storing wheels, and to most people would be a completely useless tool, so put that away and make sure you ask for a "wheel-barrow" instead. You'll find it makes carrying things much easier.

16. Quinoa

When quinoa first entered mainstream consciousness a decade or two ago, it started something of a food revolution. It was nowhere, and suddenly it was everywhere. Some people refer to it as a super food, and it's a staple of vegan and vegetarian diets in particular. We don't mind a hot bowl of quinoa porridge in the winter. It also works well in salads.

Quinoa is a grain crop specifically grown because its seeds are edible; it serves practically no other purpose. When pronouncing its name, though, it's important not to get thrown by the 'q' at the start, which always has the potential to make things different'. "Kwin-oh-a" isn't the way to go with this one. This is a word that has Spanish origins, so he 'q' has a hard edge, and the 'u' becomes silent, which gives us "keen-wah".

17. Celtic

This word is a whole cultural identity for some people, and it's impossible to see it written down without immediately thinking of Ireland, and perhaps of distant family ancestry too. Celtic tribes used to roam all over Western Europe, a warrior race with their own language and traditions who finally settled across Ireland and parts of Scotland.

Sports fans will be familiar with the word, too. Soccer fans will have heard of multi-time Scottish champions Glasgow Celtic, and all basketball fans know the Boston Celtics. So just how is it that, for all this time, we've been saying "sell-tick" when we should have been saying "kell-tic"? It's a hard one to follow - at some point, through being adapted into Latin, and then French, and then back again (having spent some time being pronounced, somehow, as "Tell-tic"), the hard 'c' at the start became soft.

18. Antarctic

We have a hard enough time remembering which one is the Arctic and which one is the Antarctic, and that's long before we start the process of trying to figure out how to pronounce them. We just looked it up to confirm it, and the Arctic is the North Polar region, with the Antarctic being down the opposite side of the globe.

If it's easier, think of a polar bear on top of a penguin - trust us, we're going somewhere with this odd analogy. Polar bears life up at the North Pole, and penguins are closer to the Antarctic (although they don't really live on or around the South Pole, that's a popular modern-day myth). That word "Antarctic", by the way, has two 'c's, so make sure you pronounce them both. It's "Ant-ark-tik", not "Ant-artik".

19. Perspire

Try not to think about this one too hard - it might make you sweat. That word we use to describe the process of sweat forming in our pores and escaping onto the skin is another one of those where your eyes and your brain conspire against you at the beginning. It's the opposite of the problem we had with "prescription" earlier on in the list.

If you hear someone say "pre-spire", then don't correct them straight away, that might stress them out, and stress is one of the major causes of perspiration! Instead, find a quiet moment later on and gently tell them that the right way to say it is "per-spire". It's yet another one that's spelled as it's supposed to be said. We're still not totally sure how we managed to mess up so many words.

20. Chicanery

This is a fine old English word and is really just a flamboyant way of calling somebody or something a fraud. It comes from the same strange corner of the English language that gives us "tomfoolery" and "shenanigans" and feels like it belongs in the world of Vaudeville. We don't know about you guys, but we're totally inspired to start using this one now!

Because it starts the same way as "chicken", you could be forgiven for thinking it's pronounced "chick-cannery", like somewhere you might shove chickens into tin cans, but that's not the way to do it. "Shi-cane-urry" should be what you declare when you suspect someone's being dishonest with you, and if you think it sounds like the twisty-turny section of a racetrack, you're right - they come from the same root word.

21. Caramel

Mm-mm. Caramel. It just makes everything better, doesn't it? There are very few things that can't be improved by adding caramel. It goes perfectly with chocolate. It's an ideal topping for ice cream. We think we might draw the line if you poured it on our desks and asked us to eat it - but we're not going to rule it out, either.

Probably because people are too busy eating it and admiring how awesome it is, instead of reading the word, people sometimes get the name of it wrong. Every letter is pronounced, so it's not "karr-mel", it's "kah-rah-mell" - although maybe the people who sound like they're saying it incorrectly are just purring in the middle of the word because they love it so much. We can't blame them - maybe we'll start doing it too!

22. Engineer

This is a very common word that can apply to a number of people who work in many different trades. The person who repairs your car may refer to themselves as an engineer, whereas someone who works in the manufacture of medicine may be called a chemical engineer. The word is almost always used to apply to someone who builds or repairs something.

Originally, however, the word came into popular use with the advent of trains and train travel, and it used to specifically refer to the person who ran the train. That era might be where the mispronunciation used most frequently came from; you may have heard it as "in-jee-near", but it's actually "en-gi-neer". The end of the word needs the closest attention, it's an "ee" sound as in "seen", as opposed to sounding like "near".

