10 Hardest Words to Pronounce in English
English is a unique language. Depending on who you ask, it is either a Germanic language heavily influenced by French culture and language (which was dominant on the British Isles for nearly five centuries) or a Romance language with strong ties to harsher Germanic languages. If even professionals can’t entirely agree on what English is, that might explain why its sound inventory is so tricky to wrap one’s head (and tongue) around. Come to think of it, that’s probably why so many words in English are so hard to pronounce.
Today, we are going to take a look at ten of the most difficult words to say in English. If you’re reading this page, you are either a student of English as a second language looking to improve your communication skills, or someone generally interested in learning about English. In either case, this list might prove interesting to share with your English language teacher, who can coach you on the particular cadence of each word and give you tricks to make them sound more natural.
Please keep in mind that pronunciation is always difficult, and though people commonly believe your accent cannot change, taking a business English class or having private lessons with a teacher can dramatically improve your language competencies, including pronunciation. If you’re looking for quick tricks on how to improve your overall accent, there are a number of articles and videos available. When I coach my students on how to sound like a native, I usually show them this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0yGdNEWdn0&t=10s. (Though it is aimed at beginners, it has interesting ideas for all levels.)
Without further ado, here are some words you can practice out loud and use to impress your friends—once you’re confident enough.
- Rural /ROO-ruhl/
If you want to talk about the benefits of living outside the big city, this is a word you will need to learn. The double r’s are difficult for most ESL students because the sound is rarely (there is another double-r) found in other languages.
- Focus /FOH-kuhs/
Please don’t swear at me. If you pronounce this word incorrectly, that’s essentially what you’re doing. Make sure to pronounce this nice and slow and put the stress on the first syllable. It should lead to much smoother staff meetings.
- Brewery /BROO-ree/
Like number 1 above, this word is a must-have when talking about your favourite spots around town.
- Squirrel /SKWURL/ or /SKWUR-uhl/
Despite having three syllables in its spelling, this adorable (but long) word usually pronounces only one.
- Throughout /THROO-owt/
Not to be confused with thought, through, though, and tough (sorry, they all look similar but have nothing to do with one another), this preposition is useful for talking about large spaces or long periods of time. It will make you sound sharp and articulate—provided you practice it a few times.
- Comfortable /KUHMF-ter-buh l/
Like temperature and chocolate, this word drops an entire syllable.
- February /FEB-roo-er-ee/
You can stop saying “the second month of the year” once you get this down. Stress the first syllable and let the rest roll off the lips.
- Phenomenon /fi-NOM-uh-non/
A word featured surprisingly often in music, “phenomenon” is a good word to learn when talking English business, news, and even science. Listen to this song for a good rhythm to imitate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rq4TDpa1zF0
- Worcestershire /WOO S-ter-sher/
It doesn’t have half the syllables it seems to. Figure this one out and you’ll earn a place in Hell’s Kitchen.
- Antidisestablishmentarianism /an-tee-dis-uh-stab-lish-muh n-TAIR-ee-uh-niz-uh m/
Don’t worry about this one. It is often said to be the longest word in the English language, and any lesson on the hardest pronunciation wouldn’t be complete without it.
That’s all for today. Which word did you find was the hardest to pronounce?