77 Common Mispronunciations

demaerre iStock via Getty Images
demaerre iStock via Getty Images

You, of course, aren't mispronouncing these words, but some people do. Maybe it's the spelling, or the origin, or the trickiness of language itself, but these words tend to tie tongues in knots. Even if you're a master linguist, it's always good to double-check to see if you're saying the words on this list—adapted from an episode of The List Show—correctly.

1. Colonel

Theodore Roosevelt posing in his uniform.
After his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt's preferred nickname was "The Colonel."
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You know those weird looks you get when you play Clue with your friends and you accuse 'Call-in-null' Mustard with the candlestick in the hall? That's because it's 'Kern-el' Mustard. Also, it was probably Professor Plum.

2. Awry

The leaning tower of Pisa on the right next to a large cathedral.
RomanBabakin/iStock via Getty Images

Something has gone awry if you're saying aw-ree because it's ah-wry.

3. Epitome

Need a perfect example? Ep-it-tome is the ep-it-tom-ee of mispronunciation.

4. Edinburgh

Cityscape of Edinburgh Scotland
bnoragitt iStock via Getty Images

You don't go to Ed-in-burg, you go to Ed-in-bur-ah.

5. Ethereal

This is almost too perfect. It's not e-ther-real, it's eth-eer-ee-ul.

6. Meme

A suspicious girlfriend looks over her boyfriend's shoulder as he grins at his phone
AntonioGuillem iStock via Getty Images

Share this with everyone you know. It's not a me-may, or a mee-mee, it's a meem (at least we're trying to make it one).

7. GIF

The creator of the Graphical Interchange Format calls it Jif. According to the dictionary, which is all that matters, both pronunciations are correct, but the battle rages on.


A young boy celebrates as another young boy buries his head in his hands across a chess board
EvgeniiAnd iStock via Getty Images

Not pawned or pweened. If you've been totally dominated, you've been powned. Owned with a P.

9. Facetious

Fay-tious? No, fa-see-tious. No kidding.

10. Hyperbole

Printed text of the word Hyperbole repeated
aga7ta iStock via Getty Images

If people keep on pronouncing 'hi-per-bo-lee' as 'hy-per-bowl,' the universe is going to implode.

11. Nuclear

New-clear? New-cue-lar? No, new-clear.

12. Hermione

A pink Gentle Hermione Rose in bloom
Olga Ionina iStock via Getty Images

If you're talking about Harry Potter's best friend, it's 'Her-my-oh-nee' (Hermione). A Gentle Hermione is also a rose, so now you know how to pronounce two Hermiones.

13. Ralph

Speaking of Harry Potter, it looks like the name of the video game character that wrecks things, but the name of the actor who played Voldemort is pronounced Rayf.

14. Manolo Blahnik

Pale pink high heeled shoes resting on a red velvet chair
InnaMartynova iStock via Getty Images

You can probably think of a dozen wrong ways to say it, but the name of the famous Spanish designer is Ma-NO-low Blah-nick.

15. Accessory

And the shoes Manolo Blahnik makes are an ak-sess-oh-ree, not an a-sess-oh-ree.

16. Versailles

A vintage map close up of Versailles
risamay iStock via Getty Images

It's Ver-sigh, unless you're in Kentucky or Indiana, in which case you are in Ver-sales.

17. Illinois

And speaking of the Great American Midwest, it's 'Ill-i-noy' (Illinois).

18. Arctic

Polar bear placing foot on water.
Mario_Hoppmann/iStock via Getty Images

Arc-tic, not Ar-tic. There are two Cs in there.

19. Alzheimer's Disease

It's Alls-high-merz disease, not old-timers disease.

20. Asperger's

And its Ass-per-gers. There is no B in there.

21. Et Cetera

Piled slips of paper that red Etcetera
JLGutierrez iStock via Getty Images

Just how it looks. Et cetera, not Eck cetera.

22. Pinochle

Pee-knuckle may be the pinnacle of card games that are difficult to pronounce.

23. Forte

Close up of a trombonist in a line of men playing trombones
Photo_Concepts iStock via Getty Images

Four-tay is an Italian word that means loud. It's used all the time in mew-zical arrangements.

24. Forte

Here's where it gets confusing. Your fort (no "-ay") is something that you're good at, or the strongest part of a sword. However, this mispronunciation is so common that you will either seem like you don't know the word or so pedantic that the person you're speaking with will walk off without saying another word.

25. Recur

Surreal painting of hands holding canvas featuring the same image repeating
francescoch iStock via Getty Images

If you use the word Reoccur, it means something is occurring again. Recur is the correct pronunciation for something that happens again and again.

