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10 of the hardest words to spell in English

Whether you’re learning English or it’s your first language, you know that English spelling can be confusing. If…
10 Of The Hardest Words To Spell In English

Whether you’re learning English or it’s your first language, you know that English spelling can be confusing.

If spelling doesn’t come naturally, English pronunciation and rules can be tough and frustrating.

When you think you’ve figured out how to spell a sound, a word like “meat” and its rhyme “greet” show up with different spellings, which can be very confusing.

This article will share ten of the hardest English words to spell. We’ll explain their meanings, why they are so tricky, and how to use them in sentences.

1. Nauseous

What it means: Feeling like you’re about to throw up

Why it’s hard: First on our list of the hardest words to spell is “nauseous.” Even though it looks like it should be pronounced “NAW-see-us,” it’s pronounced “NAW-shus.”

Words with a “sh” sound in the middle usually use “ti,” like in “cautious” (“CAW-shus,” which rhymes with “nauseous”) or “nation” (“NAY-shun”). This makes the “us” ending in “nauseous” confusing. Why can’t it be spelled like “cautious”?

How to use it: “I can’t go on sailboats. The swaying always makes me feel nauseous.”

2. Dilate

What it means: To make something wider or bigger

Why it’s hard: Many English speakers mistakenly pronounce this as a three-syllable word, “DI-a-late,” but that’s incorrect. Don’t add that extra “a”! The correct pronunciation is “dai-late.”

How to use it: “Your pupils widen to let in more light so you can see better in the dark.”

3. Fuchsia

What it means: A bright red-purple color

Why it’s hard: The spelling of this word, “FEW-sha,” is confusing. It looks like it should be “FEWCH-sia” or “FUCH-see-uh.” Why isn’t it just “Lucia”?

How to use it: “You’ll find me outside the coffee shop wearing a bright pink-purple dress.”

4. Minuscule

What it means: Tiny

Why it’s hard: This word can be confusing because it sounds like it should be spelled “miniscule,” similar to “miniature,” which means something very small. However, the correct spelling uses a “u.”

How to use it: “Even if you can only save a tiny amount of money each day, it can accumulate over time.”

5. Ingenious

What it means: Incredibly clever; a highly intelligent idea

Why it’s hard: Why does “ingenious” have an “o” when “genius” doesn’t? Surprisingly, these words have different origins!

Their meanings might seem alike, but “ingenious” doesn’t describe a genius-level idea. Once you understand this, remembering how to spell the word will be easier.

How to use it: “Using two pancakes instead of sandwich bread? Brilliant!”

6. Sacrilegious 

What it means: Showing disrespect towards something holy or sacred—this word is sometimes used humorously.

Why it’s hard: Because it’s linked to disrespecting sacred things, some people hear “religious” in this word and try to spell it as “sacrilegious.” However, it comes from the word “sacrilege” and isn’t related to “religious.”

How to use it: “You’re Canadian and don’t like maple syrup? That’s just wrong!”

7. Orangutan

What it means: A big ape with reddish-brown hair

Why it’s hard: Is this a mistake? The correct spelling doesn’t end with a “g.” Despite common belief, this animal is not called an “orangutang.” Mispronunciation and misspelling of the word are widespread, though their origins are unclear.

How to use it: “Did you know orangutans spend most of their lives in trees?”

8. Paraphernalia

How To Pronounce Paraphernalia

What it means: Specific items required for a particular activity

Why it’s hard: If you don’t think this word should be on our list of the hardest words to spell in English, maybe you’re spelling it incorrectly!

Many people mispronounce this word as “para-fa-NEEL-ia,” where they leave out the second “r” and change the second last “a” to a long “e” sound instead. This might lead you to spell it as “paraphernalia.”

How to use it: “My car trunk is a mess—all my workout gear is in there.”

9. Epitome

What it means: The ideal example of something, a perfect representation

Why it’s hard: If you’ve only heard this word and never seen it written, you might think it’s spelled “epitome” because it ends with a long “e” sound. However, like “anemone,” it actually ends with the letter “e,” which is less common and can be confusing.

How to use it: “My ex-boyfriend is the perfect example of selfishness.”

10. Slough

What it means: 1. To lose something, like skin shedding.

2. A damp, marshy area.


These ten words challenge even experienced spellers, highlighting the quirks and inconsistencies of English spelling. Mastering them can be a rewarding feat in the journey of language learning.


Q1: What is the longest word in English?

Ans: The longest word in many dictionaries is “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,” a term referring to a lung disease caused by the inhalation of very fine silicate or quartz dust.

Q2: What is the hardest word to spell?

Ans: This can vary, but commonly cited challenging words include “antidisestablishmentarianism,” “floccinaucinihilipilification,” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Q3: Why are some words so difficult to spell?

Ans: Many difficult words in English have irregular spellings, complex combinations of letters, or origins from other languages, making them harder to remember and spell correctly.

Q4: Are there any tricks to remember how to spell difficult words?

Ans: Mnemonics, breaking the word into smaller parts, and understanding the word’s etymology can help in remembering their spelling.

Q5: Which words do people commonly misspell?

Ans: Commonly misspelled words include “necessary,” “definitely,” “misspell,” “accommodation,” “embarrass,” and “conscious.”

Q6: What is the fear of long words called?

Ans: The fear of long words is ironically called “hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia.”

Q7: What is the longest word in English dictionaries?

Ans: “Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis” is often cited as the longest word in some dictionaries.

Q8: How do you pronounce “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”?

Ans: It is pronounced as “soo-per-kal-i-frag-i-list-ik-ex-pee-al-i-do-shus.”

Q9: What does “antidisestablishmentarianism” mean?

Ans: It refers to opposition to the withdrawal of state support from an established church.

Q10: What is the origin of difficult English spellings?

Ans: Many difficult spellings in English come from historical borrowings from other languages, changes in pronunciation over time, and the irregular nature of English spelling rules.

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