Most Often Misspelled English Words

Miss Spelling, alphaDictionaryMiss Spelling and her friend, Lex the Wordy Bird, now have a place for you to come with all your spelling problems. Here are the words most often misspelled (misspell is one of them) by people speaking and writing English. Beside each word is a 'memory pill', a short sentence to help you remember how to spell it. Once you have finished studying this list you will be ready for Miss Spelling's Spelling Bee to see how much you have improved!

Spelling Memory Pill
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!A
a while It may take a while to learn that this is a two-word phrase (like "a lot").
acceptable The suffix pronounced [-êbl] presents problems because it is sometimes spelled -ible, sometimes -able. Just remember to accept any table offered to you and you will spell this particular word OK.
accidentally It is no accident that the test for adverbs on -ly is an underlying adjective on -al ("accidental" in this case). If so, the -al has to be in the spelling. No publical? Then spell it publicly.
accommodate This word is large enough to accommodate both a double C and a double M.
accordion Always play the last 3 letters of this word with an O, not an A.
acquire Try to acquire the rule that this word and the next began with the prefix ad- but the D becomes C before Q.
acquit See the previous discussion.
a lot You shouldn't have to allot a lot of time figuring out that this is a two-word phrase..
amateur Amateurs need not be mature: this word ends on the French suffix -eur (the equivalent of English -er).
apparent A parent must pay the rent. Remember this and you'll spell this word correctly.
argument Silent Es can't argue so suffixes like -ment often do without them.
atheist Lord help you remember that this word comprises the prefix a- "not" + the "god" (also in theology) + -ist "one who believes."
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!B
believe You must believe that I usually comes before E except after C or when it is pronounced like "a" as neighbor and weigh. Also take a look at foreign below. (The "i-before-e" rule has more exceptions than words it applies to.)
bellwether Often misspelled bellweather. A wether is a kind of ram (male sheep), chosen to lead the herd by ringing his bell.
broccoli President Bush didn't like it but he spelled it right: 2 Cs, 1 L.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!C
calendar Remember: an E stands between two As in calendar. The last vowel is A.
camouflage You can't camouflage the U in this word. Don't be misled by the abbreviation, camo.
cantaloupe Here is another spelling that can throw you for a loop: we call them 'lopes but we spell them cantaloupes.
Caribbean Breaking this word down into CA (California) + rib + bean might help you remember how to spell it. Anyway, one R, two Bs.
category It isn't a catastrophe to spell category with two As, but it is pretty bad.
cemetery Don't let this one bury you: there is nary an -ary in it. It starts with a C and ends on -ery.
changeable The verb change keeps its E before this suffix because the [g] is soft, not hard.
collectible This is another [êbl] word spelled -ible.
colonel Colonels form the kernel of he Army. They sound the same but you must spell them differently.
column You find silent Es everywhere in English but silent Ns occur, too, especially after Ms.
committed If you are committed to correct spelling, you may already know that words ending on consonants with the accent just before the consonant, generally double that consonant before the suffixes -ed and -ing.
conscience Don't let misspelling this word weigh on your conscience: [ch] spelled SC is unusual but legitimate.
conscientious Work on your spelling conscientiously and remember this word with the [ch] spelled two different ways: SC and TI. English spelling!
conscious Try to be conscious of the SC spelling of the [ch] sound in this word. If you get all the vowels in the ending correct, i-o-u a note of congratulations.
consensus Consensus doesn't take a census, so we spell them differently.
coolly Some people think it cool to omit one of the Ls in this word. Well, it isn't.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!D
daiquiri Don't make yourself another daiquiri until you learn how to spell the funny name of this Cuban village.
definite(ly) This word definitely sounds as though it ends only on -it, but it carries a silent E everywhere it goes.
deterrence Don't let the spelling of this word be a deterrence to using it: one T, two Rs, and -ence, not -ance.
discipline A little discipline, spelled with the S and the C will get you to the correct spelling of this one.
drunkenness You would be surprised how many sober people omit one of the Ns in this one.
dumbbell Even smart people forget one of the Bs in this one. (So be careful who you call one when you write.)
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!E
embarrass(ment) This one won't embarrass you if you remember it is large enough for a double R AND a double S.
equipment This word is misspelled equiptment about 343,000 times on the web right now.
exhilarate Remembering that H when you spell this word will lift your spirits and if you remember both As, it will be exhilarating!
exceed Remember that this one is -ceed, not -cede. (To exceed all expectations, master the spellings of this word, precede and supersede below.)
existence No word like this one spelled with an A is in existence. This word is a menage a quatre of one I with three Es.
experience Don't experience the same problem many have with existence above in this word: -ence!
