Top 91 List of Tricky Words to Learn and Use Correctly

Here is our top list of tricky words you can add to your writing. Read our guide.

Did you know that you can confuse some words with others even when you are a natural English speaker? Everyone has a set of words they find tricky to use in written or verbal communication. To boost your English vocabulary, you can learn and practice these tricky words in your writing or speaking.

What Are Tricky Words?

List of tricky words
Requiem is an example of tricky word that can confuse students in their writing

Many of the trickiest English words arise from confusion in young readers. These words confuse early students because of their sounds, spelling, and unique grammar rules. It’s essential to recognize them and avoid getting duped by these tricky words when you need to use them in sentences.


Commonly Misspelled Tricky Words

These tricky words often get misspelled because of their pronunciation or similarities with other words. Remember these words and how we use them when you’re writing to avoid grammatical errors.

1. Accommodation

The group thanked the organization for its hospitality and generous accommodation.

2. Complement

I wanted to give you a literary piece that is an excellent complement to your art.

3. Compliment

With one sentence, she can compliment and insult you simultaneously.

Looking for more? Check out our list of the longest words without vowels for writers.

4. Desert

It is the only desert place that makes delicious syrupy desserts.

5. Embarrassed

Emma was embarrassed to find out she’d taken the wrong bus.

6. Liquefy

Homer learned how to liquefy certain solids in school.

7. Nauseous

The princess felt nauseous after she drank the glass of wine.

8. Preferred

The study showed that women preferred less masculine-looking men for long-term mates.

9. Pronunciation

The kids laughed at the teacher’s pronunciation of Yñigo’s name.

10. Receive

The soldier patiently waited for the officer to receive his message.

11. Vicious

Darwin ducked, and the vicious tiger slashed at the tree instead, releasing viscous sap.

12. Threshold

She glared at me from the threshold of her room, arms crossed and foot tapping. Check out our list of high frequency words.

Phase 2-5 Tricky Phonics Words for Kids

These words confuse young children because they don’t sound the same way they’re spelled. Teach the following words to your kids so they can write and use the words without confusion.

13. All

She told those teenage girls that all her shoes were pink and sparkly.

14. Are

Between you and me, these actors are too dramatic.

15. Be

The twins wanted to be banana characters for Halloween.

16. Come

He was sure his dog wanted to come to school with him.

17. Could

Could you tell me what you saw?

18. Do

Do you know where I can find the principal?

19. Into

Trains can run on tracks, go into tunnels, and stop at different stations.

20. People

Why do you like to eat rice at all meals while some people don’t?

21. Some

Some of these apples have gone bad, so we can’t use them for the pie.

22. What

I asked the teacher what she was going to have for lunch tomorrow.

23. When

Do you believe Jan Mark when I tell you he will fly a plane one day?

24. You

You told me that I couldn’t bring my cats to school. You might find our list of introductory words helpful.

Tricky Words with Silent Letters

One thing that makes some words tricky is the presence of extra letters you don’t need to pronounce. As a writer, you should practice writing the words below so you never miss those silent letters.

25. Ascent

The curious whale almost disrupted the submarine’s quick ascent.

26. Bomb

The banker threw the bag out, knowing a bomb was in it.

27. Bridge

Don’t overcrowd the bridge unless you want it to fall.

28. Cologne

Many of the ladies disliked his cologne, but he kept wearing it anyway.

29. Cupboard

Can you reach into the cupboard and grab a snack?

30. Fasten

The paragliding crew will fasten your belts and double-check for you before takeoff.

31. Guess

Knowing Regina, she’ll never guess what happened between Danny and Mera.

32. Guitar

Expert musicians can replace their strings and tune a guitar in only a few minutes.

33. Hymn

The school founders hired unknown but talented lyricists to create the hymn.

34. Knife

The natives dipped a serrated knife into the hole to see how thick the ice was.

35. Psychology

Psychology is his passion, but it also became the reason for his family’s destruction.

36. School

School employees need to mind their language and actions at work.

37. Talk

Taylor Swift’s newest album is the talk of the town.

38. Vehicle

How did a heavy vehicle make it past that flimsy bridge?

Tricky Words for Non-English Speakers

Non-native English speakers may have trouble pronouncing and spelling the following tricky words. Write and read them aloud to improve your spoken and written English. 

39. Anemone

Kids can learn more about marine sea life, like the different anemone types.

40. Choir

Agnes dreamed about a choir of angels wearing black robes.

41. Colonel

The colonel told me about his state secrets, making him a spy.

42. Gyro

Say the word hero with a silent H when you pronounce the word “gyro.”

43. Isthmus

The Isthmus of Panama is an underrated tourist spot.  

