The hardest-to-spell words in the English language
Bondieuserie. Bewusstseinslage. Ayacahuite.
Most of us wouldn’t even know how to pronounce those words, let alone spell them.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a week away and it is sure to be filled with a plethora of problematic words.
An international team of linguists from the language-learning app Babbel partnered with Merriam-Webster to analyze a decade’s worth of words and find out what knocked out Bee contestants in the final round.
The analysis of nearly 400 words found that classical languages were the basis of most of the misspelled words. Study up on scientific, medical, and legal terms, which trace their origins back to Greek and Latin roots.
“English has always borrowed words from other languages, and once they are found in our dictionaries they are considered to be English words,” said the editor at large of Merriam-Webster, Peter Sokolowski, in a news release.
According to the linguists, nature and natural science accounted for 38% of misspelled words, followed by words related to medicine, arts, politics, and law.
From modern languages, words derived from French knocked out the most final-rounders. From living languages, it was German and Italian that lead to the loss.
“Every year we are inspired by watching these kids grapple with the toughest words in the Bee and we hope this list gives them an extra boost of confidence,” said Babbel CEO Julie Hansen in a statement.
To help set up aspiring spellers for success, here’s a list of the most challenging words to spell, complete with phonetic pronunciations and definitions.
Bondieuserie [bohn-dyooz-ree]: banal and often shoddy religious art
Bourree [boo-ray]: a ballet combination that consists of small crossing steps
Clafouti [cla-foo-tee]: a dessert consisting of a layer of fruit (such as cherries) topped with batter and baked
Gaillardia [guy-ar-dee-a]: any plant or flower of a genus of western American herbs having hairy foliage and long stalked flower heads with showy rays
Paillasson [pie-ya-sone]: coarsely woven natural or synthetic straw used for hats
Pissaladière [pee-sa-la-dyair]: an open-faced pastry topped with olives, onions and anchovies
Reseau [ray-zoh]: a group of meteorological stations under common direction or cooperating in some common purpose
Sarrusophone [sah-roos-o-fon]: a metal wind instrument with a double reed and a tube of wide conical bore played like the bassoon
Zenaida [zen-eye-da]: any bird of a genus of tropical American pigeons that has one species reaching the West Indies and formerly the Florida coast and one occurring in the southwestern United States
Bewusstseinslage [beh-VUST-zines-laggeh]: a state of consciousness or a feeling devoid of sensory components
Drahthaar [DRAHT-har]: a dog of a German breed of wire-haired pointers
Hallenkirche [HALL-en-keer-sheh]: a Gothic church especially in Germany in which in place of the clerestory the aisles are extended to nearly the height of the nave
Schefflera [SCHEF-luh-ra]: any of several shrubby tropical plants that are cultivated for their showy digitately compound foliage
Schwärmerei [schvair-muh-RYE]: excessive unbridled enthusiasm or attachment
Schwyzer [SCHVEE-tsah]: a breed of large hardy brown dairy cattle originating in Switzerland
Vitrophyre [vee-tro-FUHR]: rock having distinct crystals (as of feldspar, quartz or augite) in a relatively fine-grained glassy base
Best of the rest:
Aalii (Hawaiian) [ah-LEE-ee]: an ornamental shrub or small tree of tropical to subtropical regions that has narrow, glossy leaves coated with a sticky substance when young and a fruit that is a winged, papery capsule
Ayacahuite (Spanish) [ah-jah-kah-WEE-tay]: a large Mexican pine tree with long needles and extremely large yellowish red cones
Bakshaish (Iranian) [BOCK-shy-eesh]]: a semi-antique or antique Persian carpet with usually angular designs
Cipollino (Italian) [chip-oh-LEE-no]: a light-colored Roman marble containing layers of micaceous minerals and abundant silicates
Coaming (English) [COH-ming]: the raised frame around a hatchway, skylight, or other opening in the deck of a ship to prevent water from running below
Háček (Czech) [HAH-check]: a wedge-shaped diacritic placed over a letter to modify it : an inverted circumflex — called also wedge or caron
Lassi (Hindi) [LAH-see]: a flavored iced yogurt drink that may be either sweet or salted
Minhag (Hebrew) [min-HAHG]: Jewish religious custom
Tyee (Chinook) [TAHY-ee]: a king or chinook salmon especially when of large size
Yunnanese (Mandarin) [YOO-nan-ease]: of or relating to the province of Yunnan, China, or its inhabitants
This year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee begins Thursday, May 30 at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2 and concludes on Thursday, May 30 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.