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!F
fiery The silent E on "fire" is so cowardly that it retreats inside the word rather than face the suffix -y.
foreign Here is one of several words that violate the i-before-e rule. (See "believe" above.)
fulfill You may fill things full but you don't need so many Ls to fulfill a promise.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!G
gauge You must learn to gauge the positioning of the A and U in this word. Remember, they are in alphabetical order (though not the E).
grateful You should be grateful to know that keeping great out of grateful is great.
guarantee I guarantee you that this word is not spelled like warranty even though they are synonyms.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!H
handkerchief Just remember that these things are kerchiefs for the hand and you won't forget the silent D. And, as always, I before E, of course.
harass This word is too small for two double letters but don't let it harass you, just keep the Rs down to one.
height English reaches the height (not heighth!) of absurdity when it spells "height" and "width" so differently. But that is its prerogative.
hierarchy The i-before-e rule works here, so what is the problem?
humorous Humor us and spell this word "humorous": the R is so weak, it needs an O on both sides to hold it up.
hypocrisy Even though it is an immense insult, this word has nothing to do with hippos, so preserve the two Ys.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!I
ignorance Don't show your ignorance by spelling this word -ence!
imitate Be sure you don't imitate the spelling of immediate in writing this word.
immediate The immediate thing to remember is that this word has a prefix, in- "not" which becomes M before M (or B or P). "Not mediate" means direct which is why immediately means "directly."
incredible It isn't so incredible to believe that this -able word is spelled with an I.
independent Please be independent but not in your spelling of this word. It ends on -ent, not -ant.
indispensable Knowing that this word ends on -able is indispensable to good writing.
inoculate This one sounds like a delayed knock in. One N the eye is enough.
intelligence Using two Ls in this word and ending it on -ence rather than -ance are marks of . . . you guessed it.
its/it's The apostrophe marks a contraction of "it is." Something that belongs to it is its.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!J
jewelry Sure, sure, it is made by a jeweler but the last E in this case flees the scene like a jewel thief. However, if you prefer British spelling, remember to double the L: jeweller and jewellery. (See also pronunciation.)
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!K
kernel There is more than a kernel of truth in the claim that all the vowels in this word are Es. So why is the military rank (colonel) pronounced identically? English spelling can be chaotic.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!L
leisure Yet another violator of the i-before-e rule. You can be sure of the spelling of the last syllable but not of the pronunciation.
liaison Another French word throwing us an orthographical curve: a spare I, just in case. That's an S, too, that sounds so much like a Z.
library It may be as enjoyable as a berry patch but that isn't the way it is spelled. That first R should be pronounced, too.
license Where does English get the license to use both its letters for the one sound S in this word?
lightning Learning how to omit the E in this word should lighten the load of English orthography a little bit.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!M
maintenance The main tenants of this word are main and tenance even though it comes from the verb "maintain." English orthography at its most spiteful.
maneuver The price you pay for borrowing from French is high. This one goes back to French main + oeuvre "hand-work," a spelling better retained in the British spelling, "manoeuvre."
marshmallow However mellow a marshmallow might be, it is spelled with an A.
medieval The medieval orthography of English even lays traps for you: everything about the MIDdle Ages is MEDieval or, as the British would write it, mediaeval.
memento Why would something to remind of you of a moment be spelled memento? Well, it is.
millennium Here is another big word, large enough to hold two double consonants, double L and double N.
miniature Since that A is seldom pronounced, it is seldom included in the spelling. This one is a miniature; remember that.
minuscule Since something minuscule is smaller than a miniature, shouldn't they be spelled similarly? Less than cool, or minus cule.
mischievous This mischievous word holds two traps: I before E and O before U. Four of the five vowels in English reside here.
misogyny The gyn in this word is the same as the one in gynecology; it means "woman".
missile A missal (letter) is always more welcome than a missile (rocket). Misspelling either is welcomed nowhere.
misspell What is more embarrassing than to misspell the name of the problem? Just remember that it is mis + spell and that will spell you the worry about spelling "spell."
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!N
nauseous Don't you just feel like throwing up when you see this word misspelled?
neighbor No wonder many speaking Black English say hood for neighborhood—it avoids the i-before-e rule and the silent GH. If you use British spelling, it will cost you another U: neighbour.
necessary It is necessary to remember that this word has one C and two Ss.
no one Like a lot and a while, this is a phrase, not a single word.
noticeable The E is noticeably retained in this word to indicate the C is "soft," pronounced like S. Without the E, it would be pronounced "hard," like [k], as in applicable.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!O
occasion Two Cs, one S on every occasion.
occasionally Writers occasionally tire of doubling so many consonants and omit one, usually one of the Ls. Don't you ever do it.
occurrence Remember not only the occurrence of double consonants in this word, but that the suffix is -ence, not -ance. No reason; English likes to be ornery.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!P
pastime Since a pastime is something you do to pass the time, you would expect a double S here. Well, there is only one. The second S was slipped through the cracks in English orthography long ago.
perseverance All it takes is perseverance and you, too, can be a (near-)perfect speller. The suffix is -ance for no reason at all.
personnel The persons working in an organization is its personnel, spelled with two Ns and one L.
