General Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

What are some words that are difficult to spell, but occur regularly?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10191points) September 1st, 2011

I have one curiosity. Seems obvious, but on a spelling bee I think I could get it wrong. What are some other tricky ones?

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61 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Definitely is at the top of my list.

Allie's avatar

Necessarily is the one I always have trouble with. I can never remember if it has the double C or the double S.

gailcalled's avatar

@Allie; Sound it out. Ne sis sar ily.

Mariah's avatar

I definitely agree with the two above me. I wrote “definately” for an embarrassingly long time. Come to think of it, embarrassing might be one for some people, too, if they can’t remember that both the r and s are doubled.

I’d also like to add “fascinating” – I used to get the s and c mixed up a lot, and “accidentally” – maybe it’s just me, but I used to spell that one “accidently.”

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Cemetery. I always want to make it cemetary, even though I know better.

Allie's avatar

@gailcalled Yeah, isn’t that usually the first thing everyone does? The C and the S sound the same.
Edit: Oh god, now I’m going to want to spell it with no C and an extra S. Gah!

Ltryptophan's avatar

All the above answers are certainly tricky words, but I must request even further trickiness. For instance, curiosity, alters its main component word and loses the “u”.

Any others similar? Not necessarily losing a letter, just tricky switches or such anomalies…

gailcalled's avatar

Four. Forty.

Mariah's avatar

Curiosity used to trip me up for that exact reason.

I don’t know if anyone else has a problem with this, but breath/breathe/breathing has been known to give me pause. Sure it’s normal to drop the e when adding ing, but it kind of makes it seem like “breathing” should be pronounced “breath-ing” rather than “breathe-ing.”

LostInParadise's avatar

proceed, procedure

gailcalled's avatar

There is also rhythm and rhyme

And blond and blonde.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@LostInParadise sacrilegious, nice. blue ribbon so far, imo

gailcalled's avatar

Proceed, precede, succeed, recede, unseed, cede, and seed.

And I have to include it’s,when the writer clearly means its, as the all-time winner on Fluther.

ucme's avatar

Diarrhea, although it must be noted that only occurs regularly when one’s diet is lacking in fibre.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@gailcalled Is that a misspelling or a typo? It seems to me for something to be a misspelling it can’t be another word. If that were the case, then maybe banana is a mispelling for bonanza. I don’t know!? You tell me…

Either way I am certainly guilty! Even in a question I just asked!

zenvelo's avatar

I mess up accommodate a lot. It’s the double double. And withhold and threshold behave differently in how the h at the juncture of the combination is applied.

gailcalled's avatar

A subtle distinction, I guess. If you type the wrong word, then it’s not a typo but a spelling error.

OTOH, it’s is an abbreviation for “it is.”

Either way, I do wonder, on a regular basis, why it’s so difficult to differentiate the two. Its has its own special place in the language pantheon of mangle-wurtzels.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Actually, I would think the all-time winner on Fluther would be confusing to and too, and the ever-irritating there, their and they’re…

Mariah's avatar

Occur -> occurring trips me up too; I forget that you add another r when you add ing. Are there other words that do such a thing or is “occurring” the exception to the rule?

rebbel's avatar

Lose and loose

Jellie's avatar

license, embarrass, beige,

Lightlyseared's avatar

Diarrhea, or diarrhoea…

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Stationery vs. stationary.



Effect vs. affect.

Kardamom's avatar

Here’s a couple that I always seem to type incorrectly: privilege which I seem to write as privelege and consciously which usually comes out in a whole host of creative spellings. Another one is facetiously which just came out as facectiously, until I fixed it. And rhythm which I often write as ryhthym. And another annoying one is conscientiously which I usually spell as conscioentiously.

And the worst one of all (for me especially, because I love him so much) is Charles Shaughnessy (aka Maxwell Sheffield), which I have kept writing as Schaughnessy or Shaugnessy. But that’s only because I’m, ahem, tongue tied ; – P

DominicX's avatar

I used to have a problem with “occurrence”. I knew it had two c’s, but I would often only put one r. I think I have since mastered that one, though.

Many of these difficult to spell words are based on Latin and spending so much time with Latin has made many of these words easier to spell when I think of the Latin words they’re based on and the straightforward Latin pronunciation.

Like, with “accommodate”, I know that the Latin word “commodus” (suitable) is in there, so that takes care of the two m’s (in Latin, two m’s means a longer pronunciation of the /m/ sound), additionally, the prefix is the Latin word “ad” meaning “to”, and when it combines with “c” (and many other consonants), the “d” is dropped, and the “c” is doubled.

GladysMensch's avatar

Awkward. I remember creating a little song to remember the spelling…
aaa-doubleyou-aaaa-doubleyou-aaaaredeeee Awkwaaaard

rebbel's avatar

@GladysMensch “aaa-doubleyou-aaaa-doubleyou-aaaaredeeee…”
That would spell Awaward :-)

bobbinhood's avatar

I always have trouble with “Tuesday”. I can never remember if the u or the e comes first, and I want to add another e after the s.

linguaphile's avatar

The cat screeching his claws on the chalkboard sound effect comes on in my head when I see people saying “Your such a cool person.” I see that from time to time on Fluther and it takes all my self-control not to flag it. I’m a quite laid back person when it comes to spelling errors, but your/you’re and there/their/they’re should’ve been mastered bee-fooore 3rd grade.

