51 Hard English Words To Pronounce (What They Mean And How To Say Them)

51 Hard English Words To Pronounce (What They Mean And How To Say Them)

One of the biggest challenges facing people who are trying to learn English as a second language is the thought that there are so many hard English words to pronounce! 

What makes a word hard to pronounce? Oftentimes the difficult words to pronounce for non-native English speakers are those that are spelled completely different from how they are pronounced.

Not all English words are pronounced phonetically.  When a word is pronounced phonetically, it is pronounced how it is spelled. Take the word “know”, if it was pronounced phonetically, the “k” would be spoken. However, the “k” is not spoken and this makes “know” one of the English language’s tricky pronunciation words. 

Take a look at the English vocabulary words below. These are hard words for kids to say, even if they are native English speakers, and that can trip up adults as well. So don’t be ashamed to look them up and practice the correct way to pronounce them.

1. Accede

How is it pronounced?

“ak-SEED”, emphasis on the second syllable

What does it mean? 

To accede means to give your consent or approval to someone else’s actions. It can also mean that you agree with the opinions of a group.

2. Alias

How is it pronounced?

“AY-lee-iss”, emphasis on the first syllable

What does it mean? 

An alias is an assumed name or identity.

3. Anathema

How is it pronounced?

“un-NATH-uh-muh”, emphasis on the second syllable

What does it mean? 

This means that you dislike something or someone intensely

4. Anemone

How is it pronounced?

“uh-NEH-muh-nee”, emphasis on the second syllable

What does it mean?

Properly called a “sea anemone”, this is a marine animal that lives on reefs and ocean floors. It’s a sedentary animal that attaches itself to a particular area and doesn’t move, that many people think looks like a flower.

There is also a type of flowering land plants that are called anemones.

5. Antarctic

How is it pronounced?

“ant-AHRK-tik”

What does it mean?

The Antarctic is simply the South Pole.

6. Brewery

How is it pronounced?

“BROO-uh-ree”, emphasis on the first syllable.

What does it mean?

Why is it that words that have something to do with drinking are such hard words to say when drunk? This three syllable word is used for bars specializing in beer. They often brew their own beers.

7. Camaraderie

How is it pronounced?

“kah-muh-RAH-duh-ree”, emphasis on the third syllable

What does it mean?

This is the feeling of warmth and familiarity you get when around a group of trusted friends.

8. Cavalry

How is it pronounced?

“KAV-uhl-ree”, emphasis on the first syllable. 

What does it mean?

Traditionally, the cavalry were soldiers on horseback. Now, cavalry is usually used to mean someone or something who offers help when you really need it.

9. Choir

How is it pronounced?

“kwah-yuhr”

What does it mean? 

A choir is a group of singers. Traditionally, choirs sang religious songs during church services.

10. Colonel

How is it pronounced? 

“ker-nul”

What does it mean?

A military officer. 

11. Comfortable

How is it pronounced?

“KUHM-fer-tuh-buh”, with emphasis on the first syllable

What does it mean?

If you are comfortable, you are relaxed and at ease. 

12. Defibrillator

How is it pronounced?

“dee-FIB-ruh-ley-ter”, emphasis on the second syllable

What does it mean?

If you watch a lot of medical TV shows, you might have seen this. It’s that device, with two paddles attached to wires that are held to someone’s chest to deliver a shock that is supposed to help restart your heart.

13. Deteriorate

How is it pronounced?

“dih-TEER-ee-uh-reyt”

What does it mean?

When someone deteriorates their condition grows worse. This can also be used to talk about a situation you find yourself in. Basically, things are getting bad.

14. Draught

How is it pronounced? 

“draft”

What does it mean?

An alcoholic beverage, usually traditional kept in a keg. Like draught beer.

15. Epitome

How is it pronounced?

“ih-PIT-uh-mee”, emphasis on the second syllable

What does it mean?

Someone or something that is the perfect example of a quality or of a type.

16. Espouse

How is it pronounced?

“ih-SPOWZ”, emphasis on the second syllable

What does it mean?

When you follow or support a particular idea. Usually you are vocal and proud about your support.

17. Espresso

How is it pronounced?

“eh-SPRES-oh”

What does it mean?

When you order an “espresso” you are asking for a type of strong Italian coffee.

18. Explicit

How is it pronounced?

“ik-SLIS-it”, with emphasis on the second syllable

What does it mean?

This is not one of those hard words to say with a lisp, as you are supposed to sound like your lisping slightly. When you are explicit about something, you state it clearly and in complete detail. 

19. Exponentially

How is it pronounced?

“ek-spoh-NEN-shuh-lee”, emphasis on the third syllable

What does it mean?

This is an adverb that means something is increasing rapidly.

20. Ignominious

How is it pronounced? 

“ig-nuh-MIN-ee-uhs”, emphasis on the third syllable

What does it mean?

This is usually used as an adverb to describe and action that is considered disgraceful or dishonorable.

21. Isthmus

How is it pronounced?

“is-muss”

What does it mean?

This is the name of a geographical feature. An isthmus is a narrow piece of land that is located between two different seas.

22. Know

How is it pronounced?

“noh”

What does it mean?

This is a tricky word because it is an example of a word with what we call a silent “k”. To know how to pronounce “know”, you need to know it has a silent k.

23. Knell

How is it pronounced?

“nel”

What does it mean?

The rule about a silent “k” makes for tricky pronunciation words. Here’s another word where the “k” is silent and so is the second “l”. This word is used to refer to the ringing of a bell. Usually, this is a big church bell that makes a slow, loud noise.

24. Library

How is it pronounced?

“LAHY-brer-ee”, emphasis in the first syllable

What does it mean?