23. Jewelry

Keep it in a box, wear it on your fingers, put it around your neck. Everybody knows what jewelry is. If you're the Queen of England, you're occasionally required to wear yours on your head - when it's not under lock and key in the Tower of London. From the smallest earrings to the most expensive diamond rings, almost everybody owns at least one decorative item that fits the description.

Another example of a lazy pronunciation becoming popular, people like to ignore the 'w' in the middle and try to crush the word into two syllables, becoming "jule-ry". That combination of 'w' and 'e' in the middle aren't to be ignored, and "jew-el-ry" is a three-syllable word that should be given the respect it deserves. The word itself, as you may expect, comes from 'jewels'.

24. Bruschetta

Possibly the most Italian of all Italian food, bruschetta is a mini-meal that can be served at any time. It's often used as canapés at a party or similar gathering, most Italian restaurants offer them as a starter, but you can also have them as a companion dish to a main meal - or even afterward. At their heart they're just grilled slices of garlic bread topped with olive oil and tomatoes, but something about them just works.

Because the word is Italian, the spelling isn't our biggest clue to getting the pronunciation right. You'd look at it and think that it has to be pronounced "broo-shet-ta", but it isn't, much as the waiter in your favorite Italian restaurant lets you get away with it. When they're at home, the Italians harden up that middle 'c' and make it "broo-sket-ta", and so that's how we really should be saying it as well.

25. Cavalry

This is a word that suffers in the pronunciation stakes because it looks so much like another word. Most people probably aren't aware that it isn't the same word and doesn't even mean the same thing. "Calvary" is an ancient military term and is the correct group term for soldiers mounted on horseback. Understandably, you don't really see them around very much anymore. Well, unless you'd describe policemen on horseback as "cavalry".

A lot of people see the word written down and confuse it with "Calvary", which is the site in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified according to Christian belief. Both words are actually pronounced exactly as they sound, but if you have just walked past a parade of mounted soldiers and wondered what you should call them, then it's "cav-al-ry", you're looking for, not "cal-vary".

26. Flautist

Now, here's a complicated linguistic story about a word that virtually nobody outside the world of music uses. You may think that flautist is just a more artistic, classy way of saying "flutist", but you'd be wrong. And nor is it merely an alternative spelling or pronounced the same way. Sit back, we're about to blow your minds with this one.

"Flutist" pronounced "floo-tist" is actually an older word, dating back to the 1600s, whereas flautist, pronounced "floor-tist", doesn't appear anywhere until 1860 where it appears in a fictional novel based in Italy. So, it's not more high-society, it's not more historically accurate, and it's not more accurate as a description of the instrument. But it is pronounced a different way, so make sure you choose the right way of saying it for the version you prefer.

27. Mischievous

As freely applied to babies and small children as it is to animals, we all recognize the meaning of the word when we see it written down. It means to be naughty, or to misbehave, but in a harmful or playful manner. When we tell people or pets off for being mischievous, though, we usually mangle the pronunciation of the word.

As frequently misspelled as it is mispronounced, something about the word structure makes you feel like there's another 'i' or 'e' in there somewhere, and the word comes out as "miss-chee-vee-us", stretching it out across for syllables when only three are called for. There's no high vowel after that 'v', and the "chie" sound comes out exactly as it does in "chief", so when you put it all together you get "miss-chev-us". Confusing, isn't it? What a mischievous little word.

28. Applicable

Here's another one of those words where the spelling won't help you at all, and you've been getting it wrong since the day you first saw it, because the first person you heard say it out loud got it wrong too. We still get it wrong sometimes, and we know the way we're supposed to say it not. The trick to this word is knowing where to place the emphasis.

With a lot of words, the emphasis falls on the middle syllable, or the center of the phrasing, but that isn't applicable in all cases, this being one of them. You've probably been reading the word as "a-PLICK-able" as we've gone along, and if you did, welcome to the world of failure. The front of the word takes all the weight and should be spoken like an app on your phone, becoming "APP-lick-able", the same as it would be in application which also shares the same root.

29. Either

There's a strong argument to say that there isn't a 'correct' way of pronouncing this word, and that both of the common variations are acceptable, but only one of them has found its way into Merriam-Webster's dictionary, so that's the one that we're going with, and we apologize to those people who are going to be upset by it. We figure you can't argue with the dictionary, though, so don't blame us if you're not happy with the result!

