Can You Spell 35 of the Hardest-to-Spell Words in English?


By: Daniel Yetman

6 Min Quiz

Image: Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Even if you don't speak a second language, you might be surprised by how many foreign words you can recognize from English words. English is often referred to as a difficult language to learn, partially because of its mixed background. Many words in English come from Greek or Latin origins. However, you'll also find words borrowed from Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, Italian. German, Arabic and other languages. 

The English language is in a state of constant evolution. If it wasn't, we would all still be talking like we're in a Shakespearean play. With the boom of technological development in the past 30 years, the English language has had to expand to name things that didn't exist when our parents were the age we are now. How would you be able to describe a smartphone to somebody 50 years ago? 

Some of the hardest to spell words are actually among the most common. Is it immediately or imediately? Is it squirrel or squirrell? You might not realize how much you rely on autocorrect until you can't use it to help you out. 

Even if you think you're a spelling master, you're likely going to have trouble with a few of these words. Are you ready to start the spelling bee? And yes, using your spellchecker is cheating. 

This is a favorite method of transportation for the super-rich.

It's a lot more fun to take a cruise out on a yacht than it is to try to spell the word. Can you imagine how intimidating it must be to an ESL learner when faced with this word? No wonder English is considered a difficult language.


This fruit is filled with vitamin C.

100g of guava fruit contains almost four times your daily amount of vitamin C. Can you guess how to spell this word? Even though there sounds like there should be a 'Gw,' it's actually a 'Gu'.


Somebody who is good looking is _____.

The word handsome is spelled like the word 'hand' and the word 'some'. The original meaning of the word was "easy to handle." Somehow, over the past four hundred years, it has evolved to mean good looking.


If something happens right away, it happens _______.

Due to the frequency of the word immediately, it's probably one of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language. Even if you're a spelling master, you'll probably at least have to slow your typing when this word comes up.


Maybe people started to call this day "hump day."

If this word gives you trouble, it might be easier to break it down as wed-nes-day. Just make sure you only call it that when you write it on paper or people might give you some funny looks.


______ is the home of the kangaroo.

There are a lot of country names that are difficult to spell. However, Australia is a common one that gives people trouble. If English isn't your first language, you might as well concede to spellcheck now.


This bird is famous for living in a certain type of clock.

If you were going to sound out this word, kookoo sounds like it could be correct. However, this type of bird is spelled with a hard C instead. However, if you're referring to the hockey team that plays out of the Finish Elite league, KooKoo is the right spelling.


Something related to speech or sound is ______.

The 'Ph' sound in English is a common mistake that a lot of foreign speakers make. It seems redundant to use two letters when you could use one instead, but hey, that's English for you.


"There's no rush to finish this report. You can finish it at your _____."

Even though leisure sounds like it could be spelled leesure, you'll have to remember that it's spelled with an I. The origin of this word is the Latin 'licere.' So on the off-chance you speak Latin, you can use it to remember the spelling.


Somebody with many skills is ______

Versatile is one of the words that are easier to spell when you break it down and spell it slowly to yourself. Vers-a-tile. There's nothing particularly odd about the spelling. Perhaps the confusion comes from often pronouncing the word 'Vers-e-tile."


What is the name of the second month?

When you say this word quickly, it's easy to forget about the second R. However, if you slow down and say it to yourself as you write it as "Feb-ru-ary." it becomes easier to remember. If not, you can always just abbreviate it.


If something isn't bad and isn't good, it's what?

Many other words that end with "re" can also be spelled "er" depending on if they are spelled in a British or American English. For example, words like center or fiber. However, mediocre is spelled the same in both dialects.


This animal is a turtle that can't swim.

It's easy to guess that spelling of the first half of this word "Tort." but that last half sounds like it should be spelled "ise." You'll just have to remember that there's a silent O in the middle.


What is the opposite of obvious?

If you were to spell this word the way that it sounds, you would spell it "suttle." However, there's a silent B to make your life more difficult. Remember that the sound of the B in this word is 'subtle.'


This musical instrument is by far the hardest instrument to spell.

There aren't many words in the English language that start with the letter X, but this is one you probably learned in elementary school. Don't feel bad if you forget how to spell it. When was the last time you actually had to write this word?