26. Parentheses

Unless you're referring to a single parenthesis, use pa-ren-tha-sees.

27. Mauve

Textured mauve print
jessicahyde iStock via Getty Images

It's mawv in the United States and mowv in Britain, so chaos reigns. Either way, it's still just slightly purple.

28. Irregardless

No matter how you pronounce it, irregardless is not a word. You mean regardless.

29. Anyway

A brunette woman shrugs her shoulders
Deagreez iStock via Getty Images

Anyways, always say anyway because anyways is not a word. No extra S required.

30. Gnocchi

A pile of gnocchi pasta on a dark wood cutting board
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If you're ordering at the Italian restaurant, it's nee-oh-kee, not guh-knock-y.

31. Penne

You can follow that course with a bowl of penn-nay, not pen.

32. Merlot

A hand pours a bottle of red wine into a glass
Uladzimir Zuyeu iStock via Getty Images

And wash the carb explosion down with a nice bottle of mer-low. Keep that T silent.

33. Prosciutto

Then wash down the wine with a pile of thinly sliced pro-shoot-oh.

34. Crepe

Overhead shot of a plate of Nutella-filled crepes
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In the French restaurant, it's krep, not krayp. 

35. Quiche

Or you might order a keesh there.

36. Quinoa

A spoon in a large pile of quinoa
sasimoto iStock via Getty Images

At the health food store, you'll want to pick up some keen-wa.

37. Hors D'oeuvres

You'll want to serve or-dirves at your party, not hoars-doov-rez. The literal translation from French is "outside the works," referring to a part of the meal outside the main course.

38. Chipotle

A small bowl of red chipotle peppers
carlosrojas20 iStock via Getty Images

If you're still hungry, you can roll through chih-pote-lay. Please don't call it Chi-pot-al. Or you can just eat a bowl of chipotle peppers. They're great by themselves. Or with...

39. Guacamole

And don't forget to pay a little extra for some gwac-a-mol-eh, not gwac-a-mo-lay.

40. Caramel

A spoon resting on top of a small jar of caramel
SMarina iStock via Getty Images

Chipotle doesn't serve flan, or else it would be really easy to segue into discussing care-a-mel. Care-a-mil is also acceptable.

41. Thyme

A bundle of thyme on a mat on a table
wmaster890 iStock via Getty Images

It's time, like a clock, not thigh-me.

42. Mayonnaise

We probably all shorten it to man-ayze because may-oh-nayz is a mouthful. A correctly pronounced mouthful.

43. Prescription

A doctor hands pills to a patient
SARINYAPINNGAM iStock via Getty Images

That thing you get from your doctor that you take to your pharmacy is a pre-scrip-shun, not a pur-scrip-shun.

44. Realtor

It only has two syllables, not three.

45. Jewelry

Jeweled rings in rows
Kwangmoozaa iStock via Getty Images

That goes for jool-ree, too.

46. Asphalt

It's ass-fault, not ash-fault.

47. Ptolemy

An old drawing depicting Ptolemy
Photos.com iStock via Getty Images

The Greek mathematician's name is pronounced tall-a-mee.

48. Bacchus

And a party with Ptolemy and Bacchus (back-us) would be a blast.

49. Veteran

Close up of a soldier
alekseykh iStock via Getty Images

Napoleon was a veh-teh-run (three syllables, not two) of the Napoleonic Wars.

50. Veterinarian

And Chewbacca resents having to go to the vet-er-in-air-ee-an.

51. Comfortable

An older couple relaxing on a large sofa
DGLimages iStock via Getty Images

It might make you squirm, but kum-fur-ta-bull has four syllables.

52. Supposedly

It's sa-poze-id-lee, not sa-poze-ib-lee. Don't turn that D into a B.

53. Triathlon

Athletes run through the water during a triathlon
GlobalStock iStock via Getty Images

Somehow it's tri-ath-lon instead of tri-ath-a-lon, which is admittedly much more fun to say.

54. Especially

And resist the temptation to throw an X in to make it ex-pesh-il-lee when it's es-pesh-il-lee.

55. Larvae

White larvae in the dirt
VladK213 iStock via Getty Images

Getting back to squirmy things, it's lar-vee or lar-vai, but not lar-vay.

56. Asterisk

We should note that it's ass-tir-isk, not aks-tir-isk.

57. Affidavit

A man signs a business document
VladK213 iStock via Getty Images

And it's officially aff-i-day-vit with a T at the end, not a D.

58. Schadenfreude

If you're chuckling that people actually mispronounce some of these words, then you're experiencing shaw-din-froy-da. 

