10 Common English Words with Weird Spellings

Posted by Alex Levantis on 16-May-2020 16:17:41

When we start trying to learn General English, we quickly get the feeling that English is one weird language! Not only has it evolved over many, many centuries – but the origins of many English words are based in Latin and Ancient Greek! Then, we have loan words, that are pretty much words used in English, that are actually words taken from other languages, for example, the words arch, arcade, theatre and blue are the same in spelling and meaning, in French as well as English! This, and lots of other things, makes English a rather special language, and one that at first glance, might not make sense!


Our List: Common English Words with Weird Spellings

  1. Through (British English – General English)

Through can be an adjective (the hallway ran through the room) or a preposition (The printer is through the blue door). But, when looking at phonetics, how a word sounds when it is said aloud – ‘through’ might sound more like ‘thruff’ or ‘thrau’! In the US, this word is spelt ‘thru’, which matches its phonetics! 

  1. Queue

The noun and verb ‘Queue’ is spelt strangely. Phonetically we would expect it to be spelt something like ‘Kew’ (which is the name of an area of London – just to make things more confusing!). Looking at it written, how would you say it aloud? Quwayway?

  1. Occurred

Now we’re up against the double consonant (a consonant is any letter that isn’t a vowel). Again, this is to guide pronunciation by placing emphasis on the ‘k’ sound at the first double C, and a rolling ‘r’ in the double R. More confusing, the present-tense form: Occur, only has one set of double consonants! Frustrating!!

  1. Asthma

You could argue that Asthma should be spelt Asma, because that’s far closer to how we say it phonetically. Silent consonants cause the problem here: You write Asthma or Asthmatic – but both the t and the h are silent! Not reflected at all in our speech when talking about this awful condition.

  1. Mortgage

Which letter is silent here? Are we gaging (or even gauging) Morts? No – because this word is pronounced ‘Mawgij’, all thanks to that silent T!

  1. Jeopardy

This word is indeed hazardous to spell because it would pronounce perfectly well as ‘Jepardy’ or even ‘Gepardy’! All it takes is one silent O to get you into real trouble…

  1. Colonel

In English we don’t pronounce this word Col-o-nel – but, in French, where English stole it from – they do! In the UK and USA – it’s pronounced ‘kernel’ (which is a word itself!)

  1. Knead

Knead is a tricky one. The most common usage of Knead is when referring to working with dough. Not only is the K silent, but the word itself is a homophone (meaning that it sounds the same) as need, a word used far more often. Other homophones include See/Sea, Pea/Pee, Knight/Night and Sure/Shore – depending on pronunciation.

  1. Indict

The word indict is a mess! Even though we see ‘dict’ pronounced phonetically in words such as dictionary or Dictaphone – here it’s pronounced ‘dite’ or ‘dight’.

  1. Handkerchief

Handkerchiefs are wonderful fashion accessories and for some, useful when feeling ill. Try saying it a few times out loud and taking note of how the back of your mouth comes together to produce the ‘k’ sound for the second syllable. For a lot of speakers, this results in a slight ‘g’ twang just before that ‘k’ – almost like we were saying Hangkerchief! So, we’re certainly not saying hand-ker-chief! A silent D is to blame. Now just to find the person responsible for that silent D…


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