40 difficult words to pronounce

It is no big secret that the English language has some tricky words to pronounce correctly. If you find yourself thinking ‘how on earth do I pronounce that word?’ when reading something, do not worry because you are not alone.

The English language has many difficult words. So much so that even native English speakers struggle with them as well as non-native English speakers, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you come across a word and don’t know how to say it.

Take a look at some of the hardest words to pronounce in the English language and you will be reading and speaking those complicated words easily in no time.

Neon sign on a brick wall in the shape of a question mark.

Word 01 – Anaesthetist

How do you say it: an-ees-thu-tist

What is the phonetic transcription: əˈniːsθətɪst.

What it means: a specialist trained to give anaesthetic to patients that require numbing for medical procedures.

Example:The anaesthetist gave me an anaesthetic when I had my operation so I wouldn’t feel anything.

Word 02 – Accede

How do you say it: ak-SEED.

What is the phonetic transcription: ækˈsiːd.

What it means:  1) to agree to a demand and 2) to assume a position.

Example:King Charles III acceded to the throne.

Throne room and throne

Word 03 – Alias

How do you say it: AY-lee-iss.

What is the phonetic transcription: /ˈeɪliəs/

What it means: a false identity.

Example:Agatha Christie sometimes used the alias Mary Westmacott.

Agatha Christie books

Word 04 – Anemone

How do you say it: ah-NEH-muh-nee.

What is the phonetic transcription: əˈnɛməni.

What it means: 1) a marine organism (and where Nemo lives) and 2) a flower related to the buttercup.

Example:Anemone flowers are not found in Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica.

Clownfish shelters in its host anemone on a tropical coral reef

 Word 05 – Camaraderie

How do you say it: kah-muh-RAH-duh-ree.

What is the phonetic transcription: kæməˈrɑːdər.i

What it means: friendship built over time.

Example:I miss working at my old office as there was a lot of camaraderie with my office workers.

Camaraderie amongst friends.

Word 06 – Colloquialism

How do you say it: kuh-loh-kwee-uh-liz-uhm.

What is the phonetic transcription: kəˈləʊkwɪəlɪzm.

What it means: a word that is used verbally rather than in written form.

Example:innit’, which means isn’t it, is a colloquialism used in the South East of England.

Word 07 – Cacophony

How do you say it: kuh-kaw-fun-ee.

What is the phonetic transcription: kæˈkɒfəni.

What it means: a mixture of loud sounds.

Example: In the school canteen there was a cacophony: children were playing, staff where talking and metal trays were clanging.

There is usually a lot of noise in a canteen

Word 08 – Connoisseur

How do you say it: con-nseur.

What is the phonetic transcription: kɑnəˈsɜr.

What it means: an expert who has great knowledge in something especially art, food and drink.

Example: Amber is a wine connoisseur. She knows everything.

Red wine pouring in glass

Word 09 – Dengue

How do you say it: deng-ee.

What is the phonetic transcription: dɛŋgi.

What it means: a tropical disease caused by mosquitoes.

Example: Ian went to a tropical island in the southern hemisphere and got dengue.

Mosquitos cause dengue

Word 10 – Debauch

How do you say it: dih-bawch.

What is the phonetic transcription: dɪˈbɔːʧ.

What it means: to corrupt something.

Example:They debauched the village’s morals by inviting gangsters to attend the fayre.

Word 11 – Emollient

How do you say it: ih-mol-yuhnt.

What is the phonetic transcription: ɪˈmɒlɪənt.

What it means: a liquid that makes skin softer.

Example:Oil was used as an emollient in ancient times.

Cream is an emollient

Word 12 – Epitome

How do you say it: ih-PIT-uh-mee.

What is the phonetic transcription: ɪˈpɪtəmi.

What it means: A person who is a perfect example of something.

Example:Jade is the epitome of a teacher: she is always carrying books around with her.

Word 13 – Espresso

How do you say it: eh-SPRES-oh.

What is the phonetic transcription: ɛˈsprɛsəʊ.

What it means: a strong, short Italian coffee.

Example: I have to have an espresso every morning to wake up.

An espresso

Word 14 – Expatiate

How do you say it: ex-pay-she-ate.

What is the phonetic transcription: ɪkˈspeɪʃieɪt

What it means: to speak or write in detail about.

Example:Hilary Mantel expatiated on Tudor England.

Word 15 – Epitaph

How do you say it: epit-arf.

What is the phonetic transcription: ɛpɪtɑːf.

What it means: words written in memory of a person who has died.

Example: John’s tombstone had a lovely epitaph engraved onto it.

Graveyards have epitaphs on them

Word 16 – Forte

How do you say it: for- tay.

What is the phonetic transcription: fɔːt.

What it means: a strength.

Example:I’m not good at fishing, but cooking is my forte. I am brilliant at it.

Word 17 – Hegemony

How do you say it: hih-JEH-muh-nee.

What is the phonetic transcription: hɪˈdʒeməni

What it means: leadership or dominance.

Example: While Jill cannot tell Sarah what to do, she does have some hegemony over her actions. She is her supervisor after all.

World’s best boss text on coffee mug

Word 18 – Inchoate

How do you say it: in-KOH-it.

What is the phonetic transcription: ɪˈɪnkəʊeɪt.

What it means: When something has just started so it is not yet fully developed.

Example: She has only written an inchoate plan of her assignment due tomorrow, so she was worried.

Word 19 – Jewellery

How do you say it: jew -ell-ri.

What is the phonetic transcription: ʤuːəlri.

