Dog with tongue out.

15 Hard-to-Pronounce Words in the English Language That’ll Make You Tongue-Tied

Let’s face it: The English language has many words that are hard to pronounce. Native English speakers and English as a second language speakers alike took to the internet to share the words they can’t get the hang of saying out loud. 

Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.

1: Bridging the Gap 

Map of Panama.
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An isthmus is a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land masses, and it’s also one of the hardest English words to pronounce, according to many English speakers. “It’s pronounced like ‘Iths-mus,’ one person explained. “The most prototypical example is Panama.” 

2: Under the Sea 

Diver making an okay sign.
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“Annemm… amennome… annemmoneme.” One English speaker has difficulty pronouncing the undersea creature and flower of the same name. “I’d break it down like ‘Uh – Nem – Uh – Knee,” a helpful American responded. 

3: Not What It Looks Like 

Military man.
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The military rank “colonel” always trips up one American. “If you know that it’s pronounced ‘kernel,’ it’s easy to pronounce,” they said. “But if you were new to English and didn’t know that, you would never pronounce it correctly.” 

4: City Problems  

Cobblestone street in Massachusetts.
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One American pointed to any of the towns in Massachusetts for hard-to-pronounce words, i.e., Worcester, Gloucester, and Acushnet. “My favorite town like this (in the UK) is Towcester,” one Brit said. “Pronounced Toaster.” 

5: Saucy Sayings 

Worcestershire sauce.
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“Worcestershire. To the USA, anyway,” one American said about the most hard-to-pronounce word in English. From “wor-kester-shire” to “Whats-dis-here,” a few people had interesting pronunciations to share. One English expert confirms many ways to say it, but the correct one is generally “Wor-ster-shire.”

6: Ice Cold 

Water from a refrigerator.
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One traveler says when they were in Korea, they enjoyed trying to teach the locals to say refrigerator. “They always pronounced it ‘leefligahlata.'”

7: Not Singing Praises 

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One English as a second language speaker says “choir” is the most challenging English word to pronounce. “Seriously. Why?” they question. “It’s like ‘enquire’ but without the ‘en,'” a native speaker explains. 

8: Crunching the Numbers 

Ball of numbers.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

It may seem straightforward, but one American said their wife can’t say “statistic.” They explained, ‘It always comes out “stick stick stick.’

9: Hamburger Helper 

Man holding a hamburger by the American flag.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.

A bilingual Indian says they can almost pull off both American and British accents without a problem. “I say ‘almost’ because for the life of me, I cannot say the word hamburger.” They said they had a friend order it for them all of freshman year, and after that, they just stuck to “burger.” 

10: Doctor’s Orders 

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Brace yourself for this one. “Otorhinolaryngologist,” a medical term for an ear, nose, and throat doctor, is the hardest English word to pronounce, according to one English-speaking commenter. “Once you know what it is, it’s much easier,” someone responded. “Oto-rhino-laryng-ologist is literally ear-nose-throat-scientist.” 

11: Animal Antics 

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Little woodland critters are challenging to pronounce, especially for non-native speakers. “I’ve seen a video of Germans trying to say ‘squirrel,’ and it was hilarious,” one American said. “They mostly say ‘sqvirvel’ or ‘squi-wel’. 

12: Keeping It Casual 

Surprised woman.
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An American English speaker said they still have difficulty saying “colloquially,” which describes a less formal version of common words and phrases. 

13: Not So Short and Simple 

Man holding a question mark.
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One Frenchman says as simple as it is, “the” is the most difficult word to pronounce, especially since “th” doesn’t exist in the French language. “It’s so short that you just cannot hide your inability to pronounce it,” they explained. “When it’s long words, it’s fine, but everything has to be perfect here.” 

14: Creepy Creatures 

Man reading a book.
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“If we’re counting words made in English fiction, Cthulhu,” one bookworm says, referring to H.P Lovecraft’s creepy literary character. “I cannot recall the inflection precisely, but I remember that the closest human approximation in H. P.’s mind was to use a raspy growl and say lowly ‘hluhl hloo.'”

15: Tongue Twister 

Man reading a book.
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One person said, “Irish wristwatch” is super hard to pronounce, “but only when you have to say them both together.” Go ahead, give it a try. 

Source: Reddit

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