pigeon Either the actor Walter Pidgin or the mangled pidgin English confuses people on this one. This bird flies without a D.
playwright Those who play right are right-players, not playwrights. Well, since dramatists write plays, they should be "play-writes," wright right? Rong Wrong. Remember that a play writer in Old English was called a "play worker" and wright an old form of work (see also wrought iron)
plenitude There are plenty of reasons why this word should have a T after the N but it doesn't.
possession Possession possesses more Ss than a snake.
precede What follows, succeeds, so what goes before should, what? No, no, no, you are using logic. Nothing confuses English spelling more than common sense. "Succeed" but "precede." (Wait until you see "supersede.")
principal/principle The spelling principle to remember here is that the school principal is a prince and a pal (no matter what you think)—and the same applies to anything of foremost importance, such as the principal principle of a bunch of principles. A principle is a rule.
privilege According to the pronunciation (not "pronounciation!) of this word, that middle vowel could be anything. Remember: two Is + two Es in that order.
pronunciation Nouns often differ from the verbs they are derived from. This is one of those. In this case, the pronunciation is different, too, an important clue.
publicly Let me publicly declare the rule (again): if the adverb comes from an adjective ending on -al, you include that ending in the adverb; if not, as here, you don't.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!Q
queue It is difficult to remember to use twice as many UEs as are necessary to spell this word. It refers to a standing-in line and comes from the Old French word for "tail".
questionnaire The French making English difficult again. Double up on the Ns in this word and don't forget the silent E. Maybe someday we will spell it the English way.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!R
raspberry Remember how raspy the raspberry bush is and you will be less likely to forget the P in this word.
receive/receipt I hope you have received the message by now: I before E except after . . . .
recommend I would recommend you think of this word as the equivalent of commending all over again: re+commend. That would be recommendable.
referred Final consonants are often doubled before suffixes (remit: remitted, remitting). However, this rule applies only to accented syllables ending on L and R, e.g. rebelled, referred but traveled, buffered and not containing a diphthong, e.g. prevailed, coiled.
reference Refer to the last mentioned word and also remember to add -ence to the end for the noun.
relevant The relevant factor here is that the word is not revelant, revelent, or even relevent. L before V and the suffix -ant.
restaurant 'Ey, you! Remember, these two words when you spell restaurant. They are in the middle of it.
rhyme Actually, rime was the correct spelling until 1650. After that, egg-heads began spelling it like rhythm. Why? No rhyme nor reason other than to make it look like rhythm.
rhythm This one was borrowed from Greek (and conveniently never returned) so it is spelled the way we spell words borrowed from Greek and conveniently never returned.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!S
sandal Candle and handle, but sandal and vandal—you just have to remember.
schedule If perfecting your spelling is on your schedule, remember the SK is spelled as in "school." (If you are British or Canadian, you pronounce this word [shedyul] but school, [skul].)
scissors English has a 'silent' version of every letter. In this word we have a silent C.
seize Again, seize the opportunity to remember that the I-before-E rule betrays us.
separate How do you separate the Es from the As in this word? Simple: the Es surround the As.
sergeant The A needed in both syllables of this word has been pushed to the back of the line. Remember that, and the fact that E is used in both syllables, and you can write your sergeant without fear of misspelling his rank.
supersede This word supersedes all others in perversity. As if we don't have enough to worry about, keeping words on -ceed and -cede (succeed, precede, etc.) straight in our minds, this one has to be different from all the rest. The good news is: this is the only English word based on this stem spelled -sede.
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!T
their/they're/there They're all pronounced the same but spelled differently. Possessive is their and the contraction of "they are" is they're. Everywhere else, it is just there.
threshold This one can push you over the threshold. It looks like a compound thresh + hold but it isn't. Two Hs are enough.
tomorrow How do you remember which consonant is doubled? Don't wait until tomorrow to get the single M and double R in this word straight.
turmeric Although some spice cans omit the first R, you won't find a dictionary that does. (Check ours.)
twelfth Even if you omit the F in your pronunciation of this word (which you shouldn't do), it is retained in the spelling.
tyranny If you are still resisting the tyranny of English orthography at this point, you must face the problem of [y] inside this word, where it shouldn't be. The guy is a tyrant and his problem is tyranny. (Don't forget to double up on the Ns, too.)
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!U
until I will never stop harping on this until this word is spelled with an extra L for the last time!
Squawk! Watch my vocabulary!V
vacuum If your head is not a vacuum, remember that the silent E on this one married the U and joined him inside the word where they are living happily ever since. Well, the evidence is suggestive but not conclusive. Anyway, spell this word with two Us and not like volume.
Squawk! Watch your vocabulary grow!WXYZ
weather Whether you like the weather or not, you have to write the A after the E when you spell it.
weird It is weird having to see the I-before-E Rule broken so many times but here it is again. I before E except after...? (Well, it isn't W!)
The Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English
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