Do you know any odd English pronunciations?

English is a dynamic language, and as time goes by, it continuously changes and grows. Learning English can be a little tricky, especially when it comes to proper pronunciation. First, there are words that sound essentially the same, but are spelled differently (e.g. two, to, too). Then, there are words spelled differently from how they’re actually pronounced.

To help you out in your English learning, here are 10 odd English pronunciations you’re sure to come across.


odd english pronunciations colonel rank military
A colonel is a senior military officer rank.

This first odd English pronunciation is quite notorious for being spelled differently from how it’s supposed to be pronounced. Non-native English speakers will often mispronounce this as ‘ko-lo-nel’ but the correct pronunciation is ‘ker-nel’.

My great-grandfather was a colonel in the U.S. Army when he was younger.


Here is another word that non-native speakers find difficult to pronounce. Poignant pertains to anything that evokes a feeling of sadness. The correct pronunciation is ‘poi-nyant’.

The photographs on the wall served as a poignant reminder of the past.


Error in the pronunciation of this word usually occurs because of the silent letter ‘p’. Most non-native speakers often mistake the letter ‘t’ for being silent. The correct pronunciation is ‘re-seet’.

I asked the cashier to provide me a copy of the receipt of the transaction.


This odd English pronunciation is another word that is spelled differently from how it’s supposed to be pronounced. An aisle is a passageway between rows of seats (as in a church or a bus), or shelves (as in a library or a supermarket). The correct pronunciation is ‘īl’ (sounds like ‘I’ll’).

It was a beautiful moment to watch when the bride walked down the aisle.


odd english pronunciations baker-bakery-baking-9095
A baker kneading dough.

Ah, the silent letters. This can be a bit confusing for non-native speakers. A lot of English words that begin with the letters ‘kn’ have a silent ‘k’ (e.g. know, knight, knock). Here’s a little bit of trivia; most words that begin with ‘kn’ were Germanic in origin. Although the ‘k’ sound wasn’t really silent to begin with, it just disappeared as time went by. The correct pronunciation is ‘need’.

An important aspect of baking is how to perfectly knead the dough.


Another letter that is often pronounced silently is the letter ‘g’. Non-native speakers will often twist their tongues and strain their throats, trying to pronounce these words. Just like the words beginning in ‘kn’, words that begin with ‘gn’ (e.g. gnat, gnaw, gnome) will always have a silent ‘g’. The correct pronunciation is ‘narld’.

These gnarled hands are proof of all the hard work I did.


The letter ‘b’ is another letter often pronounced silently. A debt is something you owe someone. The correct pronunciation is ‘det’.

Samuel vowed to pay all of his father’s debt.


Technically, this isn’t an odd English word. The ‘l’ here is silent, as it is with almond, psalm, and calm. The correct pronunciation is ‘sa-mon’.

Salmon live in freshwater first, before eventually moving to the sea.


Aside from the silent letters, most odd English pronunciations actually come from borrowed words. As stated earlier, English is dynamic. It keeps on growing and changing. English borrows heavily from Latin and Greek, but there are also a lot of French words. Bourgeois pertains to the middle class or anything that is connected with it. Non-native speakers will often mispronounce this as ‘bur-gois’, but the correct pronunciation is ‘boor-zhwa’.

She was a member of a bourgeois family.

Hors d’oeuvres

odd english pronunciations appetizers
Hors d’oeuvres

Again, this technically isn’t an odd English pronunciation. Rather, it is French in origin. Hors-d’oeuvres refers to the appetizers served before a meal. Usually mispronounced as ‘hors-duv’, the correct pronunciation is ‘or-derv’.

I was more excited for the hors-d’oeuvres.

Indeed, the language can be confusing, but once you’re familiar with how it works, you’re sure to master pronouncing even the oddest of words.

These are just 10 of many other odd English pronunciations, if you know of others, please feel free to share it with us in the comments.

Read: Elements of Poetry a Poet Must Know