As for myself, I have to pay attention to how I spell manufacture. For some reason I still spell manfacture. I also misspell occurrences and embarrass if I’m not paying attention.

I also have to think when using lie/lay/lied/lays/laid.

Mariah's avatar

@linguaphile And don’t forget lain which one almost never sees used.

bobbinhood's avatar

@linguaphile I completely agree about the misuse of “your.” All of the contraction errors are terrible, but for some reason, that one gets to me way more than the others.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

There are:

Cristal vs. crystal
C’est la vie
clitoris Which is often misspelled as cliterous

augustlan's avatar

I used to have trouble with ‘tomorrow’ (two ‘m’s or two ‘r’s? both?), but I mastered it. I still have trouble with conscientious and consciously from time to time. One I see misspelled a lot is ‘a lot’, without the space (alot). People seem want to throw an errant ‘d’ into both ‘refrigerator’ (refridgerator) and ‘privilege’ (priviledge). << I used to have trouble with ‘privilege’, myself.

Mariah's avatar

@augustlan Oh yeah, refrigerator is confusing because of “fridge”! “Tomorrow” I mastered at a young age by remembering it as tom + or + row. My ex boyfriend continues to spell it “tomarrow” despite being corrected repeatedly and it drives me up the wall.

And bonus points for hyperbole and a half

sarahsugs's avatar

I always have trouble with guard and guarantee (I just had to use spellcheck to figure out the latter!). I want to switch around the a and the u in both, and I always think the latter should be guaruntee. Similar problem with the vowel order in fuel.

Also, it took me the longest time recently to figure out how to spell mischievously, as I have always heard it pronounced “mischieviously.”

Brian1946's avatar

Liberry, nuculer, combustamable, and punktilious always give me trubble. ;-p

However, traveling to Grease and Hungry tot me how to spell their continent, Yerip.

augustlan's avatar

Ooh, let’s not forget ‘Wednesday’ and ‘February’.
@Mariah I finally got ‘tomorrow’ by thinking of it as ‘going to (a place called) morrow’.


I also dislike the word “collectibles”. There’s two spellings for that word——collectibles and collectables. Either is correct, but sometimes I think one or the other is incorrect. When you look at the words for a long time, they kind of start looking weird.

DeanV's avatar

I have trouble with “access” and “address”.

GladysMensch's avatar

@rebbel Never speak ill of the song. The song is solid.
My typing abilities on the other hand…

gailcalled's avatar

Acknowledge and privilege.

Ltryptophan's avatar

Judgment, notice abridgement does not follow suit.

Ltryptophan's avatar

cryptozoology, looks like it needs an added o


@Ltryptophan Yes, I dislike the word “judgment” too. Sometimes the word “neighbour” gives me a little trouble too. I believe judgment can also be spelled “judgement”, and neighbour can also be spelled neighbor.

Canadians, like the British, spell certain words differently from Americans. Examples include “centre” for “center, and “doughnut” for donut.

Brian1946's avatar


“cryptozoology, looks like it needs an added o”

Where would you put the additional o?

Ltryptophan's avatar

after zoo…duh! xD

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Apparently, quite a few people have trouble differentiating between steak and stake.

gailcalled's avatar

And waist and waste, weird and wierd, neice and niece, desperate and desparate , hail and hale, creak and creek, etc.

Cryoptozoology. Investigations into all fauna, both frozen and mysterious.

sarahsugs's avatar

@gailcalled, so is it weird or wierd? I can never remember… The more I look at them, the more w**rd they both seem.

rebbel's avatar

It is weird. Isn’t it :-)
I remembered it by thinking of the movie title Weird Science (ei and ie).

gailcalled's avatar

@rebbel: Of course, you’d get it right. Are you really telling us the truth about being a Dutchman? I am beginning to get very suspicious.

rebbel's avatar

Stop fla-tte-ring-me @gailcalled :-) Go on!
It is just that from all the subjects in school I really only liked English.
Not Economy, Statistics, Computer Science, etc…., not for me.
My classmates came to me for text translations, since I had them in stock, because English was the only homework I did.
My mother still jokes about it…, she tells me that when she yelled upstairs “rebbel…, do you think about your homework?” I answered “yes mum, I’m doing it as we speak…., I am doing English.”
Always English.

augustlan's avatar

Long ago, I used “Weird is a weird word, because it doesn’t follow the ‘i before e’ rule” to remember how to spell that one.

mattbrowne's avatar

Gandhi – which should not be written as Ghandi, a form which occurs in more than 9 million web pages.

LostInParadise's avatar

@rebbel , The way I remember it is to think of the rule, i before e except after c. The rule is not generally useful because there are so many exceptions. Anyway, weird is weird for being one of the exceptions.

Mariah's avatar

Writing it just now, I thought of this question. Profound -> profundity.

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