100 most often mispronounced words

YourDictionary.com compiled a list of the 100 most often mispronounced words.

I expected them to be things liked ‘acrossed’ and ‘nucular’ but there were a few that I didn’t realize I said wrong, like ‘Klu Klux Klan’ (it should be Ku Klux Klan) and ‘barbituate’ (it should be barbiturate) and lambast (it’s supposed to rhyme with baste). I’m not so sure about ‘chomp at the bit’ (they say it should be ‘champ at the bit’) because freesearch says to chomp at the bit is a valid alternative and Google has 15,200 results for ‘champing at the bit’ and 45,700 for ‘chomping at the bit’.

In any case, I want to pronounce words correctly so in spite of the disagreement I found the rest of the list quite useful.


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  1. “doggy dog world”? That’s funny.

    My personal annoyances are “cue-pon” for coupon, my co-worker who insists, even after breaking out the dictionary for him, that addendum is “addenedum”, and arthritis pronounced as “arthur-itis”. That last one is even done on a radio promo spot for a golf tourney fundraiser every year here.

    Comment by Renee on March 22, 2004 @ 11:35 am
  2. I was saying Klu Klux Klan as well. Luckily, it rarely comes up in conversation, so probably no one noticed. I too think that “chomping at the bit” seems to be the standard phrase.

    Comment by Steve on March 22, 2004 @ 3:19 pm
  3. Damn! If I’d had my DCTO blog integrated with my regular site, you could have seen this link more than a week ago! I had fun reading through the whole site. Pronouncing “Antarctic” as “Antartic” is one of my biggest pet peeves!

    Comment by Meredith on March 22, 2004 @ 10:43 pm
  4. I have to say, the whole ‘nucular’ thing is a Southern issue. I don’t many people down here who can pronounce it correctly who are from the South, myself included.

    I’m also guilty of ‘bob wire,’ ‘chester drawers,’ ‘mawv,’ and ‘nother.’ I spell them correctly; I just can’t pronounce them. I blame the Southern accent.

    Comment by Jan on March 23, 2004 @ 5:47 am
  5. In my own defense Webster’s says you can pronounce “mischievous” either way. :^)

    Comment by mckay on March 23, 2004 @ 10:00 am
  6. I thought the herb one was correct. I always thought it was proper American English to say erb, but apparently herb is it.

    Also, I think a lot of mispronunciations are on purpose, or part of what makes a dialect, such as ebonics (Can I aks you a question, Yo?)

    Comment by Cameron on March 23, 2004 @ 5:20 pm
  7. The compiler of the list obviously belongs to the prescriptive school of language definition rather than the descriptive one. Most useful dictionaries will include descriptive pronunciations as commonly used as well as the traditional ones. English is a living language. When everyone pronounces something a certain way, it becomes correct. Ivory tower academics like the compiler of that list will just have to deal with it.

    Anyway, I agree with most of them, and some I have a hard time believing anyone actually says, but a few are now actually correct according to a number of dictionaries.

    Comment by Levi on March 23, 2004 @ 11:40 pm
  8. The list leaves out probably the most mispronounced word currently in use. Over the last 5 years or so, that is once the size of hard drives broke the 1000 megabyte barrier, people have routinely mispronounced “gigabyte” with a gutteral g. The word comes from the greek prefix giga and should be pronounced the same as other words rooted in it such as “gigantic” or “gigalo”.

    Comment by Harald Smith on March 28, 2004 @ 9:48 am
  9. Heh. Again, I beg to differ. Dictionaries tend to list both as correct, because pretty much everyone says it the new way. I mean, who didn’t laugh at Doc on Back to the Future when he talked about jiggawatts? I agree that based on etymology, that’d be the correct way to say it, but that’s not how language works in the real world.

    Comment by Levi on March 29, 2004 @ 9:33 am
  10. Actually, in regards to that, I’ve heard gigabytes (g as in girl) are appropriate in power-of-ten notations, while gigabytes (g as in gigantic) is used for power-of-two notations. But again, like Levi said, the language evolves with how the majority says it.

    Comment by Cameron on March 30, 2004 @ 8:48 am
  11. Cameron, I’ll bet that’s after-the-fact rationalization of the new pronunciation rather than any official edict. The fact is that they’re both the same prefix, and very few people use the ‘jigga-‘ pronunciation for power-of-ten notation either. Gigawatts are a power-of-ten value, after all, and you know you laughed at Doc Brown along with everyone else. ;)

    Comment by Levi on March 31, 2004 @ 11:58 pm
  12. I laughed. I even laughed at Thayne when he explained to me the “jigga”bytes thing.

