How to Actually Pronounce ‘Worcestershire,’ ‘Açaí,’ and Other Commonly Mispronounced Words


The 10 words below are commonly mispronounced in English. The first five are the top results from Google’s auto-fill for the phrase “How do I pronounce…” The rest are words that people often don’t know they’re messing up, so would be unlikely to search up on the web.

I’m no prescriptivist—words are yours to do with as you will, so pronounce ‘em however you like. “Correct” pronunciations are just what we call the way words are usually spoken according to the general consensus of English speakers. But there’s no governing body—if enough people pronounce a word “wrong” it stops being wrong, so keep saying “fried skrimp” or “Anartica” like I do.

Gyro

I’m starting with a tricky one. “Gyro” is either a shortened form of “gyroscope” or the name of a Greek lamb sandwich.

In the unlikely event that you’re talking about gyroscopes enough to need to shorten the word, it’s pronounced “jeye-roh.” The greek sandwich, according to Websters, is called a “yee-roh” or a “zhir-roh.” It’s rhymes with “hero.”

Interestingly, the Greek word for “to turn” is the root of the word for both the sandwich and the machine, but the terms came into the language at different times, so we don’t say them the say way.

Açaí

The berries from the Açaí palm tree that grows in South America have become popular enough that you may be called upon to say their name at brunch. If so, it’s pronounced aa-saa-ee. It doesn’t seem to make sense based on the spelling, but those accents over the “c” and the “I” tell the story: The word’s root is from Portuguese, and the accent over the “c” means “soft s sound,” and the mark over the “i” means “long e.”

Nguyen

“Nguyen” is a common last name in Vietnam, and Vietnamese is a little tricky for English speakers. We aren’t used to starting words with an “ng” sound. To add complexity: “Nguyen” is pronounced differently in different parts of Vietnam. In south Vietnam, it’s pronounced close to “win” or “wen.” In the north, they’re more likely to say something like “nuh-win,” but as close to one syllable as possible.

Gif

It’s pronounced “Jif” like the peanut butter, according to Steve Wilhite, the creator of the Graphics Interchange Format. Or it’s pronounced with the hard “g” sound because that makes more sense to you. There is no right answer.

Worcestershire

Worcestershire is a county in England where they invented a delicious condiment in the 1830s. It’s pronounced wu-stuh-shr. It’s not pronounced “Wor-chest-tir-shire.”

Phở

This Vietnamese noodle soup is pronounced “fuuh,” according to Websters, but “foe” seems to be catching on fast, at least if you’re an English speaker. Neither is exactly how Vietnamese people pronounce it, because “phở” contains a sound English doesn’t include.

Library

It’s not “lie-berry” or “lie-bear-y” It’s “llai-breh-ree.” But if you say it quickly without careful enunciation, it will sound like “lie-bree” anyway. It’s just an awkward word because of that middle syllable.

Often

That “t” in “often” should not be there. It’s not in the word when you say it, because it’s pronounced “aa-fn.” See also: “castle,” “mortgage,” “listen,” “soften,” and a slew of other words with silent t’s.

Niche

“Niche” can be pronounced “neesh” (rhymes with “sheesh”) or it can be pronounced “nich” (rhymes with “pitch.”), “Neesh” is a newer pronunciation. “nich” is the classic. But both are fine.

Arctic

It’s annoying, but “they” say you’re supposed to pronounce the hard “c”: So it’s “aark-tuhk,” not “ar-tuhk.” The same rule applies to “Antarctic,” which also has an inconvenient “t” sound you’re supposed to pronounce too.

This wasn’t always the case. The word used to be spelled “artic” and pronounced “ar-tik” but it was changed in the 17th century to match the Latin spelling. It’s all a mess.

Cache

This is an easy one! A “cache” is a group of hidden things. It’s pronounced “kash.” Some people say “kaysh,” probably because of the ending “e.” Some people say “kash-ay,” but. if you do that, you’re using the word “cachet,” which means “prestige.”

Forte

“Forte” (a person’s strong suit) has no agreed-upon pronunciation. You can say “fort.” Or you can say “for-tay,” or “for-tay.” No matter how you say it, someone will think you’re wrong.

But if you’re using “forte” to talk about the musical notation for “play loudly,” it’s always “for-tay

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