Commonly Mispronounced Words

Commonly Mispronounced Words

At some point in time, most everyone mispronounces a word or two. But you don’t want to continually mispronounce words, especially ones that others will recognize as some of the commonly mispronounced words.

There are some pronunciation differences that can be attributed to dialects like the difference between “cray fish” and “craw fish” or how someone from Boston may pronounce car. But I’m not talking about that; I’m speaking of mispronunciations on a national level. The words that are mispronounced everywhere.

Some of these words are mispronounced so often and by so many people the mispronunciations are not only becoming accepted, they are in danger of replacing the original way of pronunciation. A perfect example of this is “cardsharp”. The correct pronunciation is “card sharp” and yet, as you can see from the Google ngrams below, “card shark” has overtaken the correct pronunciation by a long shot.

commonly mispronounced words

commonly mispronounced words

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the commonly mispronounced words.

I’m sure that you don’t mispronounce all of these words, but I’d be surprised if you didn’t mispronounce some.

Word It’s not pronounced like this: It’s pronounced like this:
across a-crossed a-cross (no “d” sound and no “d”)
affadavit aff-a-da-vid aff-a-dav-it (it’s a “t” at the end, not a “d”.)
almond al-mond ah-mund (the “L” is silent)
athlete ath-a-lete ath-lete (It only has two syllables.)
banal bay-nal buh-nal (accent on the last syllable)
barbiturate bar-bit-u-ate bar-bit-ur-ate (don’t forget the second “r”)
candidate can-ni-date can-di-date (don’t forget the first “d”.)
cavalry cal-val-ry ca-val-ry (the “L” comes after the “v”. )
colonel cor-o-nel ker-nel (pronounced just like a kernel of corn—two syllables only)
cardsharp card-shark card-sharp (although becoming accepted, cardsharp is not the correct way to pronounce it; it’s cardsharp.)
champ at the bit chomp at the bit champ at the bit. (Almost no one says this phrase the proper way anymore, so I doubt it will take long to become fully accepted, but for now, it’s still “champ at the bit”.)
clothes close clothes (this is an easy to mispronounce word, especially when speaking fast. Try to enunciate the “th” sound when speaking.)
daylight saving time daylight savings time daylight saving time (it’s “saving” without the “s”.)
diphtheria dip-ther-i-a dif-ther-i-a (I had been mispronouncing this all my life. It’s said as if it’s an “f”, not a “p”.)
drown drowned Drown (There is no “D” at the end of drown.)
espresso ex-presso es-presso (There is no “X” in espresso.)
etc. ex-cet-era et-cet-era (Same as espresso, there is no “X”.)
February Feb-yu-ar-y Feb-ru-ar-y (Don’t forget to enunciate the first “R”.)
foliage fol-i-age fol-age (According to Merriam-Webster, there are only two syllables, however, several other dictionaries recommend three syllables.)
forte for-tay fort (for-tay is only used when speaking of musical direction, not when using the word to mean an individual’s strong point.)
height heighth height (There is no “h” at the end of the word.)
hierarchy hi-ar-chy hi-er-ar-chy (Hierarchy has four syllables. Don’t leave one out.)
jewelry jew-ler-y jew-el-ry (Remember that “jewel” is pronounced first. The “e” goes before the “L”.)
liable li-bel li-a-ble (“Libel” means releasing a false statement about someone that causes others to have a bad opinion of them; “liable” means apt to do something or responsible for.)
masonry mas-on-ar-y mas-on-ry (The word only has three syllables.)
miniature min-it-ure min-i-a-ture (Most dictionaries agree that the word should be pronounced with four syllables, although a few accept the pronunciation using three.)
mischievous mis-ché-v-i-us mis-che-vous (Don’t put the extra “I” in there. It only has three syllables.)
ordnance ord-in-ance ord-nance (Again, no “I”. This word has only two syllables.)
prerogative per-og-a-tive pre-rog-a-tive (The “R” goes before the “E”.)
prostate pros-trate pros-tate (There is no “R” in gland and the word meaning gland has only one “R”. The word meaning “recumbant” though, has two “r’s”. )
Realtor Real-a-tor Real-tor (The word only has two syllables, and it is capitalized.)
sherbet sher-bert sher-bet (This one surprised me when I researched it. All my life, I had been saying “she-bert” only to discover it was “her-bet”.)
triathlon tri-ath-a-lon tri-ath-lon (Don’t put an extra “a” in the word.)
verbiage ver-bage ver-bi-age (It sounds like it’s spelled—with the “I”.)

I didn’t list all the words. There are plenty of others that could have been listed. A few are listed below.

cache (pronounced like cash)

niche (noes)

nuptial (not nup-tu-al)

nuclear (not nu-cu-lar)

often (the “t” is silent)

prescription (“r” before “e”)

peremptory (“e” before “r”)

pronunciation (not pro-noun-ci-a-tion)

respite (res-pit—does not rhyme with despite)

spay (not spade) Spade is a word, but the meaning is different.

tack (not tact) Tact is a word, but the meaning is different.

Tenet (not tenant) A tenant is a renter. A tenet is a belief or a doctrine.

The Bottom Line

This about wraps it up—at least for now—regarding the commonly mispronounced words. But there are always the misused words to concern yourself over. For a look at some of them, pick up one of my grammar books. Book three, Visual Grammar, has the most of them.

Visual Grammar

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Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes nonfiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series as well as books about grammarpublishing., and children’s fiction and nonfiction.

When Giacomo isn’t writing, he’s helping his wife take care of the animals on their sanctuary. At last count, they had forty animals—seven dogs, one horse, six cats, and twenty-five pigs.

Oh, and one crazy—and very large—wild boar, who used to take walks with Giacomo every day.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with forty-five loving “friends.”


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