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172 Hard Words to Spell

Hard Words to Spell pg 1

Here's a list of 172 hard words to spell.  Look the words over carefully to see how many you already know how to spell. Ask a friend or family member and compare notes. Are the words that are difficult for you, also difficult for the other person? Just what makes these words so difficult anyway? It depends on the word!

On this page, we'll explore several reasons why spelling words can be challenging, and how you can improve your skills. Here's what you'll find:

172 Hard Words to Spell

abecedarian

aberrant

abhorrence

abscissa

absquatulate

abysmal

accommodate

achievement

acquiesce

acquisitiveness

aficionado

amanuensis

anathema

aneurysm

antediluvian

apartheid

aphaeresis

apocryphal

appropriateness

asterisk

baccalaureate

bicuspid

boutonniere

borborygmus

bouillon

brouhaha

cacophony

calisthenics

callus

candelabra

cannoli

cantankerous

cappuccino

caricature

catachresis

cataclysm

catastrophe

catharsis

celerity

chamomile

chandelier

claustrophobia

clientele

colloquial

connoisseur

conscientious

convivial

delineate

diaphanous

dirigible

eclectic

egregious

ephemeral

equanimity

espionage

euonymus

execrable

extraneous

fallacious

filibuster

flibbertigibbet

gazetteer

garrulous

gourmand

gratuitous

guerdon

hacienda

hegemony

horologium

hypocritical

iconoclast

idiosyncratic

ignominy

implacable

impuissance

inchoate

incontrovertible

indefatigable

inexorable

infallible

inoculate

intransigence

inveigh

iontophoresis

irrepressible

jacquard

jodhpurs

jurisprudence

kanone

knickknack

kuchen

largesse

lederhosen

loathsome

logarithm

logorrhea

maelstrom

masseuse

mayonnaise

millennium

milieu 

milquetoast

mischievous

mulligatawny

myrrh

nadir

nouveau

nugatory

onomatopoeia

ophthalmologist

panache

paraphrasable

pastiche

peccadillo

peripatetic

phenomenon

phlebitis

picnicking

pirouette

poignancy

posthumous

preemptory

psephology

pseudonym

ptyalism

quandary 

querulous

questionnaire

quiescent 

quixotic 

rampageous

rapacious

raucously

rendezvous

restaurateur

resuscitate

rinceau

sacrilegious

spontaneity

streusel

stupefying

stymie

surreptitiously

susceptible

synecdoche

synonymous

tableau

tarantula

terpsichorean

troubadour

turpitude

tutelage

tyrannical

ubiquitous

unconscious

undecipherable

unwarranted

unwieldiness

vaccinate

variegated

vehement

vengeance

veterinarian

vicissitude

vigilante

virtuoso

whippoorwill

withhold

writhe

zephyr

zooxanthella

zucchini

 

Unfamiliar Words

One reason some of these words are so difficult is that they may be unfamiliar to you. Perhaps you don't know how to pronounce them, and/or you don't know what they mean. This table will acquaint you with 40 of the most difficult hard words to spell. A printable version of this table is also available for your convenience. 

Hard Words to Spell pg 1
40 Hard Words to Spell, page 2
40 Hard Words to Spell, page 3

EI/IE Words

EI or IE?

Some words on the list of 172 are difficult because of the tricky vowel combinations of EI and IE. These words include achievement, acquiesce, apartheid, boutonniere, chandelier, and many more. 

Finish going through this list of 172 words, listing EI/IE words on a sheet of paper. Sort them into two columns, one with the EI words, and the other with the IE words. Study each list separately. Learn the words together as a group. If you can remember the correct spelling of a few of the words in the group, that increases your changes of learning the correct spellings of all the words in the same group!  

To learn more of these tricky vowel-combination words, please see my list of 285 difficult spelling words, that also contain EI or IE words. 

Words with Silent Consonants

Silent Letter Word Search

These words from the list contain silent consonants: apartheid, apocryphal, chamomile, inveigh, jodhpurs, zucchini, and many more. Again, make a list on paper of words with silent consonants. Circle the silent letters, and study these words carefully. For a fun exercise, see this Silent Letter Word Search.  Students must add the correct silent letters and then locate the completed words in the puzzle. 

Words with Double Consonants

double arrow

When adding certain word endings, or suffixes, it is necessary to double the final consonant of the base word. At other times, the final consonant is not doubled. Sometimes the final e is dropped from the base word. Other times it isn't. From our list of 172 words, please notice these words:

aberrant, abhorrence, achievement, acquisitiveness, questionnaire, and other words of your choice

Write them under four columns on your paper, labeling them "Double,"  "Don't Double," "Drop the E,"  "Don't Drop the E."  

Label a fifth column for miscellaneous words with simply "Double Consonants." In this final column, you can write mayonnaise, myrrh, whippoorwill, withhold, and others.

Go to this Step-by-Step Lesson for more help in double or not doubling the final consonant in base words when adding suffixes. 

Additional Lists of Hard Spelling Words:

For some really tough spelling words, we have a list of 100 Difficult Spelling Words for Spelling Bee Officials. We've included the pronunciation, definition, part of speech, etymology and a sentence for each word. If you're having a serious competition, this list is for you!

bee surrounded by letters SPELLING

Did you know one of the best motivations for students to boost their spelling skills? It's called a SPELLING BEE! We have a huge set of resources to make your next classroom competition a success!

Spelling Lessons

teacher and upper grade students seated at table

Step-by-Step Lesson - This lesson methodically teaches when to double, and when not to double, the final consonant when adding suffixes. 

Step-By-Step Spelling Lesson Plans - Here's a very methodical way  to teach, or learn, those tricky IE/EI words. Great for ESL students, upper elementary students, or adults. You can use every step of this lesson, or just the ones that you need. This free printable lesson includes a link to big list of IE/EI words for extra study and practice.

FAQs

Q: What makes some words so hard to spell?

A : Words may be unfamiliar, contain silent letters, tricky vowel combinations, or double consonants, among other reasons.

Q: Is it possible to improve my spelling skills?

A: Yes! It helps to regularly study challenging word lists, such as the word lists found at www.spelling-words-well.com, and other reputable education websites. Reading good literature and newspapers also improves vocabulary and spelling ability. Get help with pronunciations. word meanings, and languages of origin from www.dictionary.com or hard copy resources. It helps to learn as much about a word as possible while learning to spell it.  

Other Resources:

As student learn difficult words, make sure they know how to use them correctly. We have lots of fun spelling practice ideas, as well as spelling word games and spelling worksheets.

Be sure to try new ideas and share the ones that work best with other students, parents and teachers.

Author Ann Richmond Fisher

Ann Richmond Fisher is a longtime published educational writer, a former classroom teacher and a former homeschool teacher. Ann's spelling bee resources, graded spelling word lists, spelling games, worksheets, and other language arts resources have become respected around the globe since she launched Spelling-Words-Well in 2010.

Ann is also the creator of www.word-game-world.com.


  1. Spelling Words Well
  2. Difficult Words
  3. Hard Word Words to Spell

   

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