    Comment by Cameron on April 1, 2004 @ 7:19 am
  13. So if “the language evolves with how the majority says it,” then the language would be filled with errors, because, judging from this thread, clearly, “the majority” is incorrect! By that logic, if everyone makes an illegal U-turn even though it’s clearly prohibited, does it suddenly become legal?

    I refuse to get on the bus with the people who blew off English class in high school: those who can’t manage to pronounce “February” with two r’s or “Realtor” with only two syllables. English is a challenge, to be sure, but come on…if it’s your native tongue, there’s really no excuse for mispronunciation. No wonder the British are disgusted with Americanized (i.e. “bastardized”) English. Call me an “Ivory Tower pedantic” if you like, but I prefer spoken English to convey my intelligence with accuracy and precision. English is a beautiful, concise, robust language. I would ask those who cannot manage to correctly pronounce words in their native English tongue to either take a refresher course or invest in a dictionary.

    Comment by Laura on April 15, 2004 @ 1:03 pm
  14. Laura, I’d venture to say that there’s a big difference between traffic laws, which are by definition prescriptive, and language rules. If languages had to follow strict rules, with fines for breaking them, then the English language (and probably most other languages that exist today) would not even exist. So much for the Ivory Tower; it has no foundation!

    English is in fact a Germanic language, with a lot of borrowing from the Romance languages, and some from elsewhere for good measure. It obviously did not spring fully-formed from the forehead of some supreme grammar-being. The pronunciations, spellings, and grammatical constructions that you so cherish are fairly recent inventions, and they’re products of the process that you denounce. Ever read Shakespeare? How about The Canterbury Tales? They’re all points on the continuum that is the English language.

    Comment by Levi on April 16, 2004 @ 1:08 am
  15. Levi, you seem to be saying that the proper pronounciation of a word is just whatever most people say it as. By your logic, there is no such thing as a list of most often mispronounced words. Giga is pronounced with a soft gee just as giga-ntic is. Just because most people do mispronounce it doesn’t mean they aren’t mispronouncing it.

    Comment by Harald Smith on April 18, 2004 @ 6:20 pm
  16. Harald, I think you completely missed my point. What I’m saying is that the pronunciation (and spelling, and meaning) of words changes over time. This is a linguistic fact for living languages. Without it, our language would not exist. There are commonly accepted norms for the language at any given time, but they are at best descriptions of the common usage rather than absolute rules. Some people insist on treating the descriptions as absolute rules, but they lack perspective.

    Anyway, by my logic, a list of commonly “mispronounced” words is more of an indicator of which areas of the language are changing than an absolute list of problem words. Whether or not they’re really incorrect probably depends on the region in which you use them and what sort of society you use them in. Correctness is best described by social acceptibility, since that’s the only criteria that will not change over time.

    Comment by Levi on April 19, 2004 @ 10:06 am
  17. Levi,
    I don’t think you understand that it takes generations or even centuries for a language to change. For example, the roman empire fell sixteen hundred years ago and yet a spaniard can understand most of what an italian says in a conversation without ever having studied Italian and vice versa.

    You say that whether a word is incorrect depends on the region you are in and whose company you are in, so I assume you are the last supporter of Ebonics. Lemme aks you a quession, do you really think that since many of our urban population (mis)pronounce words the same way, that English has ‘changed over time’ and those persons actually speak and spell properly? Shall we teach the new pronunciations in school? Why or why not?

    Your last sentence that social acceptability is ‘the only “criteria” that will not change over time’ seems quite opposed to everything else you wrote about languages constantly changing. Perhaps language changed as you wrote. :)

    Comment by Harald Smith on April 23, 2004 @ 7:31 pm
  18. I think my last sentence was just unclear about what I meant to say. What I meant is that the only constant of language is that what is current is what is socially acceptable, not that a certain state of the language remains so.

    Ebonics is a dialect of the English language. It is an effective form of communication within its element, but its usage is still not widely accepted, especially in formal situations. I don’t know a lot about it, but it seems to me that it’s too young, rapidly changing, and varied to actually codify and teach in school. But then, at one point, Anglo-Saxon, which is one of the primary ancestors of the English language, was considered ‘vulgar’ in its entirety, and you had to speak Latin or French in polite company. Look where that language is now!

