Pronunciation Challenges: What are the Hardest English Words to Pronounce?

Pronunciation challengesThe English language poses many challenges for foreign speakers in terms of grammar and vocabulary.  However, pronunciation is another aspect students typically find difficult because there are no uniform rules for determining spelling-pronunciation relations.

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Certainly, there are ways to learn how to pronounce English words but some may be really difficult.  Many English words bear a resemblance to other word forms but are pronounced in a completely different way.  These would usually be the biggest challenges for an average learner.

Additionally, some words have a peculiar form and in such cases it’s impossible to figure out their correct pronunciation.  This is usually the case with words taken from foreign languages but to which no spelling adjustments were made.  The following video will introduce you to some of the confusing English words:

To help you conquer your pronunciation challenges, we’ve created a list of 10 English words that are commonly considered hard to pronounce.

1.  Antidisestablishmentarianism

Antidisestablishmentarianism (n.) – a political term denoting an opposition to the belief that there should be no official church in a country (UK).

Clearly, the difficulties with pronouncing this word stem from its length and  the difficulty of determining its stress pattern:


Nurse2.  Anesthetize

Anesthetize (v.) – give an anesthetic drug to somebody.

Like most medical terms, this one is also mostly used by experts only.  However, if an ordinary person were to encounter it, he or she would probably be confused about its pronunciation.


3.  Sesquipedalian

Sesquipedalian (n.) – a long word; (adj.) – characterized by the use of long words.

This is a funny and pretty useless word that appears on this list simply because we believed it would be new and interesting to most of our readers.  When you look closely at it, you’ll probably find it easy to pronounce, at least after you’ve repeated it several times.


This word is not very commonly used at all and one is not likely to be familiar with either its pronunciation or its meaning.  However, many find it interesting to know as an example of a long word.

4.  Hierarchy

Hierarchy (n.) – a system in which things are ranked.  

This is a four-syllable word but many learners have a tendency to shorten it.

Bear in mind that it should always be hai-er-aar-kee and not hai-aar-kee or something similar.

5.  Particularly

Particularly (adv.) – very much, especially; specifically.

The combination of consonants l and r at the end of the word may appear strange to non-native speakers, many of  whom are tempted to skip the second l and simply go with /leri/ instead of /lahr-lee/.

6.  Successful

Successful (adj.) – having made an achievement; having a desirable outcome.

The initial syllables suhk-sehs may be problematic for many non-native English speakers, especially those hearing it for the first time

Enterpreneur7.  Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur (n.) – a person who sets up a company or an enterprise, thereby taking a financial risk.

Entrepreneur is a word taken from French and this is the reason for its peculiar and obviously non-English form.  The French echo makes it difficult for learners of English but there are even some native speakers who get a headache trying to pronounce it.


8.  Mischievous

Mischievous (adj.) – causing harm or damage; irritating or troublesome;

This is a word you can frequently encounter in your everyday life.  However, if you’re not a native speaker and have never seen the word before, chances are you’ll find it confusing to pronounce.  The problem is the accent placement because many people put it on the second syllable instead of the first.

So, don’t say mis-chie-vous but mis-chievous.  Another thing to note about this word, however, is how often native speakers will add an extra vowel sound before the ‘ous’ ending, resulting in ‘mis-chiev-eeous.’ These people then tend to stress ‘chiev’ rather than ‘mis’, so learners (and some native speakers!) need to avoid both adding an extra vowel and stressing the wrong syllable.

9.  Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous (adj.) – mixed; composed of a variety of things or having multiple purposes.

Another common mistake occurs in pronouncing the word miscellaneous.  Besides the fact that many people can’t spell it correctly, they often tend to pronounce the final syllable as ney-uhs when in fact it should be nee-uhs.


10.  Remuneration

Remuneration (n.) – a type of payment that is disbursed regularly.

If you’re not familiar with the context in which this word usually appears, you’ll probably assume it has something to do with numbers.  However, there is no ‘numeration’ part in this word, even though many people pronounce the word as if there were

It’s rih-myoo-nuh-rei-shn.

How about you? Are there any words you find particularly hard to pronounce?


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