20 Words You've Definitely Mispronounced Your Whole Life

English is undeniably a very complex language that keeps on changing with the times. This makes it hard to always keep up with the proper spelling and pronunciation of certain words. Someone once compared spelling in English to "playing one of those computer games where, no matter what you will lose eventually." They're not wrong.

English has an abundance of words borrowed from other languages like French, Greek and Latin, so even as an Anglophone you might be surprised that there are a lot of common words you and others around you have been pronouncing wrong your entire lives. It's no wonder some people spend years in school to obtain a degree in English.

Here are 20 words that you've probably been saying incorrectly, either because the spelling throws you off or you're just too lazy to correct yourself.

1. Mischievous

It's only a three syllable word but for some reason most people like to add an extra "i" to "mischievous," which makes it sound a lot more complicated than it needs to be.


2. Kilometer

Kilometer is not as popular in the States as miles, but when you get around to saying it you're most likely putting the stress on the second syllable and that's incorrect. The stress should be on the first syllable and the "o" shouldn't be made into an "ah" sound.


3. Espresso

There is no “x” in Espresso. So there is absolutely no need to add it in your pronunciation of the word. End of argument.


4. Gif

The inventor of the graphic himself cleared up the confusion about how the word sounds. It’s actually “jif,” like the peanut butter brand. You can still choose to stick to the hard “G” but you’ll most likely be judged by those in the tech world.


5. Sherbet

We love making up new pronunciations like the english language wasn’t already complicated enough. We’re all guilty for saying "sherbert" but there's actually no ”r” in the second syllable.


Click on the next page for even more surprisingly easy words you've been getting wrong.

6. Library

It's not a berry so I'm not exactly sure how we ended up pronouncing it the way we do. The correct pronunciation is actually 3 syllables long and doesn't sound like a fruit.


7. February

Like plenty of words with the letter "r", February seems to confuse us a lot. So let's clear it up! The second month of the year is pronounced exactly as it is spelled, the first "r" may be a little hard to roll off the tongue, but the rest is pretty straightforward.


8. Especially

Just like "expresso", some people like to pronounce the "s" in "especially" as an "x".


9. Et cetera

Another case of an invisible "x" being used in place of another letter. This one is a little more acceptable because people tend to think it's a play on the word "extra" but it actually is two separate words.


10. Jewelry

The mispronunciation of this word probably due to laziness. To get it right, you'll need add the extra syllable back into the word which makes it Jew-ell-ree instead of Jewl-ree.


11. Often

You're probably wondering what you're pronouncing wrong when you say "often", well it's the "t". Whoever made up the rules in the English language decided that some letters are supposed to be silent and this applies to the "t" in "often".


12. Prerogative

I blame Bobby Brown and Britney Spears for having this word stuck in my head with the wrong pronunciation. Bobby, Britney and everyone else pronounce it as pe-roh-ga-tiv when it should really be pre-roh-ga-tiv.


13. Nuclear

Sorry Dubya but it’s actually Nu-Kee-lur not Nu-cu-lur. As the President of the United States, Bush may have managed to convince a large chunk of the population that he's been saying it right but that doesn’t mean the correct pronunciation has changed.


Continue onto the next page for even more words you've been mispronouncing.

14. Asterisk

Admit it, you’re guilty for saying As-te-rix like the French comic book character instead of As-te-risk. But don't fret, we’ve all said it like that at some point.


15. Triathlon

Don’t make the word longer than it needs to be, it’s pronounced tri-ath-lon not tri-atha-lon.


16. Celtic

The saying everything is not what it seems applies to the pronunciation of Celtics. This one just defies all the rules in the english language handbook because it is Kell-tick not Sell-tick. Whoops!


17. Bruschetta

They say you should only eat what you can pronounce so I guess a lot of us will be giving up Bruschetta because we've never ever pronounced it the correct way. The italian word is actually Broo-sket-ta not Broo-shet-ta.


18. Forte

This one is a little trickier than the rest because it is borrowed from French. While we like to add an "ay" sound to a lot of words of French origin, "forte" isn't one of them. It should be pronounced "fort" - no need for a second syllable.


19. Seuss (as in Dr. Seuss)

I would've refused to accept this had the man himself not confirmed that most people have been getting his pen name wrong. He even wrote a rhyme to make sure we never forget the proper way to say it:

“You’re wrong as the deuce/And you shouldn’t rejoice/If you’re calling him Seuss/He pronounces it Soice.”


This probably ruined a few people's childhoods, but the reactions you receive when you correct someone may be worth it.

20. Pronunciation

Ironically, the word "pronunciation" is very often mispronounced. This is probably because the verb form has the syllable "noun" in the middle, while the noun form does not.


Did you learn something new today? Let us know in the comments!

Awa has been writing for Shared for 3 years. She is a serial snacker who unapologetically loves celebrity gossip. Drop her a line at awa@shared.com.