44. Mischievous

Back in my day, poltergeists were only considered mischievous spirits.

45. Otorhinolaryngologist

The shorter way of saying otorhinolaryngologist is ENT.

46. Penguin

Two-thirds of penguin species are threatened, making them one of the most endangered seabirds.

47. Rural

Visiting quiet rural places like this makes me happier than living in busy cities.

48. Sixth

The sixth man from the left is my grandfather, and sitting on his lap is my brother.

49. Squirrel

A squirrel‘s teeth never stop growing, so it must gnaw constantly.

Tricky Words for High School Students

Being in high school is fun and exciting as it opens one’s mind to more complex words and language use. High school-level writers who want to improve their vocabulary should consider using these words often. 

50. Antipathy

Your antipathy to capitalism is palpable in your writing.

51. Audacious

Drew’s audacious screaming caused alarm in the quiet hostel.

52. Cathartic

Gerry told me that his experience with martial arts was cathartic.

53. Conscientious

Conscientious people are more likely to be organized, self-disciplined, and detail-oriented.

54. Demarche

The peaceful activists wanted their political party to deliver a diplomatic demarche.

55. Deprecate

My brother and father deprecate needlessly talkative people.

56. Gaiety

The village revealed in the gaiety often associated with festivities like this.

57. Genial

Many parade goers enjoyed the superstars’ genial waving from their floats.

58. Indefeasible

We will not accept your indefeasible comments.

59. Intrinsic

Young leaders like Lily have an intrinsic sense of belonging and responsibility.

60. Magnate

Everybody saw how his bodyguards protected the magnate during the incident.

61. Prodigious

This young lad gave us a clue about where we’ll find prodigious riches in precious stones.

62. Requiem

Ludwig wrote this story as a requiem for his late lover, Feliciano.

63. Shrewd

Romano’s shrewd and straightforward nature often kept people away from him.

64. Tantamount

The court decided that Sorcha’s actions were tantamount to an admission of guilt.

65. Troubadour

Francis is great at writing musical poetry, thanks to his specialties in troubadour arts. 

Tricky Words for College Students

There will never be a shortage of new English words to know. So, even in university, you will still encounter some tricky ones. Many college students regularly misspell the following words. Master these to avoid unwanted mistakes in your college writing. 

66. Accomplish

The team wanted to accomplish a lot of things within a short time.

67. Ingenious

Warren’s ingenious systems made it possible for us to create this machine.

68. Minuscule

Your minuscule servings made people think you were cheap.

69. Mortgage

Paying the mortgage is Veronica’s top priority.

70. Silhouette

I saw a dark silhouette waving from the bathroom mirror beyond the open door.

71. Soliloquy

Did the actor’s soliloquy make you empathize with him?

72. Temperament

Johnny’s temperament is something few people have.

73. Ubiquitous

Modern technology holds a ubiquitous privacy risk.

74. Vacuum

In short, scientists figured out that space was a vacuum by climbing mountains.

75. Wednesday

We saw them holding hands at the park last Wednesday.

Tricky English Words Spelled Differently in the US

British English and American English are very alike. However, the few differences they have often confuse writers. Below are American English words that some people mistake for British English.

76. Analog 

My dad loves to collect analog recording devices because it reminds him of my grandfather.

77. Analyze

My professor wanted me to analyze this essay critically and carefully.

78. Apologize

Jordan will not apologize for sharing his opinions; I think that’s okay.

79. Catalog

Anthony wanted to give you a heads-up about our unruly catalog.

80. Center

Shera created a circular geometric shape with a sunflower-inspired center design.

81. Color

A Doberman and a miniature pinscher can share the same color.

82. Dialog

The author wrote a dialog that wasn’t worth filming.

83. Estrogen

Her estrogen levels were unusually low, causing her health issues.

  84. Flavor

Sheena wouldn’t enjoy Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte flavor if not for the approval it earned her.

85. Humor

Ironically, Sophie found gallows humor funnier now that she has a terminal illness.

86. Labor

Kids in my town are practical and would gladly offer a few hours of labor for cash.

87. Leukemia

More men get diagnosed with leukemia than women.

88. License

Janzen forgot to grab his driver’s license from home, so he can’t drive this time.

89. Neighbor

Irma’s neighbor would always wake up at dusk to feed her farm animals.

90. Pretense

Gulliver and Tanya kept up the pretense that they weren’t cheating on their partners with each other.

91. Traveler

The traveler gave Jessie a strange memento of their shared mountain-climbing experience. Read more to know how to change American English to British English.

  • Maria Caballero is a freelance writer who has been writing since high school. She believes that to be a writer doesn't only refer to excellent syntax and semantics but also knowing how to weave words together to communicate to any reader effectively.