Top 20 hardest words to spell in the English language

Top 20 hardest words to spell in the English language

In honour of the #KZNLastKidStanding spelling bee, we've all decided to brush up on our spelling - and you can too!

Wednesday hard spelling
Nicole Fornabaio/

According to a worldwide survey published on, English is the most common language spoken worldwide in the year 2021 (natively or as a second language). It was still only a few million more than Mandarin Chinese, with Hindi and Spanish coming in third and fourth, respectively.

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While English might be the most popular speaking language, we can all agree that sometimes the rules and regulations that are involved can be confusing and can make spelling even harder!

Have you ever started spelling a word, started to doubt that you've spelled it correctly, but the more you write the word the stranger it becomes until you have no idea how to spell it anymore? Just us?

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Since today marks the official first round of #KZNLastKidStanding (and these kids are absolutely smashing it), we thought it might be time for all of us to brush up on our spelling!

Here are the 20 hardest words to spell in the English language:

20. Nauseous

This one is tricky because of the "sh" sound that might insinuate that, like "conscious", there might be a "c" in there next to that "s".

Not only can the spelling part get confusing but apparently people have been using the word incorrectly as well! 

Did you know? Where you would usually say "I am nauseous" you actually need to be saying "I am nauseated" instead. According to Readers Digest, the word nauseous needs to be used when something is making you feel sick (causing nausea) like a terrible smell.


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19. Dilate

This one seems easy but it keeps getting onto these lists because of pronunciation. For some reason, people tend to pronounce the word as "dialate", which actually does not exist!

18. Indict

Another wild one with a completely different pronunciation from its spelling. Way back in 1620, when this legal term was coined, it was spelled "indite", but soon they swapped it out and decided to spell the word based on its Latin variation "dicere".

17. Liquefy

16. Wednesday


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15. Sherbet

14. Bologna

13. Playwright

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12. Fuchsia

11. Minuscule

10. Ingenious


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9. Sacrilegious

8. Accommodate

7. Orangutan

Reader's Digest explains that the name 'Orangutan' comes from the Malay pidgin language where "orang" means "man" and "Bhutan" means "forest".

The reason why this one tends to confuse individuals: people ALWAYS want to add a non-existent "g" at the end of the word.


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6. Mischievous

5. Gubernatorial

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4. Acquiesce

3. Conscientious

2. Paraphernalia

But what could the most difficult, hardest, most confusing word in the English language be?!


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1.  Onomatopoeia

The meaning of onomatopoeia, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is: "the act of creating or using words that include sounds that are similar to the noises the words refer to."

The main reason why everyone has a hard time with this word is simply because there are just too many letters! 

Why are there two extra letters when you try to say "-pia"? And everyone feels that the "t" should be replaced with an "n" and this will make it roll off the tongue easier.

Funnily enough, the word was even used in an episode of 'Hey Arnold!' where the kids took part in a spelling bee and Arnold had to spell "onomatopoeia"!


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There you have it - the world's toughest English words!

Bookmark, save, and share this article for future use and never be caught unawares again.

And if you know a fourth-grader who would have no problem spelling any of these, make sure they enter the #KZNLastKidStanding spelling bee. You can find the entry form right here.

For more of the best Darren, Keri, and Sky moments, listen here:

Main image courtesy of Nicole Fornabaio/

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