English is a beautiful language because of its complex words and spellings. Some words have more than one spelling, while others sound different from how they should be spelled.
Below is a list of 200+ tricky and hard words to spell. Overcome these troublemakers in your next spelling bee competition!
What are the Top 20 Hardest Words to Spell?
Here’s a spelling list to remember before you join your school spelling bee.
“Nauseous” is a hard word to spell because of the number of vowels in the word and the pronunciation. It has a “sh” sound but does not have the letters s and h. Some also think it should be “nauscous” because it sounds like “conscious.”
“Dilate” might be easy to spell for some, but its pronunciation makes it more challenging. Some people say “di-a-late,” which makes them misspell it as “dialate.”
The word “indict” might cause your loss in the spelling bee. Because it’s pronounced as “indite,” you might forget that it includes the letter c. But “indite” is its original spelling, which continues to be a word until now.
The last three letters of “liquefy” make it challenging to spell. You might believe it should be “liquify” like “pacify,” “rectify,” and “clarify.” However, “liquefy” ends with “-efy” and not “-ify.”
“Wed-nes-day” is an incorrect pronunciation of this day of the week. English natives know that the d is silent. That’s why they also forget this letter when they write or type the word.
The spelling police might catch you if you write “sherbert” instead of “sherbet.” Don’t forget that there’s only one r in “sherbet.” And it’s a different dessert from the Turkish treat, “sorbet.”
Bologna is a fancy sausage that comes from the city of Bologna in Italy. This tasty food is one of the most misspelled words in the National Spelling Bee because of the Americanized, more phonetic spelling “baloney.” Its Italian pronunciation should be “ba-lon-yuh.”
There is a spelling confusion of the word “ingenious” because it’s similar to the word “genius.” A “genius” is simply a super-intelligent person, but it does not have a letter o like “ingenious.” “Ingenious” means “clever, original, and inventive.”
“Playwright” might seem like one of the few 4th-grade spelling words you’ve encountered. However, the silent letter rule makes English language learners confused about the spelling.
It’s “playwright” and not “playwrite” or “playright” because play producers in the 16–s were considered as people who “wrought” (not “wrote”) plays.
“Fuchsia” is another problematic word in the English language because of the unnecessary letters. It does not have the usual “sc” and “sh” combinations. Instead, it uses a unique “chs” consonant blend, which you can’t find in other words.
Only intelligent people know that this word has a deep meaning for those who hear infants speak. It’s also a term you use when watching a film in a language you don’t know.
“Pochemuchka” is a Russian term for a person who asks several questions. If you weren’t such a pochemuchka, you wouldn’t know the simple spelling rules to remember. It’s an uncommon word, but it only uses the typical “ch” blend.
This unfamiliar word describes an artist that does chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro is an art form that shows light and dark and their impact on composition.
Don’t let the word “logorrhea” become a spelling bee hurdle in your next competition. This term is used when an individual is incoherent yet talkative.
A “sacrilegious” act is a term you often hear if you’re religious. It’s a disrespectful act toward something that has a spiritual significance. Nope, its root word is not “religious” because the correct spelling is “sacrilegious” and not “sacreligious.”
It’s “minuscule,” not “miniscule.” This word has no linguistic connection to “miniature” or “mini.” Don’t let anyone question your spelling abilities only because of this unusual spelling.
Like “mini” and “minuscule,” “pronunciation” is not related to the word “pronoun.” These spelling dilemmas are the major lows of spelling competitions, so beware of that!
They say that misspelling the word “intelligence” tells a lot about your spelling skills. Don’t let the double letters confuse you!
“Ie” and “ei” are two pairs of letters to blame for your vicious spelling cycle. Remember that e comes before i in the word “weird.” In cases where the middle letter is c, such as “receive” or “deceive,” the proper vowel blend is “ei.”
You might have heard several pronunciations of the word “pharaoh” that you don’t know its correct spelling anymore. Don’t spell it how it sounds because “pharaoh” has silent letters. Its primary pronunciation is “feh-row.” “Feh-ro-wah” is not its alternate pronunciation.
Why are Some Words Trickier to Spell?
Some words are hard to spell because of American and British spelling differences. Others become trickier because the correct spelling doesn’t adhere to the basic rules of spelling. Check out the culprits behind your incorrect spelling pattern.
These are terms and words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. Here are some homophones to add to your list of words that are tricky to spell:
- Blue and blew
- Dear and deer
- Witch and which
- Die and dye
- Fair and fare
- Hair and hare
- I and eye
- Flour and flower
- Week and weak
- To, too, and two
- Peace and piece
- Their, there, and they’re
- Dam and dam
- Knot and not
- Complement and compliment
- Hear and here
- Hole and whole
- Morning and mourning
- Profit and prophet
- Sew, so, and sow.
