20 Words Even Smart People Mispronounce

If you pronounce these words differently, don’t worry—many people do. But here’s how they were originally meant to be pronounced 50, 100, or 200 years ago—and, according to the dictionary, still should be.

How to pronounce TRANSIENT

01-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comIt has two syllables not three, so it’s “transhent,” not “tran-zee-ent.” (Mind blown? Ours too.) The most complicated word in the English language is a lot shorter than you would expect.

How to pronounce STATUS

02-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comIt should be “stay-tus.” These are company names you've been mispronouncing this whole time.

How to pronounce PRELUDE

03-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.com“Pray-lood” is incorrect; the proper pronunciation is “prel-yood.” More words that can get complicated? Food names. Here are ones that you're probably pronouncing wrong.

Content continues below ad

How to pronounce VALET

04-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comDownton Abbey got it right. It’s not a French word, so pronouncing the last syllable as “ay” is incorrect. It should be sounded as “val-it.” (Another fake French word: foyer, which is pronounced “foy-ur,” not “foy-ay.”)

How to pronounce FORTE

05-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comIf you’re discussing someone’s “forte,” as in a strength, the “e” is silent. “Fortay” is correct only if you’re using it as a musical term.

How to pronounce ERR

06-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comRhymes with “hair?” No, it rhymes with “her.”

Content continues below ad

How to pronounce GALA

07-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comShould be: “gay-luh.”

How to pronounce APPLICABLE

08-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comThe first syllable is the one that should be emphasized, as in app-lic-able, rather than app-lic-able.

How to pronounce SPHERICAL

09-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comIt's “sferr-i-kal,” not “sfeer-i-kal.”

Content continues below ad

How to pronounce DECREASE

10-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comIf you’re using it as a noun, it’s de-crease. If you’re using it as a verb, it’s de-crease.

How to pronounce CARAMEL

11-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.com“Kah-ruh-mull” is the original way and still the preferred way, although “kar-mull,” which was once a Midwestern regional pronunciation, is also acceptable.

How to pronounce MAUVE

12-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comIt once rhymed with “stove,” but now the “au” is sounded as “aw.”

Content continues below ad

How to pronounce REGIME

13-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comThe first syllable is sounded as “ray.”

How to pronounce JOUST

14-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comIn the 13th century, it was pronounced (and spelled) like the word “just.”

How to pronounce EITHER

15-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.com“Eee-thur” or “aye-thur”? “Eee-thur” is the preferred way. (And so is “nee-thur.”)

Content continues below ad

How to pronounce QUASI

16-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comToday it’s often pronounced “kwah-zee,” but it’s more correct to say “kway–zi.”

How to pronounce LONG-LIVED

17-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comToday we say the “lived” as “livd,” but until the 20th century, it was pronounced “lyved.”

Comptroller

18-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comShe doesn’t troll computers; she controls finances, which is why this management title is technically pronounced “con-tro-ller.” (These are uncommon English words we don't use but really should be.)

Content continues below ad

Gyro

19-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comIt may have the same root word as gyroscope, but this spinning Greek meat deserves a proper Greek pronunciation: “yee-roh.” (These surprising words were added to the dictionary this year.)

Victuals

20-Words-Even-Smart-People-MispronounceNicole Fornabaio/Rd.comThis dated term for food rhymes with whittles, not rituals.

Get more fascinating and fun facts!

Looking for more amazing facts and good laughs? Check out the latest Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader® titles at bathroomreader.com.

Content continues below ad

View as Slideshow

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.