English is considered one of the hardest languages to learn. One good reason is pronunciation. Just when you think you’ve got your syllables down, an anomaly appears to trip you up. Here are ten notable words that aren’t pronounced how they look.


This quirky word describes a confused fight or skirmish — and don’t be surprised if someone’s confused trying to say it. It looks simple enough: mee-lee, but in actuality, it’s pronounced may-lay.


Talk about a word that looks about as pleasant as the thing it’s describing! We pronounce the word flem, but at first glance, you might think fuh-leg-um.


Whether you’re talking about Sanders, Mustard, or Fury, the military title of Colonel is pronounced similar to kernel instead of cole-oh-nell. Equally confusing is the similar title Lieutenant Colonel, which in some parts of the world is pronounced lef-tenant kernel.


It’s that pesky “dig” followed by a confusing “m” that most readers would stumble over here. Pronounced pair-a-dime, for some reason the English language has thrown in a silent “g”.


You can imagine where the origin of this word came from: Seafaring explorers stumbling upon sand and declaring, “It is land!” While you may think that would translate into is-land today, the “s” is silent, resulting in the somewhat nonsensical pronunciation of eye-land.


Not only is this word puzzling to spell, it’s frequently mispronounced as a result. Meaning “dwelling on the gruesome” or “producing horror,” many people say mack-a-bruh, but the word is simply said mah-kahb.


Tho is an accurate phonetic version of though, while ruff is how you say rough. But tho-ruff is definitely not how this word is said out loud. Instead, it’s thur-row.


Drop the “g” and “e” and this word’s pronunciation makes total sense as nohm. But the silent letters can trip up less savvy speakers to say know-me instead.


On a related note, soft “k” words do exist and most certainly cause confusion for English learners. The trick? Ignore the “k” and say the word on its own — like nife for knife.


Anglicized French causes all kinds of speaking strife. Mortgage is derived from two old French words: mort, meaning dead, and gage, meaning pledge. While to the modern eye it should be said as more-te-gag-e, a hint of the original French pronunciation of more-gedge lives on.