It’s true that reading improves your vocabulary, but whether it’s a graphic novel or a weighty textbook, it likely doesn’t include a pronunciation guide. Book lovers come across words they’ve never heard spoken before and often create a pronunciation in their head.

Sometimes you’ll luck out, and the word will make sense phonetically. But sometimes you won’t even recognize the word when you finally hear it in conversation. Have you come across any of these words in your reading?


“Any prowling maniac would have had more than his work cut out if he had accosted Anathema Device. She was a witch, after all.” — “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Anathema is a noun that means someone or something that is hated. If you watched the new TV version of “Good Omens,” you’ll know how to pronounce the witch Anathema’s name. But if you’re a fan of the book, it might be tricky. While it’s tempting to say “a-na-THEEM-uh,” it’s actually pronounced “uh-NA-the-muh.”


“No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors.” — “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paolo Freire

The use of this word is likely limited to the classroom, but that’s no reason not to learn how to pronounce it. You might be tempted to emphasize the “GOG” but the correct pronunciation is “PED-uh-goh-jee” with a soft “G” at the end. Still not convinced on this word? Just use “teaching” instead.


“He believed in himself, believed in his quixotic ambition, letting the failures of the previous day disappear as each new day dawned.” — “The Kings and Queens of Roam” by Daniel Wallace

This eponym is thanks to “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The eternally optimistic and impulsive Don Quixote pronounces his Spanish name as “kee-HOH-tay,” but the English word is pronounced “quick-SOT-ik.”


“I know a discontented gentleman

Whose humble means match not his haughty spirit.”

— “The Life and Death of King Richard III” by William Shakespeare

Haughty may not be a long word, but half of the letters are silent. It’s also a word you don’t hear much in modern conversation. There are other words people choose in its place — arrogant, condescending, self-important — with easier pronunciations. But if you want to be Shakespearean, give “HOT-ee” a try.

Hors d’oeuvres

“You won’t believe how many different incorrect ways she spelled hors d’oeuvres within the span of a single paragraph.” — “Illuminate” by Aimee Agresti

Hors d’oeuvres is perhaps one of the most confusingly spelled and pronounced words for English speakers. You might not even recognize it if you’re just reading it, but you’ll likely hear it at a happy hour or wedding reception. Repeat after us: “awr-DURV.”

Photo credit: Fahrul Azmi/ Unsplash