    In order for a language to change from how it was at the time of Shakespeare to the present day (a timespan on the order of 400 years), it had to change gradually. People forgot the origin of words and began to fully assimilate them into their language. Meanings changed. It happened a few words at a time, until now, when it has become difficult to read Shakespeare and fully understand it without a lot of footnotes.

    Oh, and one final point: Languages do not always change at the same rate. Educated, literate societies will generally have a slower rate of change. But I have a personal theory that as postmodernism filters more and more into our cultures, it’ll accelerate the change in our languages.

    Comment by Levi on April 24, 2004 @ 12:06 pm
  19. In addition to giga-, another common mispronounciation which was overlooked is ‘wheel barrel’ for wheelbarrow. It is easy to imagine the origin as being a barrel cut in half and mounted over an axle but barrow comes from the middle english barewe rather than middle english barel, so this must be a recent development.

    Comment by Harald Smith on April 25, 2004 @ 11:49 am
  20. My personal fravrite is “flash in the pants” i heard someone say that a few weeks ago and almost wet myself.

    Comment by Josh on January 15, 2005 @ 2:03 pm
  21. By the way, just ion case it is lost on this crew – i mispelled fravrite on purpose…

    Comment by Josh on January 15, 2005 @ 2:04 pm
  22. and ion was a straight typo

    Comment by Josh on January 15, 2005 @ 2:05 pm
  23. Of course, nobody has yet pointed out that the original Greek word “gigas” from which the prefix “giga-” is derived is spelled with a gamma, which make it a hard G (as in girl) meaning that the word “gigantic” has been mispronounced for years.

    Comment by C. Conrad Cady on April 4, 2005 @ 11:14 am
  24. My mispronounced word pet peeves are:
    1. Expresso (this isn’t a word; the actual way to pronounce it is espresso, with an “S”)
    2. Ex cetera (this isn’t a phrase and it makes no sense! The actual way to pronounce the phrase is “et cetera”, which translates to “and so forth” in Latin).
    3. Another word that just grinds me is “nucular” (there is no such word. Why does the man who runs this country (George W.) not know how to pronounce this word)?
    4. The last one is pitcher, when the person is actually referring to a picture. Where do these folks go to school or even college?

    Comment by Liz on May 15, 2005 @ 7:17 am
  25. I can’t believe “samwich” didn’t make the list. I hate that – it’s sandwich….even the TV ads for places like Subway say “s-a-m-w-i-c-h” ….grrrr…

    Comment by James on July 7, 2005 @ 8:04 am
  26. Here’s one that someone pointed out to me. I haven’t seen it on any list; yet, I (and absolutely everyone one else I asked) have been pronouncing is incorrectly my entire life.

    Look up the word: “flaccid”, and be prepared for a surpirse!


    Comment by Paul on August 13, 2005 @ 2:34 pm
  27. According to answers.com I’ve been pronouncing it correctly. What is the incorrect pronunciation? fla-kid?

    Comment by dan on August 13, 2005 @ 2:37 pm
  28. How do you correctly say centrifugal? I hear everyone say centrifical.

    Comment by carmel on August 23, 2005 @ 11:33 am
  29. You can listen to its pronunciation at answers.com (click on the little audio symbol right by the pronunciation guide).

    Comment by dan on August 23, 2005 @ 11:40 am
  30. i dont like the way people say “hey” because it feels for me that i have done sum thing wrong

    Comment by dragz on October 17, 2005 @ 10:44 pm
  31. It can be an eye-opener to check out dictionaries published 50 or 100 years ago. Zodiac signs: Libra used to be pronounced like in “library”, but now it has changed to this pseudo-Itialian “leebra”. And Pisces used to be “piss-eez”. My theory is that the formerly small, educated elite did not care if it sounded like “piss”, but that “piss-eez” was unacceptable to the general public, so they (unconsciously) began to change it when it came into more general use. Same with gynaecology, used to be with a soft g- (like all Greek-derived gy– words) either jinna- or jaina [ai = I (me) ] but the latter pronunciation sounds too much like “vagina”, with the semantic connection there already, thus the masses gradually (aparently during the 50s and 60s) changed it to gaina- (guy-nuh).
    This prudish avoidance would also explain the switch from an accented, long “A” in Uranus to the form with accent on the first syllable.
    p.s. Did you know that Tarot used to rime with carrot, but now has acquired this pseudo-French pronunciation “tah-ro”?
    English speakers can be rather judgmental when it comes to pronunciation — I remember a board meeting where the manager of a neighboring business said “chasm” with “ch” instead of “k”, and people were subtly rolling their eyes. — I live in Taiwan, in a Chinese speaking environment. The colloquial language (a version of Mandarin) is rife with wiggy “mistakes” and strange, unsystematic changes; you can hear better-educated people saying, “I know that’s not right but it seems that’s the way people are saying it now…” Still, they are much less judgmental than Americans, and certainly less so than the British.