Whilst you've probably heard both "eye-thur" and "eee-thur" every day of your life for as long as you can remember, according to the dictionary, it's "eee-thur" that wins the debate. We don't think that's going to stop people debating, and we think people should be free to use either. Or that should be, free to use "either" however they want.

30. February

Maybe because it's still early in the year and most of us haven't worked our way up to pronouncing words correctly yet, we all seem to get "February" wrong. It's a little hard done by as a month; it's short, it's cold, and nobody much cares for it, but that shouldn't be an excuse to call it by the wrong name when the right one is staring you in the face. You wouldn't like it if someone did it to you!

We tend to pronounce it very similarly to its neighbor, January, but that doesn't account for the 'r' that appears in the middle of the word, and has no Earthly business being there. Seriously, what other word just drops an 'r' in like that and expects you to deal with it? Because of this, the month is "feb-roo-erry", not "feb-yoo-erry".

31. Forte

Prepare to meet another word that you've been getting wrong forever - we had no idea about this one either. Forte is a great word, it's a flamboyant and fun way to say that you're good at something, or that a particular subject is a strong one for you. However, if you've been going around telling people that the correct pronunciation of words is your "for-tay", then you've been wrong in every sense of the word.

Whilst there is an instance where "for-tay" is acceptable, this related only to its use within the world of music and refers to a composer's note. In the far more common "that's my forte" sense then the 'e' is actually silent, and you should actually be telling people that things are your "fort", exactly how you'd describe a small castle or fortress.

32. Foyer

When we encounter a word, and we suspect it to be French, then sometimes we just go a little crazy with the way we say it and throw huge accents on parts of the word that really don't want them. If you're fortunate enough to have a very large home, you may have invited people into your foyer before. You'll definitely have at least walked through one if you've been to the cinema or the theater, and you may have heard other people or even members of staff welcome you to the "foy-ay".

That's the strange interpretation of the accent we were talking about. What part of that word suggests that it should have an "ay" sound at the end of it? We don't know how it got so messed up, but whether you're in France or not, you're in the "foy-ur".

33. Gala

Like "either", this one has been debated since the dawn of time, but we're reliably informed that there is a correct answer, and we're going to share it with you. We figure it's the least we can do - if you're going to a big, fancy ball like a gala, we guess you're going to want to know the right way to say the word when you're thanking whoever invited you.

This word is a curious one because it involves two different uses of the 'a' sound within the same word. Whilst it may look like it should be pronounced "gar-lar" or "gah-lah", neither is correct, because the vowel mysteriously changes it. The right way of saying it is "gay-lah". Don't worry, this one definitely surprised us, too, so don't feel too bad about it!

34. GIF

OK, so we know this is a controversial inclusion because there's an argument that says this isn't a word at all. However, we all know what we're looking at, and we've all heard it used in every day conversation. Since the beginning of social media, and even more so since WhatsApp became popular, there's rarely a day that goes by where you don't see at least one GIF online.

Because GIF is an acronym, standing for Graphics Interchange Format, you would expect it to be pronounced with a hard 'g' as "giff". However, if there's one person who should be given the right to decide how it's pronounced, it's Steve Wilhite, the computer genius who invented them. He pronounces it with a soft 'g', becoming "jiff". Who are we to argue with the man who made the internet funny?

35. Hyperbole

If we had a dollar for every time we'd heard this word mispronounced, then we'd probably have a couple of hundred. You might have expected us to say a few thousand, but if we did, we'd be guilty of hyperbole - massive overstatement or exaggeration. Did you like what we did there?

Despite the way it's spelled and how we're used to pronouncing words that contain "bole", there isn't a "bowl" sound in there. This word shouldn't be pronounced "high-per-bowl", like it's an even grander version of the Superbowl. Owing to the fact that it has Greek origins, when someone gives dramatic levels of hype to a person or event, they're actually creating "high-per-ba-lee", where the ending of the word rhymes with "Sally". Definitely write this one down - you'll end up using it a lot now.

36. Liable

"Liable" is a piece of legal terminology which often gets confused or used in place of a different piece of legal terminology - and one which has a different meaning. If you were in court and got the two things confused, it wouldn't bode well for your case. We're not lawyers, but you'll see what we mean soon.

People sometimes look at "liable", get it confused with "libel", and pronounce it "lie-bull". This is the correct pronunciation of the latter word, not the former. Libel is the crime of making an unfounded defamatory statement in writing. "Liable", means "responsible" in a legal sense, so if you're liable for costs, you have to pay them, and if you're liable for an accident, it was your fault. As you can see, the meaning isn't remotely the same, and this word is pronounced "lie-a-bull".