What it means: a collective term for rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Example:We think the new jewellery shop in town has some wonderful gifts for birthdays.

Gold jewellery and diamonds in a shop with rings and necklaces

Word 20– Knave

How do you say it: nave.

What it the phonetic transcription: neɪv.

What it means: a dishonest person.

Example: Richard tricked me into giving him £1,000. He’s a knave!

(note: this is used a lot in Old English as opposed to modern times. Think Shakespeare).

Pinocchio is a knave

Word 21 – Lethargic

How do you say it: leth-ar-jic.

What is the phonetic transcription: lɛˈθɑːʤɪk.

What it means: when you feel tired and don’t want to do anything.

Example:Burt hasn’t moved from the sofa all day. He is supposed to be out with me tonight but he says he feels lethargic.

A tired woman yawning

Word 22 – Maelstrom

How do you say it: meyl-struhm.

What is the phonetic transcription: meɪlstrəʊm.

What it means: a big whirlpool.

Example: The pirates died because their ships were sucked into the sea by a maelstrom.

A powerful whirlpool

Word 23 – Mischievous

How do you say it: MISS-chuh-vuhs.

What is the phonetic transcription: mɪsʧɪvəs.

What it means: when you are naughty or cause trouble and find it funny.

Example:Lori was a very mischievous child.

Word 24 – Nauseous

How do you say it: naw-zi-us

What is the phonetic transcription: nɔːziəs.

What it means: when you feel like you want to vomit.

Example: Steve felt nauseous after the boat ride.

Word 25 – Naïve

How do you say it: nai-eve.

What is the phonetic transcription: nɑːˈiːv.

What it means: a person with a lack of good judgement.

Example: Tom is a bit naïve. He thinks Alan loves him, but really he likes his money.

Word 26 – Opaque

How do you say it: o-payk.

What is the phonetic transcription: əʊˈpeɪk.

What it means: the opposite of transparent.

Example:The curtains for the living room were very opaque. The sunlight could not get through them.

Blackout curtains

Word 27 – Panacea

How do you say it: pan-uh-SEE-uh.

What is the phonetic transcription: pænəˈsɪə.

What it means: something that cures illnesses or a solution to problems.

Examples: There is no panacea for Elsa’s illness.

Yoga is a panacea

Word 28 – Phlegmatic

How do you say it: fleg-MAT-ik.

What is the phonetic transcription: flɛgˈmætɪk.

What it means: to have a calm disposition.

Examples:Anita is a very phlegmatic person. Not once have I heard her shout.

Word 29- Quinoa

How do you say it: KEEN-wah.

What is the phonetic transcription: kiːnwɑ.

What it means: a starchy grain from South America.

Examples: Hasan is trying to eat healthily. He has quinoa and salad every lunch.

Mixed quinoa in bowl on wooden kitchen board.

Word 30 – Rural

How do you say it: rur – uhl.

What is the phonetic transcription: rʊərəl.

What it means: the countryside as opposed to the city.

Example: The rural lifestyle suits Monica and Craig.

Rural landscape. Field and grass

Word 31 – Squirrel

How do you say it: skwi – rel.

What is the phonetic transcription: skwɪrəl.

What it means: a rodent with a bushy tail that lives in the trees.

Example: I saw a squirrel at the park yesterday.

Squirrel in nature

Word 32 -Sovereign

How do you say it: sov-rin.

What is the phonetic transcription: sɒvrɪn.

What it means: a monarch.

Example: Queen Elizabeth II was our sovereign last year.

Word 33 – Stoic

How do you say it: sto – ik.

What it the phonetic transcription: stəʊɪk.

What it means: a person who has hardship but does not show their pain.

Example: I can’t believe how stoic Amanda is being. After losing her husband, she hasn’t cried to anyone.

Word 34 – Suit

How do you say it: soOt.

What is the phonetic transcription: suːt

What it means: 1) a jacket paired with trousers or a skirt, 2) enhancing the features of someone and 3) to be convenient.

Example:The outfit didn’t suit him. It was too colourful.

Suit

Word 35 – Tinge

How do you say it: tinj.

What is the phonetic transcription: tɪnʤ.

What it means: to slightly colour something.

Example:Her hair had a tinge of red.

Word 36 – Ubiquitous

How do you say it: u-bik-wit-us.

What is the phonetic transcription: ju(ː)ˈbɪkwɪtəs.

What it means: when something is found everywhere.

Example:The trees in the forest were ubiquitous.

The trees in the forest were ubiquitous

Word 37 – Vicissitude

How do you say it: vih-SIS-ih-tood.

What is the phonetic transcription: vɪˈsɪsɪtjuːd.

What it means: an unpleasant change in circumstance.

Example:The school staff have been through many vicissitudes, most notably their pay cuts.

Word 38 – Yacht

How do you say it: yot.

What is the phonetic transcription: jɒt.

What it means: a boat used for sailing that is medium-sized.

Example: In our fishing village, a lot of people have yachts.

A luxury private motor yacht under way on tropical sea with bow wave

Word 39 – Youths

How do you say it: yewths.

What is the phonetic transcription: juːθs.

What it means: 1) the period of time between childhood and adulthood 2) young people considered as a group

Example:The youths of today are very aware about climate change.

A group of youths together

Word 40 – Zephyr

How do you say it: ze-fur.

What is the phonetic transcription: zɛfə.

What it means: a gentle breeze.

Example: The hurricane suddenly turned into a zephyr.

Need more help?

Look at our videos below on how to pronounce words in English that are difficult and different to these.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA2_8JJd0Ms

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