Twenty Words People Rarely Spell Correctly

There are plenty of words which people spell incorrectly because they haven't heard them correctly: so many in fact that we have not just one but two separate lists of them already on Lifehacker. But some words are difficult to spell even when you know how to pronounce and use them.

Picture by greeblie

Words don't need to be lengthy for people to get them wrong, as the seeming inability for anyone to use apostrophes correctly demonstrates. But longer words with complex vowel combinations are a particular trap, as are exceptions to general spelling patterns (a feature English excels in). Based on my own experience and some asking around, these twenty words are common traps for young players.

  1. broccoli
  2. bureaucracy
  3. daiquiri
  4. desiccated
  5. drunkenness
  6. entrepreneur
  7. fuchsia
  8. guarantee
  9. inoculate
  10. jewellery
  11. liaison
  12. manoeuvre
  13. mischievous
  14. misspell Note: Both misspelt and misspelled are acceptable, but you can't skimp on the double S.
  15. nauseous
  16. occurrence
  17. sergeant
  18. supersede
  19. threshold
  20. whisky

Technology is helpful here; a spell checker won't necessarily spot when you use 'boar' instead of 'bore', but it will pick up 'bureacracy' as an error. However, over-reliance on spell checking isn't ideal. Knowing you've made a mistake is key to learning not to make it again, and selecting the correct version in a spell check won't imprint the correct version in your mind.

Got additional suggestions for this list? Let's hear them in the comments.


    Number 20 is wrong. There are two spellings of that word depending on the region it's from.

      I'm aware of the Scottish/Irish distinction but per Macquarie, correct version for Australia is "whisky", and this is an Australian site.

        Gus, would I be way off the mark in speculating this post came about after sub-editing an American article? :P

        Well, no--if you're drinking Glenlivet, you're drinking whisky; if you're drinking Jameson, you're drinking whiskey.

      I believe it depends upon the region. I think whiskey refers to American Bourbon , Tennessee and Rye whiskeys. Whisky is for Scotch and Irish. I am probably wrong though...

        Scotch Whisky, Irish Whiskey. Americans use the Irish spelling for their bourbons. The distinction lies with the drink in the case of a proper noun but should technically be referred to as "whisky" in Australia. That said, I think there's a very reasonable case for using the generic "whiskey" when referring to Irish or American Whiskeys as a group.

          Whisky, from memory is Australian, Scottish, Canadian (I think) and Japanese.

          Whiskey is Irish, American and English.

            My bottle of Glenfiddich says "whisky". Oh look, there's a bottle of whisky next to my keyboard. I wonder what I should do?

      More like these should be the top 10.

        And "Where". Btw, that should've been "They're", not "They,re".

        They're not misspelt frequently, they're just used incorrectly a lot of the time.

    Caipiroska - the vodka and fresh lime cocktail. Constantly misspelled even in many of the better bars I have frequented in Sydney, Melbourne, Brissy. Annoys the piss and pickles out of me for some reason....

      It annoys me even more that places sell caipiroskas and not caipirinha, the original made with cachaça or white rum.

      On topic, I'm not sure if it's misspelling, grammatical or ignorance, but I hate when people mix up advice and advise.
      You advise someone by giving them advice.

        Ah yes, advise and advice - another of my pet hates...

        I'm lead to believe cachaca is actually a white rum but made like vodka (not barreled etc), and the caipirinha used only lime juice, not muddled fresh lime wedges as the Caipiroska I think.
        Yes, it is very annoying when some bartender tries to pass one off as the other as they are chalk and cheese...

    The ones I come across with people I know are threshold (threshhold), ridiculous (rediculous) & muesli (meusli). Oh, and the classic "wierd". Fun times.

    I received a press release yesterday regarding a 'functional pant' - ie, pants for training at the gym. The relaxed pant apparently was suitable for 'mediation'. Made my day.

    "definately" has to be Number 1.

      Far too often I've seen people write "defiantly" when they meant "definitely". Of course, defiantly is a completely different word with different meaning - and it's fun to ask exactly what they are so defiant about :)

      I will admit to misspelling some of the words in the list (inoculate, desiccate, ... ) so I guess even grammar/spelling pedants can be wrong sometimes.

      I get that wrong all the time! So now I tend to double & triple check every time I type it. Same with business & secretary. I type them incorrectly so often that it's instinct to double check them now.

    What about "loose" as in "I am going to loose my mind"? Aaarrgghh!

      A few ales would loose it, so perhaps you just misunderstand their meaning...

        Although it should really be 'loosen', shouldn't it.

    U could misspell no. 20 only in no. 5.
    21. vacuum
    22. diarrhea..

      How often does diarrhea need to be spelt though?

      Unless its combined with the word "Funnel" and even then its not used that often, only when I'm talking about my sexual fetishes.

      thats diarrhoea in Australia

    After 20 of them I spell whiskey wrong too!