37. Library

There's a certain irony in the fact that we often mispronounce the name of the place where we go to find books, and therefore expand our knowledge and understanding. It doesn't stop a lot of us from doing it, though. Like "February", this is a word that suffers because of a stealthy little 'r' hidden away at the core of it.

That big building downtown with all the books in it isn't called a "lie-berry". That's just something you'd call an untruthful fruit, and if your fruit are lying to you then you have bigger problems to face than pronunciation. Because of that sneaky 'r', what you mean to say is "lie-brare-ee". And if you don't believe us, head down to one, borrow a dictionary and look it up. You can thank us for it later.

38. Mauve

This is a strange looking word for an odd-looking color. It's really just "not quite purple", without being sufficiently different enough to become lavender or red. It just sits uncomfortably in the middle of that purple-to-red spectrum. Because it's not exactly a word you hear in every day conversation, you probably think it's pronounced "mow-ve", rhyming with "stove". And you'd be wrong.

Even though almost everyone gets it wrong - even the Doctor has been heard to do this on TV's Doctor Who, and he should really know better - the truth remains that the word is "maw-ve", where the "maw" sound rhymes with "saw". It may sound strange, but like we said, it's a strange color. At least you'll sound pretty impressive the next time you describe the awesome mauve shirt you just bought.

39. Meme

Who doesn't love a good meme? They're what the internet was invented for, and they've made cats the most hilarious creatures in history. Also, because cameras are everywhere now and the internet is an instant medium, any one of us is one wrong move away from becoming a meme at any given moment of our lives. But how do we say the word?

Some people - particularly the older generation - look at the word and see "meh-meh". You may also have heard "may-may", "mee-mee" and "mem", but none of them are correct. The word is "meem" and has actually been around in the English language since the mid-1970s. How were they sending memes to each other back then? Is that what fax machines were for? We might never find out, but at least we know how to pronounce the word correctly!

40. Often

Oh, no. Surely we're not about to tell you that a word you use as often as "often" is often pronounced incorrectly? Well, with apologies, I'm afraid we are. And the explanation isn't even a good one, because what we're about to tell you is probably the opposite of what you think we're going to say.

For some reason - and feel free to check Merriam-Webster on this, because we did - the 't' is silent. It goes against seemingly every rule of pronunciation, but that's the fact. So, whilst saying "off-ten" might feel like the right thing to do, you should be ignoring that 't' and saying "off-en". Even the dictionary recognizes that this is contentious and says so in its listing. What can we say? The rules around pronunciation often don't make sense.

41. Nuclear

Let's not start a war over this one. We think most people probably know the correct pronunciation of "nuclear", even if some US Presidents don't. So far Eisenhower, Carter, Clinton and the second Bush have been recorded getting this one wrong, which is a concern if they really do have the big red button on their desk. Fingers crossed they'll never be tempted enough to actually press it!

"Noo-cu-lar" or "new-kill-er" are both common mispronunciations of the word, which isn't exclusive to use in weaponry, and actually just means "related to the nucleus". Once upon a time "nuclear family" used to mean immediate family, for example parents, children and siblings. Nowadays if you heard that phrase you'd probably assume they had superpowers, but the right way to pronounce "nuclear" is "new-clear". Clear enough for you?

42. Prelude

We'll give you the correct pronunciation in a moment or so, but let's build up to it first, because we have to have a prelude. "Prelude" really just means "introduction", and it can be used as the start of a story, or a section of music played as an opening act. The clue to its purpose comes from the "pre" part of the word, but we don't know where the rest of it came from. It's not like you get a "lude" after the "prelude".

You may have heard it said as "pray-lood", but that isn't right, even if it was in a Church. It isn't "pree-lude" either, even though that sounds right considering the word's true meaning. What you should actually be aiming for is "prell-yood"; a pronunciation which is owed to the word's Latin roots.

43. Regardless

We can tell you how to say this word correctly, but we bet you just keep to the same way you've been saying it for years and carry on regardless. This is a really strange one. For a start, there are people right now looking at the word "regardless" and imagining there are extra letters placed in the front of it. Another one where we have taken a pretty simple word and turned it into something more complicated.

No, this word is not "ir-rig-ard-less". Irregardless isn't even a real word, it's a contraction of "irrespective" and "regardless" that most dictionaries refuse to recognize. Because there's no double 'r' sound at the start, it isn't "rig-ard-less", either. Let that 'e' do its work, and let the word sound out the way it's supposed to - "ree-gard-less".

