Admit it: You have words you struggle to spell all the time. We all do. For many of us, misspelling a word can boil down to a simple lack of focus. Sure, you know the right “their, they’re, there” to use, but you’re rushing and just tap out whatever comes to mind first. (Hey, no judgment.) Outside of simple casualties of rushing, though, hard-to-spell words typically fall into two categories: everyday words that break the rules of spelling, and words that are just so oddly specific or old that you never use them. For instance, one year, the National Spelling Bee’s winning word was “esquamulose.” Not only have we never used that word, but we’ve never even heard or seen it before researching this article. If someone asked us to spell it, we’d probably butcher it. Then, just as there are hard to pronounce baby names, there are also obscenely big words. And both can be just as hard to spell as they are to pronounce.
Some words come from other languages and cultures that relate to specific ideas that simply don’t translate into their own single words in English. There are many “foreign” words related to nature or travel where you might find yourself unsure of their meaning or spelling. Of course, once you learn what that unique travel word means, you’ll no doubt find yourself trying to use it whenever possible.
We put in a bit of time and rounded up some common or famous hard-to-spell words. These might be words we find ourselves constantly fudging. Or simply words that won spelling bees, but we’ve never even heard of them. Either way, today’s lesson is all about how grateful we are for spell-check!
Hard Spelling Bee Words
Want to hear a true story? I lost the school spelling bee in fourth grade because I completely flubbed how to spell “automobile.” To this day, that memory still haunts me — even though I know it was mostly just the audience and school news cameras that got me in a tizzy and left me flummoxed. Spelling bee words are notoriously tricky, though. According to Britannica, America has had a national spelling bee since 1925. Below, we’ve listed seven words kids in the competition have had to spell over the years to win. It’s worth noting that the list includes “eczema.” We have a bathroom full of eczema-relief products, and we still try to include a non-existent “x” when writing about our ailments. Also, the word “vivisepulture” means “the act or practice of burying alive.” The winner, who spelled it correctly, was only 12 years old at the time. Yikes!
Fun fact: Logorrhea means “pathologically excessive and often incoherent talkativeness.” Sound like anyone you know? *eyes babbling toddler*
Hardest English Words to Spell (That You Probably Use Often)
Some words are easy enough to use regularly. But when you have to sit down and spell them out, you end up getting them very wrong. Tricky words that can trip up even trained professionals often don’t follow the typical grammar and spelling rules or are pronounced much differently than they’re spelled. A great example? “Weird” doesn’t follow that familiar “I before e” saying, though many people still try to force it. The best explanation is simply that “weird” is a weird word.
Many people also get tripped up on “a lot.” Somewhere along the way, it’s become common for people to use “alot.” (Even our spell check isn’t telling us we’re wrong!) The spelling police will remind you, however, that you wouldn’t write “alittle,” so you shouldn’t write “alot.” The word “playwright” is another head-scratcher for many folks. After all, a playwright “writes” a play, so why wouldn’t you spell it “playwrite”? Hint: There’s a history and grammar lesson involved.
Below, you’ll find some of the trickiest everyday words that people often misspell. (Including one we just used in that sentence.)
- A lot
Difficult Words to Spell With Silent Letters
Of course, anyone who has ever been in a spelling bee knows there are many categories of hard-to-spell words. One that never fails to confuse? Words with silent letters. Like, really, who decided pneumonia needed a “p”? Or an “e,” for that matter? The following words can’t be spelled out phonetically because you’d omit those pesky silent parts. Your best bet is to take a good, hard look and try to commit them to memory.