This is a building which contains a collection of books and other published materials.

25. Mauve

How is it pronounced?

“mohv”

What does it mean?

Mauve is a color. It is a shade of pale purple.

26. Mischievous

How is it pronounced?

“MISS-chiv-us”, with the emphasis on the first syllable.

What does it mean?

This is an adjective that basically means behaving in a way that causes “trouble”. A mischievous action is not bad or evil. It is usually playful and with no malice behind it. 

27. Nadir

How is it pronounced?

“NAY-deer”, emphasis on the first syllable

What does it mean?

This means reaching the lowest point.

28. Neophyte

How is it pronounced?

“NEE-uh-fahyt”

What does it mean?

This word is used to refer to a beginner, someone who is new to a task, job, or a group.

29. Often

How is it pronounced?

“AW-fuhn”, emphasis in the first syllable

What does it mean?

If you do something “often” you do it a lot or repeatedly.

30. Onamatopeia

How is it pronounced?

“on-o-mot-o-PEE-a”, with the emphasis on the fifth syllable.

What does it mean?

This is a term for a word that refers to a sound. These words actually imitate the sound they are supposed to refer to, such as “roar” or “buzz”. It has six syllables which make it quite a mouthful to pronounce, even for native speakers of English.

31. Otorhinolaryngologist

How is it pronounced?

“oh-toh-rye-no-lar-ing-GOL-uh-jee”, emphasis on the seventh syllable.

What does it mean?

This nine syllable word is the formal title of a specific type of medical doctor. This is a doctor who specializes in treating eye, nose, and ear conditions. The simpler way to refer to these types of doctors is as an ENT doctors. 

32. Panacea

How is it pronounced?

“pan-uh-SEE-uh”, emphasis on the third syllable

What does it mean?

This refers to a remedy for illness.

33. Phlegmatic

How is it pronounced?

“fleg-MAT-ik”, emphasis on the second syllable

What does it mean?

This is someone who is easy-going. No matter what happens around them they remain calm and collected.

34. Penguin

How is it pronounced?

“peng-gwin”

What does it mean?

A penguin is a type of flightless sea bird. They are typically black and white.

35. Phenomenon

How is it pronounced?

“fi-NOM-uh-non”, emphasis on the second syllable

What does it mean?

A phenomenon is an event that is observable,

36. Puerile

How is it pronounced?

“PYOO-er-il”, emphasis on the first syllable

What does it mean?

When you think something is “purile” you believe it is foolish or childish.

37. Quinoa

How is it pronounced?

Either “KEEN-wah,” “ken-WAG, or “KEN-o-ah”

What does it mean?

Quinoa is an ancient grain that has grown in popularity in the recent decade because of its nutritional values. It’s considered a “superfood” and is actually a Spanish word.

38. Quixotic

How is it pronounced?

“kwik-SOT-ik”

What does it mean?

This is someone who is very idealistic, to the point that their ideas are impractical or unrealistic.

39. Rural

How is it pronounced?

“roor-uhl”

What does it mean?

When you say a place is “rural” you mean that it is located in the countryside.

40. Sanguine

How is it pronounced?

“SANG-gwin”, emphasis on the first syllable

What does it mean?

Someone who is sanguine is cheerful and hopeful, even if they are facing a bad situation.

41. Scissors

How is it pronounced?

“sizzors”

What does it mean?

These are two bladed cutting instruments that you use to cut into thin materials such as paper or cloth. 

42. Sixth

How is it pronounced?

“siksth”

What does it mean?

When you say something is the “sixth”, your saying it is item number six in a sequence.

43. Specific

How is it pronounced?

“spi-SIF-ik”, emphasis on the second syllable

What does it mean?

This means that something is clearly defined.

44. Squirrel

How is it pronounced?

“skwi-rel”

What does it mean?

A squirrel is a bushy tailed rodent that lives in trees.

45. Staid

How is it pronounced?

“steyd”

What does it mean?

Someone who is staid is sedate and calm.

46. Successful

How is it pronounced?

“SUKH-ses-fuhl”, emphasis on the first syllable

What does it mean?

If you are successful in pronouncing this word, then you pronounced it correctly. When you are successful in something, you accomplished your aim or your purpose.

47. Surfeit

How is it pronounced?

“SUR-fit”, emphasis in the first syllable

What does it mean?

A surfeit is an extra amount of something.

48. Temperature

How is it pronounced?

“tem-PER-uh-cher”, emphasis on the second syllable

What does it mean?

This is a scientific measurement meant to gague the degree of heat that is present in an object or a substance. 

49. Truculent

How is it pronounced?

“TRUHK-yeh-luhnt”, emphasis on the first syllable

What does it mean?

Someone who is truculent is quick tempered. They get into arguments or fights easily.

50. Worcestershire

How is it pronounced?

“WOOster-sher”

What does it mean?

A special sauce that originated in Worcester, a town in England. The town name is also pronounced the as “WOOster-sher”.

51. Zephyr

How is it pronounced?

“ZEF-er”, emphasis on the first syllable

What does it mean?

This refers to a breeze that is soft and mild.

Conclusion

If you want to learn how to correctly pronounce tricky vocabulary words, the answer is: Practice, practice, practice.

 

What are 5 longest words?

Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism, Floccinaucinihilipilification, Antidisestablishmentarianism, Honorificabilitudinitatibus, Thyroparathyroidectomized

What is the shortest word?

Eunoia is the shortest word that has all vowels in it.

Why are English words hard to pronounce?

Some words are hard to pronounce, but some aren't. It depends on your native language. English spelling might be tricky for some students as there are some rules that don't make sense.

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