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50+ Hard words to pronounce (practice with audio)

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The English language has a lot of hard words to pronounce! These are words that even native English speakers wonder how to pronounce correctly. Let’s practice pronouncing them with audio – listen and repeat after me.

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ARCHIVE pronunciation

  • The AR in archive sounds like the AR in “car.” This is the stressed syllable.
  • The “ch” has a “k” sound.
  • The IVE sounds like in “five.”

BUFFET pronunciation

  • The BUF rhymes with “fluff”
  • The FET syllable sounds like “fay” (rhymes with “say”) – the T in buffet is silent. This is the stressed syllable

Learn how to pronounce BUFFET

VASE pronunciation

  • There are two ways to pronounce “vase”!
  • One has a long A sound and an S sound, rhyming with “case.”
  • The other has an “AH” sound and a Z sound

CHAMOMILE pronunciation

  • The CH sounds like K, and the A is short – so CHAM rhymes with “ram.” This is the stressed syllable.
  • The “o” is a very short schwa sound.
  • The MILE has a long E sound, like MEEL (rhymes with “feel”)

COLONEL pronunciation

  • Colonel is pronounced completely differently from how it looks! It’s more like KER-nel
  • The first syllable is the stressed one – KER rhyming with “were”
  • The second, unstressed syllable is NEL with a short shwa sound

Learn more: Why is colonel pronounced like kernel?

Speak English like an American! Improve your accent inside my American English Pronunciation Course – so you can speak more clearly, correctly, and confidently.
American English Pronunciation Course

LETTUCE pronunciation

  • LET is the stressed syllable, rhyming with “get”
  • TUCE sounds like “tiss,” rhyming with “miss”

TORTOISE pronunciation

  • TOR is the stressed syllable, rhyming with “more.”
  • TOISE sounds like “tiss,” rhyming with “miss”

How to pronounce TORTOISE

POEM pronunciation

  • PO is the stressed syllable, rhyming with “no”
  • EM rhymes with “him”

Listen to a really difficult English pronunciation poem!

CHAMELEON pronunciation

  • The CH sounds like K, so the first syllable (unstressed) sounds like “kuh” as in “come”
  • MEL is the stressed syllable, and it sounds exactly like “meal”
  • EON sounds like “yun”

WEDNESDAY pronunciation

  • WEDNES is the stressed syllable, and it sounds more like “wens” (rhyming with “men’s”)
  • DAY is the unstressed syllable

OFTEN pronunciation

  • OF is the stressed syllable, and it sounds exactly like “off”
  • TEN sounds like “tin” or “in” – many native English speakers pronounce “often” with a silent “T”

GAUGE pronunciation

  • GAUGE is one syllable, and it has a long A sound, rhyming with “rage” and “cage”

BOUQUET pronunciation

  • BOU sounds like “boo” rhyming with “shoe”
  • QUET sounds like “kay” rhyming with “day” – this is the stressed syllable. Bouquet has a silent T.

How to pronounce BOUQUET

DEBT pronunciation

  • DEBT is one syllable and it has a silent B, so it sounds like “det” rhyming with “pet”

DENGUE pronunciation

  • DENGUE is one syllable and it sounds like “deng” with a short “e” (as in “send”)

MOCHA pronunciation

  • MO is the stressed syllable, with a long O sound, so it rhymes with NO
  • The CH sounds like K, so the second syllable sounds like “kuh” similar to the word “come”

ANEMONE pronunciation

  • The A is a short schwa sound
  • NEM is the stressed syllable, rhyming with “hem”
  • The O is a short schwa sound
  • NE sounds exactly like “knee”

SUBTLE pronunciation

  • Subtle has a silent B
  • The first syllable is stressed, sounding like “SUH” (short U sound, as in “suck”)
  • The second syllable sounds like “tul” or even “tl” (like the end of “battle”)

SQUIRREL pronunciation

  • SQUIR is the stressed syllable, sounding like “skwir” (same vowel sound as in “were”). This is often a very difficult combination of letters for English learners!
  • REL sounds like “rul”

How to pronounce SQUIRREL

PHLEGM pronunciation

  • PHLEGM is one syllable and sounds like FLEM (rhymes with “hem”).
  • The PH sounds like “F” and the G is silent.

EPITOME pronunciation

  • The first E is a short schwa sound
  • PIT is the stressed syllable, it rhymes with “hit”
  • The O is a short schwa sound
  • ME sounds exactly like the word “me.”
  • “Epitome” is one of the very few words in English where the final “e” is not silent.

RECEIPT pronunciation

  • RE is the unstressed syllable, and sounds like “ruh” with a short schwa sound
  • CEIPT sounds like “SEET” – exactly like the word “seat.” The P is silent.