If your pants fell down in public, it would be ______.

Can you keep all the consonants straight? It's an embarrassing word to not know how to spell. However, it surely has to be one of the most misspelled words. Just remember that there are two double letters, and you'll be able to spell it in no time.


A ______ is a small rodent that's almost impossible to spell.

Can you remember which letter you have to double in this word? If you're like a lot of people, you'll double the L. Even spelling this word skwerl seems like it could be phonetically correct.


_______ refers to something emotional instead of logical.

The soft C in this word blends together with the following S. Why not just spell it SS? That would be too easy. This word comes from a Latin origin, so if you don't like the way it's spelled, take it up with the Romans.


We all want to be this.

Words that have a double consonant are often difficult to spell. The challenge in this word is trying to remember if it has a double S or double C. The answer? It has two of each. Just remember the pair of double consonants, and you'll be fine.


This animal is native to South America.

It may seem redundant to spell llama with two Ls. However, the extra L probably comes from its Spanish origin. Maybe it also helps differentiate between the Dalai Lama and a llama named Dollie.


Your dad might grow one of these on his chin.

English is filled with redundant vowels, and this is another example. Even though O by itself can sound like the O in 'Go' so can the diphthong OA. At least whoever made the word didn't use an EI to replace the EE, as in Goatei.


Two words that mean the same thing are ______

Not only is this word hard to spell, but it's also hard to pronounce. It's one of those words that you might want to practice saying a handful of times in the mirror before you have to use it in a presentation.


This cute animal is in the mongoose family.

If meerkats were in the cat family, perhaps they would be spelled "merecat." However, meerkats are a member of the mongoose family so don't forget that they're spelled with a K instead of a hard C.


Attempting to achieve a goal is called an ______ (American Spelling).

All four of these potential answers seem like they could be correct. Endeavour is correct in British spelling. However, like in a lot of words, the U is dropped from the final syllable in American spelling.


Something done delicately is done with ______.

Can you remember the number of times N and S appear in this word? The ending of this word is the same as the beginning of another word that gives people trouble, "essential." Maybe learning one can help you remember the other.


It's easy to get lost in one of these.

The easiest way to spell the word labyrinth is simply by referring to it as a maze. However, if you do want to write out the entire word, you'll have to remember that it contains a Y in the middle.


This word means to hold the attention of somebody. How do you spell it?

The word mesmerize sounds like it could have two letter Zs. However, the trick is to remember that the first Z sound is an S. The word mesmerize used to be synonymous with hypnotize.


"It's time for you to ______ your duty!"

It's hard to remember how many times the letter L appears in this word. It might be intuitive to write 'Fullfill', but the extra L would be redundant. However, if you do put in an extra L, how many people would actually notice?


Many people enjoy _____ on a sandwich.

If you can't remember how many letter N's are in this word, the easy workaround is to call it mayo instead. If you want to write out the full word, break down the syllables to 'May-on-naise'.


You might go to this place on your next tropical vacation.

It's almost impossible to remember if this word has a double R or a double B. There's two ways to pronounce this word. You can pronounce it like car-i-bbe-an, or if you prefer, ca-rib-be-an.


This words is synonymous with "happened."

Again, the trouble in this word comes from the double letters. Just remember that both middle consonants are doubled and you shouldn't have any problems spelling this word.


Which of the following is an animal that lives in Africa?

Luckily you're unlikely to write this word very often in your day to day life, and it's not difficult to pronounce. If it were a dinosaur, maybe it would be spelled 'Rhinosaurus.' Maybe it's easier to just write rhino.


What do you call music without instruments?

The word a cappella, like many music terms, comes from Italian. Cappella means chapel in Italian, which gives us a pretty good clue about the origins of this word. Modern a cappella music is any music purely composed of vocals.


World War I _____ World War II.

The prefix "pre" means to come before something else. Even the word prefix includes "pre" to mean that it comes before something else. Just remember the first three letters and the rest should be easy to spell.


Junot Diaz's best selling novel is called "The Brief _____ Life of Oscar Wao"

The definition of wondrous is inspiring wonder. You might guess that the word would be spelled wonderous, but this is a common misspelling and mispronunciation of wondrous.


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