    It's because most of those words are stupid.
    Take 'sergeant' for example, where's that 'arr' sound at the start come from?
    Should clearly be 'sargent'.

      Piss off, you Yank

        I'm a yank? I had no idea! (having been born in Melbourne and lived here my entire life)

      Sergeant (normally abbreviated to Sgt) is a rank used in some form by most militaries, police forces, and other uniformed organizations around the world. Its origins are the Latin serviens, "one who serves", through the French term Sergent

        I don't care about the etymology, I care that words are spelt the way they sound.
        While we're at it we should remove the letter x (replacing it with 'ks' or 'z' depending on how it's being used), we should change the letter c to sound like 'ch' (replacing all current instances of s sounds with 's' and k sounds with 'k'), we should replace all ph's with 'f's, maybe actually turn x into a replacement for 'sh' and start rewriting everything with a focus on phonetics.

          yoo wont wurdz too bee spelt how thay sownd?

          Wy downt yoo try that for a few dayz and see how it wurkz owt.

          Phonetics are fun to play with certainly. I don't believe they have much place in an academic discussion (or indeed, within day-to-day communications).
          Back to the military titles, however;
          Lieutenant is a particular favourite of mine, with the pronunciation being a rather misleading "leff-tenant".

            That depends on which service you are in ;)

              It does? I was unaware of that!
              As far as I knew, it was very much an AUS vs. USA thing, and not much else.

              Thanks for the heads up!

            There are plenty of languages that are phonetic - Hindi and Kannada to name two. It makes it much easier to learn how to say something when it's written phonetically. I can't see English ever converting though.

    Also, most of the french expressions :
    25. Et Voila (and not viola, which means rape ...)
    26. Connaisseur (and not connoisseur)
    27. Amateur (and not amatuer)

    Number one should really be "their" and "they're" - always seems to be spelt "there"

    And two should be "you're" - as too many people spell it "your" (or ur)

    But then again, we all know that, and these two are results of sheer ignorance from people who clearly lack an education, whereas the other 20 are good honest misspellings.

    My spelling is pretty decent, I only have trouble with a few of the listed words. But for some reason guard always stumps me for a split second. And I'm sure I'm not the only one to bang out gaurd.

      I've done something similar by spelling bird as byrd. Oops. :P

    Anyone else get annoyed with the random misuse of "affect" and "effect" ..? Drives me to distraction.!

    People mixing up 'discreet' and 'discrete' always pisses me off, actually. It seems to happen so often!

      You know, I actually didn't know there was a difference - and now I do.

    My biggest pet hate recently is people who can't tell the difference between sought and sort. Sick of reading sales ads (mostly auction sites) where it says 'sort after' or similar.

      Well, if it was coins or stamps that were being auctioned, you would expect to have to sort them afterward, so the imperative verb would be correct.

    My pet hate: rouge instead of rogue in games.

    Most of these, I can tell what the incorrect spelling would be, but how are people spelling "threshold"?

    Successful is the word I always misspell. In my head I get caught in a trap of "is it a double 'c' or a double 's'", meaning I spell it "succesful" or "sucessful".

      For similar reasons the word "Necessary" is my bane. "C" is a stupid, unnecessary bastard mix of K and S and should be expunged! Except for its use in "CH"

    Anyone else notice the vast majority of the words on the list are of French or Latin origins?

    Common: Tounge
    Correct: Tongue

    Common: Wierd
    Correct: Weird

    Common: Phillipines
    Correct: Philippines

    I disagree - I only regularly mispell 11 ... 12 of those words.

    This is radiculous, I know how to spell prefectly! I went to collage, and use my genuis to prefectly cosntruct the Englilsh lagnuage. Definately! And defiantly. :P

      You make my brian melt, good sir :P

      Additionally, while still a strong believer in the lexicon, I do often wonder if we are holding onto archaic rulings with no real purpose other than "legacy".
      True, the English language appears to be far more malleable than I once thought, however I still cringe to see people massacre it so brazenly.

      I rue the day 1337 speak or txt chat become the norm.

        As an aside, apparently txt chat came about because of the keypad on mobile phones. I can't find the reference at the moment, but the amount of this is actually decreasing now that people are using larger phones that have full keyboards / touchscreens.

          I must associate myself with the wrong crowd then.
          I can understand to an extent the reasoning for it's inception, although I personally jumped off that bandwagon early on. Misinterpretation is rife within language, and adding shortcuts simply compounds that flaw.
          (Speaking from personal experience, my partner at the time asked what I would like for easter. "nething but dark choc" (Read: Anything but dark chocolate) was the response, to which I was greeted days later with *nothing* but dark chocolate.)
          As tangential as I may be in discussion, I still feel the above is a fair approximation of why txtspk (what on earth is the correct terminology used to represent that?!) and other forms of literary shortcuts -more appropriately, laziness- should be avoided at all costs.


    Separate and definite are two words I see misspelled all the time.

      They were the 2 that came to my mind too when seeing this list.

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