Do You Know These Words That Aren't Spelled Like They Sound?

By: Becky
Image: izusek/ E+/gettyimages

About This Quiz

Are you one of those people who cringe every time you see a misspelled word on the internet? Or are you a person who sincerely wishes that we could forget the fancy spelling already and just spell words the way they sound? If either one of these describes you, then you probably know enough about words to be able to identify at least some of the words in this quiz. Be careful, though: They're not all what they seem to be. Let's get started to find out if you know words as well as you think you do.

In our ideal world, each and every word would be spelled the way it sounds. But, you have to remember that most of the words we use were borrowed from other languages. After all, English was not the first language in the world. Many of the words we use today have their roots in ancient Greek or ancient Latin words, so there are some explanations for why some words are spelled in ways that seem pretty weird to most of us. But, like many of the other rules of language, even the basics of spelling aren't always reliable. If they were, the words dough and cough would be pronounced in a similar way. Since they are not, we've all resigned ourselves to just learning them the hard way.

Are you ready to prove how well you know words?

Which of the following words means "an officer in the armed forces"?

A colonel is an officer in the armed forces. The word "cernel" isn't actually a word. Did we fool you?

Which word describes a drink that is made in France?

Champagne is a type of white wine that is made in Champagne, France. Anything made anywhere else is not actually Champagne, but many people refer to any fizzy white wine as champagne.

Which word describes a pointy weapon?

A sword is a pointed, metal weapon. Do you know anyone who pronounces the word with the "w"? Annoying, right?

What does the clerk give you when you pay for your groceries?

Where did the "p" come from? There was no "p" in the original word, but in the 1500s, the upper class liked to spell words with a Latin flair, so they added the "p." Thanks, huh?

Which word describes a land mass surrounded by water?

An island is a land mass surrounded by water. A great way to remember that the word "island" includes the letter "s" is the think "is it land?"

Which word describes thick mucus?

Phlegm means thick mucus in the respiratory passages. Sorry, for the mental image. Moving on ...

Which word is a day in the middle of the week?

Wednesday is a day in the middle of the week. Sometimes it's easier to remember how to spell this tricky day by actually pronouncing the "nes" part of the word in your head.

Which word is a city in Arizona?

Tucson is a city in Arizona. The word "Tucson" is from a Spanish word that means "at the bottom of the black hill."

Which word is related to air or gas?

The word pneumatic relates to air or gas. However, this word stems from an ancient Greek word that had more to do with spirits than today's mechanical engineering.

Which word describes a small fly?

A gnat is a small fly. Did you know that scientists cannot agree on what, exactly, constitutes a gnat? Some say that gnats are biting flies and others say that only the non-biting flies qualify as gnats.

Which of the following is a dinner utensil?

A knife is a dinner utensil. You can remember that there is a "k" in the word by silently pronouncing the word ... "k-nife"... in your head. Don't say it out loud, though. People will think you're weird.

Which word means "mixed"?

Yup, there is actually a "c" in miscellaneous. But, seriously, there is so much more confusing about the way this word is spelled than the silent "c." We recommend that you practice this one.

Which word describes a sausage?

Bologna is a type of sausage. If you're old enough to remember the Oscar Mayer commercial, then you probably know that they "have a way with b o l o g n a."

Which of the following is the word for a military organization?

This is one of those words that is better remembered with the "p." Say it silently to yourself, though.

Which of the following is a musical instrument?

Xylophone is a musical instrument. We're not sure which part of this word is worse ... the "xylo" or the "phone." Neither part is spelled like it sounds.

Which word is something you do to dough?

Bakers knead bread dough before baking it. Interestingly, the "k" was once actually pronounced in these words.

Which of the following do you do with a pen?

You write with a pen ... or a pencil ... we're not picky. Up until the early 1500s, the "w" was actually part of the pronunciation of words that begin with "w."

What word would you use if you were in danger?

Most of us probably learned to spell the word jeopardy from the famous game show. The word actually has its roots in the French word "jeu parti."

Which word is the second month of the year?

Most of us don't actually pronounce the first "r" in February, but there are people who do. That "r" got added to the word to make it look more like the Latin variation of the word.

Which of the following is a medical condition?

Asthma is a medical condition. We'd really like to go back in time to have a word with the person whose idea it was to add the "th," though, because the word was originally spelled "asma."

Which of the following is a vegetable?

Zucchini is a vegetable. This is actually the original Italian spelling of the word, and we borrowed it from the Italians, so we guess the spelling of this one makes sense.

Which word describes a friendly troll?

Nome is actually a word, but not the one we're looking for. Gnome is a friendly troll. This word hails from a Greek word that means judgment.

Which word is a tasty treat?

Sherbet is a frozen, fruit-flavored dessert. Although most of us pronounce the word with the second "r," there is actually only one "r" in sherbet.

Which of the following might you eat for breakfast?

Unlike the words "queen" and "quietly," the word "quiche" is pronounced with a hard "k" sound instead of a "kw" sound. We'll forgive you if you pronounce it wrong, though.

Which of the following is a fish?

The "l" in salmon is silent, but we all know someone who pronounces it. The Latin version of the word had an "l," so that's where the odd spelling comes from.

What does a sovereign do?

Did you catch what we did there? Both the words "sovereign" and "reign" are those weird combinations of "gn" words. The "g" is silent in both words.

What word describes dry weather?

A drought is dry weather. The "gh" letter combo can be confusing. Sometimes this combination is silent, and sometimes it's pronounced as an "f." You just gotta learn the difference.

Which of the following is the word for a house payment?

Yup, we're looking for the word with the silent "t." Interestingly, this word stems from a variation of the French word "mort," which means "dead."

What is a group of singers called?

A choir is a group of singers. But, if the word chair and chug are pronounced with a "ch" sound, why is the word "choir" pronounced with a "qu" sound? We're so confused!

Which word describes a mix of dried spices or flowers?

Potpourri is a word for a mix of dried spices or flowers. The "t" is silent. This is a French word, and in French, many "t"s are silent.

What is the word for the study of the mind?

We can blame the Greeks for this one. The Greek word "psycho" means "mind," and the Greek suffix "logy" means "the study of."

What is the word for written instructions?

Recipe is a word for written instructions. This word actually stems from a Latin word for "receive."

Which word means you owe money?

If you are in debt, it means you owe something. We get the word from the Latin word "debitus."

What's the word for a big boat?

A yacht is a big boat. The word "yacht" comes from the Dutch word "jacht." Thank goodness we don't still spell it with a "j"!

What is another word for ketchup?

Catsup has the same meaning as ketchup. In case you aren't familiar with either spelling, these are both words for the yummy tomato sauce we put on french fries. The word "ketchup" better reflects how most of s pronounce the word, but the spelling "catsup" is still widely used.

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