21 common words you may be pronouncing wrong

Definitely don't say number seven in a business meeting.

The building blocks of communication are words, so the way they are pronounced matters. Whether it's to indicate your level of education or talent with language, you want to know how to speak and write correctly.

Here are a number of words you've probably been saying wrong your whole life. Time to sharpen up:

21 common words you may be pronouncing wrong
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21 common words you may be pronouncing wrong

1. Mischievous

You thought this one has four syllables when it really only has three. It's not "mis-CHEEV-ee-us"--it's just "mis-CHIV-us."

2. Mauve

While most people say "mawve," the correct pronunciation is actually "moave"--as in, rhymes with "grove."

3. Espresso

There is no 'x' in espresso. Period. Be particularly careful not to say "expresso" if you do any business with Europeans.

4. Kilometer

What you thought was "kill-OM-it-er" is actually "kill-o-MEET-er." You pronounce "meter" like this: "MEET-er." The same goes for kilometer.

5. Prerogative

If you're anything like me, this one will blow your mind. It's not "PER-aw-gah-tiv," as so aptly captured by Britney Spears. It's "PRE-rog-ah-tiv," like precognition.

6. Supposably

While supposably is technically a word, it doesn't mean what you think it does. In fact, Dictionary.com has devoted an entire blog to the distinction. The fact is, most people who use "supposably" really mean "supposedly," and it should be pronounced as such.

7. Nuclear

Despite George W. Bush's efforts to normalize the pronunciation "noo-CUL-ur," the correct pronunciation is and will forever remain "noo-KLEE-ur."

8. Asterisk

This one you really want to get right, because it can, in fact, make you look ignorant if you get it wrong. There's no 'x' at the end--it's true to its 'k.' Thus the correct pronunciation is "ASS-ter-ISK" -- not "ASS-ter-IX."

9. Larvae

Chances are, your science teacher got it wrong, but your Latin teacher would have gotten it right, since that's where it comes from. It's not "LAR-vay." It's "LAR-vee" (rhymes with Humvee).

10. Triathlon

Most of us add a syllable that isn't there, pronouncing it "tri-AH-tha-LON." It's actually just "tri-ATH-lon."

11. Jewelry

This time we tend to cut out a syllable that's actually there. It should be "JEW-ell-ree," not "JEWL-ree."

12. Zoology

The correct pronunciation here is going to sound crazy, but it's true: It's not "zoo-OLL-oh-gee." It's just "ZOO-loh-gee" (rhymes with "eulogy").

13. Often

In English, there are copious words where a letter is silent. This is one. It's supposed to be "OFF-en." The 't' is completely silent.

14. Sherbet

You've probably been adding a nonexistent 'r' here since you were able to swallow sherbet. It's not "shur-BURT." It's "SHUR-bet." When said correctly, it rhymes with "curb it."

21. GIF

Let's just settle this debate once and for all: The actual inventor of the gif says it's pronounced "jif." Don't believe it? Watch him make the determination himself (skip ahead to 0:53 if you're short on time).

16. Celtic

It turns out we've all been calling the Boston Celtics by the wrong name. Incorrect: "SELL-tick." Correct: "KELL-tick."

17. Chicanery

The word itself means "trickery" or "deception," and its pronunciation is obligingly tricky. You thought it was "shi-CAN-nuh-REE." It's actually "shi-KAY-nuh-ree."

18. Bruschetta

That delightful Italian dish of grilled bread with garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes actually takes a hard 'r.' This is because in Italian, 'SCH' only comes before e or i, and is always pronounced like the English 'SK.' Thus it's not "broo-SHET-ah," it's "broo-SKET-ah."

15. Niche

While commonly mispronounced "NITCH," this word comes from the French word nicher, which means to nest. Accordingly, the correct pronunciation is "NEESH."

20. Liable

When you say "liability," you probably include all the right syllables. The same goes for the adjective form of it: it's pronounced "li-AH-bull," not "LIE-bull."

19. Forte

The technically correct way to say this sounds so wrong that it may not be worth doing. The word, which refers to one's strong point, is actually pronounced "FORT," not the commonly used "for-TAY."


It is, of course, your prerogative to mispronounce any word you choose. Just don't get mischievous and hold me liable.


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