How to pronounce RECEIPT

SCYTHE pronunciation

  • SCYTHE is one syllable.
  • The C is silent
  • The Y is a long I sound as in “why”
  • The TH is a soft TH as in “with”

COMFORTABLE pronunciation

  • “Comfortable” is pronounced a little differently from how it’s spelled
  • COMF is the stressed syllable, sounding like the word “come”
  • The middle of this word sounds like “ter” (rhyming with “her”)
  • BLE sounds like “bull” (rhyming with “pull”)

PNEUMONIA pronunciation

  • PNEU sounds something like “nih.” The P is silent and this is an unstressed syllable.
  • MO is the stressed syllable, rhyming with “no”
  • NIA sounds like “nyuh”

XYLOPHONE pronunciation

  • XY is the stressed syllable, and the X has a Z sound – so it sounds like ZY (rhymes with “my”)
  • LO sounds like “la” with a short schwa sound
  • PHONE sounds exactly like the word “phone”

HYPERBOLE pronunciation

  • HY sounds like the word “hi”
  • PER is the stressed syllable, rhyming with “her”
  • BO sounds like “buh”
  • LE has a long E sound, like in “see”

SYNONYM pronunciation

  • SYN is the stressed syllable, sounding like “sin” (rhymes with “win”)
  • O is a short schwa sound
  • NYM sounds like “nim” (rhymes with “him”)

SWORD pronunciation

  • Sword is one syllable.
  • The W is silent, so it sounds like “SORD” (rhymes with “lord”)

How to pronounce SWORD

MISCHIEVOUS pronunciation

  • MIS is the stressed syllable, sounding just like the word “miss”
  • CHIEV has a short I sound, as in the word “live”
  • OUS sounds like “us”

AWRY pronunciation

  • The A is a short schwa sound
  • WRY has the long I sound as in “cry.” This is the stressed syllable.

STETHOSCOPE pronunciation

  • STETH is the strong syllable, with a short E sound as in “step”
  • O is a short schwa sound
  • SCOPE rhymes with “nope”
How to pronounce STETHOSCOPE
Stethoscope

BROOCH pronunciation

  • BROOCH is one syllable, and it has a long O sound, rhyming with “coach”

BUOY pronunciation

  • BU is the stressed syllable, with a long U sound, as in “boo” (rhyming with “too”)
  • OY sounds like “ee”

PLAID pronunciation

  • PLAID is one syllable and has a short A sound, as in “flat” or “bad”

How to pronounce PLAID

SIEVE pronunciation

  • SIEVE is one syllable and has a short I sound, as in “live”

CAULK pronunciation

  • CAULK is one syllable and rhymes with “walk”

HANDKERCHIEF pronunciation

  • HAND is the stressed syllable, but the D is silent – so it sounds like “han” (rhyming with “can”)
  • KER rhymes with “her”
  • CHIEF sounds more like “chiff” (rhyming with “stiff”)

BOUGH pronunciation

  • BOUGH is one syllable and rhymes with “now”

ARUGULA pronunciation

  • The A is a short schwa sound
  • RU is the stressed syllable, with the same “u” sound as in “push”
  • GU has a short schwa sound
  • LA also has a short schwa sound

How to pronounce ARUGULA

Is your mouth tired from pronouncing all these difficult words?

No? Okay, then get ready for…

Even MORE hard words to pronounce!

Let’s keep practicing English pronunciation:

How to pronounce GYRO

  • The original word is pronounced more like YEE-ro, but English speakers commonly pronounce it more like JY-ro (JY rhyming with “I” and RO rhyming with “no”)

How to pronounce CHARCUTERIE

  • CHAR like “shar” (rhyming with “car”)
  • CU like “coo” (rhyming with “too”). This is the stressed syllable.
  • TER with a short schwa sound
  • IE like “ee” as in “see”

How to pronounce CHARCUTERIE

How to pronounce GIF

  • There’s a debate about how to pronounce GIF! Some people pronounce it with a hard G sound (as in “gift”) and others with a soft G sound (as in “gin”)

How to pronounce ENTREPRENEUR

  • EN is pronounced more like “on”
  • TRE sounds something like “chre” as in the beginning of the word “trend”
  • PRE sounds like “pra” with a short schwa sound
  • NEUR is the stressed syllable, sounding something like the beginning of “nurse”

How to pronounce GENRE

  • GEN has the “ZH” sound as in “pleasure,” and the vowel sound is something like “on” – so this syllable sounds like ZHON. It is the stressed syllable.
  • RE sounds like “ruh” with a short schwa sound

How to pronounce SCHEDULE

  • In American English, the first syllable sounds like “SKEH” (short E sound as in “egg”). This is the stressed syllable.
  • In British English, the first syllable sounds like “SHEH” (short E sound as in “egg”). This is the stressed syllable.
  • DULE sounds like “jul” with a short schwa sound

How to pronounce CROISSANT

  • In American English, CROI can be pronounced to rhyme with “boy” or more like CRUH
  • SSANT is the stressed syllable. It has the same AH sound as in “want”

How to pronounce CROISSANT

How to pronounce THOUGHT

  • THOUGHT is one syllable.
  • The TH is a “soft” TH sound as in “thanks”
  • The OUGH has the same “AW” vowel sound as in “saw”

How to pronounce THROUGH

  • THROUGH is one syllable.
  • The TH is a “soft” TH sound as in “thanks”
  • The OUGH has the same “OO” vowel sound as in “room”

How to pronounce NICHE

  • This word is one syllable, but it also has two pronunciations!
  • One has a short I sound as in “nip” and the CH sounds like the CH in “which”
  • The other has a long E sound as in “neat” and the CH sounds like the SH in “leash”

How to pronounce AESTHETIC

  • The AE simply has a short schwa sound
  • STHET is the stressed syllable and it sounds like STET (rhymes with “wet”)
  • IC has a short I sound, as in “pick”

Additional resources for practicing hard words to pronounce:

American English Pronunciation Course

Improve your English pronunciation fast with the lessons in my American English Pronunciation Course! You’ll practice every consonant and vowel sound in the English language by listening and repeating after me. There are also lessons on linking your words together for more natural and fluent speaking. At the end of the course, you can get a pronunciation evaluation from an Espresso English teacher.

American English Pronunciation Course