44. Regime

Now synonymous with the phrase "regime change" and frequently viewed as an ambition or result of war, "regime" is actually quite an innocent word, and just means "government", or even more loosely, "a system or way of doing things". Not all regimes are bad, and every country has one. You probably even have a regime for life; every timetable is a regime of sorts. You may also hear people who are trying to lose a few pounds describe their new eating habits as their diet regime.

The word itself has an unusual vowel usage - it looks like it starts with "Reg" as in "Reginald", but it doesn't. Nor is it "ruh-geem", no matter how many news sources or politicians insist that it is. Like a beam of sunlight, the opening syllable somehow becomes "ray", and we get "Ray-jeem".

45. Status

If you're about to find out that you've been getting this popular word wrong, you might want to go on your favorite social media site and write a status about how you've just been educated. If you do, feel free to link to this article so other people can learn from your mistakes! This one is certainly one of the more 'argued about' pronunciations, but we investigated and have discovered the correct way to say it.

"Status" is a much quicker way of saying "current condition" and is a word that exists completely in the present. However even people with British accents shouldn't be pronouncing it as "stah-tus", and it's not "statt-us" either. The only acceptable way to pronounce this word is "stay-tus". The status of your pronunciation skills has changed whilst you've been reading this list!

46. Suite

One wrong slip with a vowel and you could change the meaning completely. If you go your suite to put on your suit, have you just said the same word twice? And if we told you that you had a sweet suite, would we be telling you that you look great in the suit, or that we really like the room you're in? How did it sound in your head?

This multi-purpose word, which can mean one room in a home, a set of rooms in a home, or a hotel room, confuses people because of the "e" on the end. If you thought it rhymed with "suit" we're afraid you just lost the game. If you thought it was actually "sue-tay" then party on, friend, but you're wrong too. It's not "sweet-ay-" either, sweetie. The word rhymes with "sweet".

47. Transient

We're sure we used to know the right way to say "transient", but the knowledge just seems to come and go. A really dynamic word, it can be used to describe a person who moves from place to place, an occupation that's seasonal, or even a passing mood. At its core, it just means 'temporary'.

We see the way the latter half of the word is spelled, and we're conditioned to believe that it should be pronounced a certain way, so our minds tell us to say "tran-see-ent" because of the 'i'. Even though that feels right, and to be honest it even looks right, it's not. It's "tran-shent" according to the dictionary, because even though there isn't an 'h' in the word, there somehow is in the sound. Sorry if that makes you angry. We're sure the feeling will pass.

48. Triathlon

It takes a special kind of athlete to take on a triathlon. Who looks at an Olympic sport and thinks "one just isn't enough for me, I think I'm going to do three of them back to back"? Typically composed of a swimming event, a cycling event and a long-distance run, triathlons are real endurance events, and only the strongest and fittest need apply. We think we'll leave all of that exercise to the professionals!

It seems unnecessarily cruel, then, to make the word any longer than it needs to be, given that the events are long enough already, but some people do. There is no 'a' after the 'h'. This is not a "try-ath-a-lon". It's just a "try-ath-lon". Three syllables for three parts of the race - that should make it nice and simple to remember!

49. Valet

"Valet" is a word that's taken on different meanings over time. Looking at the word right now, you probably associate it with cars; either someone who's going to clean your car for you, or someone who's going to park it at the very least. Historically, a valet was a male servant assigned to another man, and what particularly common among the British aristocracy. If you see the word "valet" and think of a woman, then you're probably a fan of professional wrestling, where a valet will walk her man down the aisle to the ring.

However, you picture or use the word, you probably pronounce it "vall-ay", and you'd be wrong. At some point over time, the word has either been confused with a similar French word, or just assumed to be of French origin, and the 't' has disappeared off the end of it when spoken aloud. The word actually has British roots, and if you're a Downtown Abbey fan and already knew that it was pronounced "vall-it", then congratulations to you.

50. Pronunciation

Yes, here we are at the end of a list of fifty words you've probably been pronouncing incorrectly, and now we're telling you that you've even been getting the word you use to refer to it wrong, too. We're really very sorry.

When you look at "pronunciation", there's the temptation to say "pro-nown-see-ay-shun", because we associate it so closely with the word "pronounce". Even though this would seem to make sense, this is the English language, and the difference in spelling changes the way it should be said. Look again, and you'll notice the second "o" in "pronounce" isn't there in "pronunciation", so the correct way to start the word would be "pro-nun", like you're in favor of nuns. And who doesn't like nuns? That word in full is "pro-nun-see-ay-shun". Hasn't today been an education?



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