59. Chauvinist

A man from the shoulders up in a hot shower
happyphoton iStock via Getty Images

It's show-va-nist (chauvinist), not cho-va-nist.

60. Mischievous

It's like the word itself is playing a sly prank on all of us because it's just so tempting to say miss-chee-vee-us when there's no extra I at the end. The right way to say it is miss-chuh-vus.

61. Dr. Seuss

A blue plate with green eggs and ham
ErikaMitchell iStock via Getty Images

Another way to sound silly while being correct is to pronounce the legendary author's name as doctor soyce. He said his name as if it rhymed with voice, but everyone says it like it rhymes with juice, which is wubbulously wrong.

62. Chiaroscuro

A landscape with contrasting dark trees and light through fog
vololibero iStock via Getty Images

The key to getting this art technique wrong is in the chee. The right way? Kee-uh-ruh-skyoor-oh. It's the use of darkness and light in contrast, not a Brazilian restaurant where they keep giving you meat until you beg for them to stop. That's a...

63. Churrascaria

All together now: Shoe-rah-scah-ree-ya.

64. Gyro

Close up of a gyro sandwich with french fries
bhofack2 iStock via Getty Images

Please, please when you're ordering one, don't call it a jy-ro. It's yee-ro, which should be easy to remember because it rhymes with hero and both are sandwiches.

65. Kiton

The cute little mussels are kai-tens. They're not kittens.

66. Acai

A spoon of acai powder over some acai berries
Luis Echeverri Urrea iStock via Getty Images

Ack! It's a soft C, but you also pronounce the letter I at the end. Uh-sigh-ee.

67. Cache

If you've got respect and clout, you've got cachet (cash-eh), but if you're storing your loot in a cache, it's pronounced simply cash.

68. February

Rows of colorful heart-shaped cookies
Jariya Phaisankanjana iStock via Getty Images

It's feh-brew-ary, but we all know that we should officially change it to feh-boo-ary.

69. Regime

It's ray-jeem, not ruh-jeem.

70. Solder

Gloved hands solder a microprocessor
Eblis iStock via Getty Images

Silent Ls should make everything tricky. Surprisingly, it's sah-der, not soul-der.

71. Often

Tons of people get this one wrong with great regularity. It's off-en. The T is silent.

72. Dilate

Close up of an eyeball with green and blue iris
Mark_Kuiken iStock via Getty Images

This one might make your eyes bug out. We have the tendency to add another A in there, but it's di-late, not di-uh-late.

73. Preternatural

It's not pray-ter-natch-uh-rul. It's pree-ter-natch-uh-rul. Spooky, right?

74. Hierarchy

A colored peg stands on a pyramid of colored blocks while another peg stands in foreground
Radachynskyi iStock via Getty Images

It's high-er-ar-kee, not the simplified high-ar-kee.

75. Lambaste

There's no need to soften this one. It's lam-baste, not lam-bast.

76. Recondite

Bored boy fed up with his homework at a desk with pencils and books
BrianAJackson iStock via Getty Images

It may be difficult to understand, but the word is pronounced reh-kin-dite.

77. Pronunciation

You pro-nown-ce a word, but you don't pro-nown-cee-ate it. Stick with pro-nun-cee-ay-shun, and you'll be fine.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Eldest vs. Oldest: What's the Difference Between These Two Age-Related Adjectives?

Danny DeVito will help illustrate our point.
Danny DeVito will help illustrate our point.
Stuart C. Wilson, Getty Images

When it comes to adjectives related to age, choosing between eldest and oldest can cause some people to grow a few premature gray hairs. The words seem interchangeable and their preferred usage is unclear. Why say oldest person alive and not eldest person alive? What’s the difference between the two?

According to Merriam-Webster, the most significant distinction is that eldest and elder are only ever used to refer to people. An antique can’t be the eldest in a collection, only the oldest. But your older sister could be the eldest among your siblings.

Eldest is most often used in the context of people who are related either as family or as part of a group for comparison purposes. It also doesn’t necessarily have to refer to age. If someone joins a chess club in their 80s, they might be the oldest person in the group, but that doesn’t mean they’re the eldest. That would describe the member of the group who’s been there the longest, even if that person is in their 30s.

To justify our use of actor Danny DeVito in the image above, we could say that, at age 75, DeVito is the oldest cast member of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but not the eldest. He joined the show in season 2.

Oldest can certainly refer to people, but it’s best to opt for eldest when comparing people within a social or familial community. And remember that elder can also be used as a noun, while older cannot. You would respect the elders in your family, not the olders.

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