    Comment by jakob on December 1, 2005 @ 8:39 am
  32. Since yesterday(yesdidi), I’ve heard the following: Sarrady,JanJewworry,Liberry,Wennesdi and Bollieball……Help us, in the ‘hood’ somebody; Please!!

    Comment by Paul Pauls on June 9, 2006 @ 4:48 pm
  33. wash- wush warsh -did not make the list

    Comment by dustin on June 11, 2006 @ 4:27 pm
  34. According to the Merriam-WEbster website, both Coo-pon and Q-pon are correct pronounciations for coupon.

    Comment by tami on June 28, 2006 @ 4:28 pm
  35. Dusent anybudy reelise tha da destinchun betwene corect an encorect speling an pronounsiachen id a arbutrary destinchen? avry werd was bin messpeled a sum thyme. is ow lenguagis evolive.

    Comment by Ken Seehart on November 9, 2006 @ 1:19 pm
  36. In the 1960s and through the 1980s, the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) issued pronounciation guides for the correct pronounciation of metric prefixes. Their guide showed “giga” to be pronounced “jiga”. It was probably through ignorance by the millions buying computers in the 1990s and beyond that the soft “g” turned into a hard “g”.

    Comment by George on November 17, 2007 @ 11:33 pm
  37. They should have included “jive” versus “jibe” – “i.e. that doesn’t jibe with the facts.” I suppose sailing terminology (like “tack”) is easily mispronounced.

    Comment by Mike on December 12, 2007 @ 11:47 am
  38. Here are some:
    comfterbul instead of comfortable, tempachure instead of temperature, aks instead of ask, dubya instead of double u, Febuwary instead of February.


    Comment by Phil on February 2, 2008 @ 9:45 pm
  39. learn how to talk?
    are you kidding me? of course i know how to talk.
    are you saying that people in nj or wherever talk improperly, as opposed to say, georgia? or is it vice versa?
    people’s pronunciation is based on where they live and who taught them. does anyone really say com-for-tay-bul? i don’t think so. and feb-rue-ah-ry? i’ve never heard of it.

    stop being such a nerd.

    Comment by kenny on May 21, 2008 @ 1:25 pm
  40. There is no such dialect as EBONICS. It is slang. Has anyone ever listened to old speeches from, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King or any other people of color prior to the seventies and eighties? They didn’t use Ebonics. Why should cultural and educational deterioration be rewarded with a language?

    Comment by Msday on January 18, 2009 @ 10:41 am
  41. The two words that give me trouble are Worcestershire…I believe it is just two syllables woost-shire…And the planet Uranus…There doesn’t seen to be a single correct pronunciation.

    Comment by Tom on September 21, 2009 @ 12:17 pm
  42. @Tom I thought Worcestershire had like 20 syllables. I never know when to stop “shester” or “shire”-ing. I looked it up on Answers.com that has audio pronunciations and the lady pronounced it “Wooster-sheer”. Uranus doesn’t leave you with many options. It’s a choice between urine-us or your-anus. When the astronomers considered getting rid of planets they should have booted Uranus, not Pluto.

    Comment by Dan on September 21, 2009 @ 12:22 pm
  43. Becoming very common to hear politicians and broadcasters saying ‘crate’ when they mean ‘create’. Most young people (that I come across) say ‘the’ as ‘ the’ when I always believed it should be pronounced ‘thee’?
    While I’m on my hobby horse, does everything have to have ‘up’ added to the end of nearly every phrase or sentence? ‘Parking up’ ‘Brightening up’ etc?
    Finally, why can’t teachers stress to all their pupils (from day one) that the letter h is pronounced ‘aitch’ it even has a word specially set aside to help in this regard (‘aitch’ of course!)
    Rant over.

    Comment by Grassman on April 16, 2011 @ 12:34 am

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