Here are some homophones in sentences:
New laws move blue and red states further apart. (The New York Times)
A Russian politician said Friday that Ukrainian forces blew up an oil depot on Russian soil in a helicopter raid. (Yahoo)
Dear Therapist, I have been married for 12 years and my wife and three sisters simply cannot get along. (The Atlantic)
The deer leaping off the bypass all appear to be female, fellow resident Julie Padasak told WJAC, calling the situation “disturbing.” (Huffpost)
UNC claimed its third championship in 1993 and won three more in the Roy Williams era, which began with the 2004-05 season. (NBC Chicago)
The evil witch in fairytale stories usually has the image of an older woman.
Unlike homophones, homographs do not place much emphasis on spelling differences. But they are difficult to spell because they have different pronunciations and meanings.
For example, buffet can be French, meaning “self-serve food bar” or a verb that means “to hit.”
Here are some examples of homographs in sentences.
- The storm buffeted my brother’s old shack.
I want to celebrate my birthday at the buffet.
- How content are you with your job and love life?
Your social media content is consistent and impressive.
- How many films have you produced?
I like shopping for fresh produce.
- I don’t take calls in the evening.
Evening out the skill level of every group is vital for fair results.
- This shrub can live for a long time in the desert.
The family deserted this land last year.
Homonyms are not necessarily hard to spell. But an influx of people are baffled using them in sentences. These words are spelled the same and have the same sound, but they do not have different meanings. Here are some common homonyms.
Check these examples of homonyms in sentences.
- We’re a match made in heaven.
The baseball match is happening soon.
Please don’t let children hold the match.
- The restaurant has a new address.
You should address her properly to show respect.
- I’ve always known you would be a bright and influential person when you grow up.
My new candle warmer is too bright.
- They tied the basketball ring, so we can’t play.
I want a pear-shaped ring as an engagement ring.
- What kind of machine do you use for your coffee?
Being kind is different from being nice.
These words are difficult to use in written communication because spell-check tools cannot always spot them. Basic spell checkers like the one in MS Word only scan the word itself instead of the context.
For example, the spell checker won’t always spot the error in the sentence, “I love to reed during my free time.
- I, aye, and eye
- Right, rite, wright, and write
- Read and reed
- Your, you’re, and yore.
- Its and it’s
- Here and hear
- Prey and pray
- Seas, sees, and seize.
- Sain and saint
Here are some examples of heterographs in sentences.
- You were right when you said it’s impossible to lose a significant amount of weight in one month healthily.
The graduation rite will begin in a few minutes.
I write poetry and novellas for a living.
The wright followed the architect’s house plan.
- Let’s seize the day.
I enjoy seas and mountains over cities.
She sees things in black and white.
- I pray that you’re always safe.
The tiger hunts for its prey every afternoon.
- You can submit your paper here in my office.
I hear you’re doing a great job at work.
- It’s the best Marvel movie for me.
The cat licked its paw to relieve itself.
Heteronyms are homographs with the exact spelling but different sounds and meanings. Here are some common heteronyms:
- Windy and windy.
- Present and present
- Close and close
- House and house
- Sow and sow
- Lead and lead
Check out these heteronyms in sentences.
- The artist drew a bass on my bass drum.
- This building houses thousands of books from the war. But it used to be a government official’s house.
- Heart presented how her father wasn’t present during that milestone.
Spelling Traps to Avoid
Here are some English spelling features that confuse many people.
Several words involve double consonants, which you need to memorize.
Another spelling trap includes silent letters. Take note of the following terms.
American vs. British Spelling
There are also differences in spelling according to the geographic variant of English you’re using. Here are some examples
- Color and colour
- Flavor and flavour
- Humor and humour
- Neighbor and neighbour
- Apologize and apologise
- Organize and organise
- Recognize and recognise
- Analyze and analyse
- Travelled and traveled
- Travelling and traveling
- Leukaemia and leukemia
- Manoeuvre and maneuver
- Paediatric and pediatric
- Defense and defence
- Licence and license
- Pretence and pretense
- Analogue and analog
- Catalog or catalogue
- Dialog or dialogue
- Theater and theatre
- Archeology and archaeology
- Encyclopedia and encyclopaedia
- Medieval and mediaeval
- Caliber and calibre
- Center and centre
- Meter and mtre
- Somber and sombre
- Bank and banque
- Check and cheque
- Fueled and fuelled
- Canceling and cancelling
Hard Words to Spell for Adults
Excellent Spelling Skills Come From Practice
The English language is full of catches and exceptions in spelling rules. Some traps to avoid are double consonants, silent letters, geographic variations, homophones, and more.
I hope the list above will help you fix your spelling woes so you can win all the spelling bees you join. The more you read and then practice, the better you will be at spelling English words!