Hard English Words

There’s one surefire way to sound smart and that’s to rattle off some rare, complicated and hard words to pronounce.  Of course, that only works if you get the pronunciation of hard words correct.  

In this blog, we’ll cover some of the hardest English words to know and pronounce, so you can wow party guests with your beguiling grasp of the English language. 

Top Tip for Hard Words to Pronounce

You can watch the video version of this lesson at the bottom of the page or over on the English Like a Native YouTube Channel where you will see me wrestle these hard to pronounce words into submission.  It’s important to understand the pronunciation and work through repetitions until you have them nailed.  I’ve included the phonetic spellings below to help you with these hard English words. 

1. Captious  /ˈkapʃəs/ –  Tending to find fault or raise petty objections.

His wife was a captious woman.

2. Bibulous  /ˈbɪbjʊləs/    Excessively fond of drinking alcohol.

They certainly were a bibulous bunch.

3. Malapropism  /ˈmaləprɒˌpɪz(ə)m/    The mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with an amusing effect (e.g. ‘dance a flamingo’ instead of flamenco).

You can not deny the amusement that malapropism brings to a language teacher’s life.

4. Tricorn  – Adj (of a hat) having a brim turned up on three sides. //  Noun, A hat with a brim turned up on three sides.

Adj.  With these costumes we should be wearing tricorn hats, especially if we want to look authentic.

Noun. He stood looking at her longingly with his tricorn under his arm. 

5. Tenebrous  /ˈtɛnɪbrəs/ – (Literary) Dark; shadowy or obscure.

His deep tenebrous voice made me feel uneasy.

6. Braggadocio  /ˌbraɡəˈdəʊtʃɪəʊ/ –  Noun. Boastful or arrogant behaviour.

Spend a few moments on YouTube and you will find plenty of examples of braggadocio. 

7. Bruit /bruːt/ –  Verb. Spread (a report or rumour) widely.  //  Noun. A sound, especially an abnormal one, heard through a stethoscope; a murmur.

Verb. It is widely bruited amongst my viewers that I am a big fans of sprouts, which of course is not true.

Noun. If you listen closely doctor you will note that an arterial bruit can be heard over the liver.

8. Embonpoint  /ˌɒmbɒ̃ˈpwã/ – Noun. The plump or fleshy part of a person’s body, in particular a woman’s bosom.

She was loved for many reasons, not least her glorious embonpoint.

9. Pabulum  /ˈpabjʊləm/ – (Mass Noun)  Bland or insipid intellectual matter, entertainment, etc.

Facebook have taken steps to help clear our new feeds of the uninvited pabulum which is, apparently, getting us down.

10. Parlay  /ˈpɑː.li/ –  (verb) to use or develop money, skills, etc. in a way that makes more money or leads to success / to exploit successfully.

He hoped to parlay his dance skills into a college scholarship.

She parlayed her camera skills and a year of hard work into a thriving English youtube channel.

11. Pother /ˈpɒðə/  – (Noun) A commotion or fuss.

My son has a habit of creating a pother among the young ladies wherever he goes.

12. Valetudinarian /ˌvalɪtjuːdɪˈnɛːrɪən/ – (Noun / Adjective) A person who is unduly anxious about their health.

Some say that English people are a nation of valetudinarians.  If I were well enough I would argue that.

13. Cenacle /ˈsɛnək(ə)l/ – (Noun) A group of people such as a discussion group or literary clique.

We rejoice when we are joined by other cenacles from the local area to work towards a common goal.

14. Hypermnesia /ˌhʌɪpəmˈniːzɪə/  – (Noun) An unusually good ability to remember, typically under abnormal conditions such as trauma, hypnosis, or narcosis.

Our concern is whether hypnosis induced hypermnesia has long term effects on the subject.

15. Legerdemain /ˌledʒ.ə.dəˈmeɪn/    (Noun)  Skilful hiding of the truth in order to trick people:

Mediums were made to insert their hands in shoeboxes during seances, to prevent any sly legerdemain.

16. Vibrissae  /vʌɪˈbrɪsiː/ –   (Plural noun) Long stiff hairs growing around the mouth or elsewhere on the face of many mammals, used as organs of touch; whiskers.

They also have large vibrissae, stiff whisker-like hairs above the upper lip and at the corners of the mouth.

17. Cantle /ˈkant(ə)l/ –  (Noun) The raised curved part at the back of a horse’s saddle.

Failure of tack was not uncommon as well, with saddle cantles breaking and harness straps failing.

18. Aestivation /ˌiːstɪˈveɪʃ(ə)n/    (Noun) Prolonged dormancy of an insect, fish, or amphibian during a hot or dry period.

It is very rare to spot a moth during it’s aestivation period.

19. Myrmidon  /ˈməːmɪd(ə)n/ – (Noun) A follower or subordinate of a powerful person, typically one who is unscrupulous or carries out orders unquestioningly.

A tyrannical dictator is nothing without his myrmidons.

20. Regnant /ˈrɛɡnənt/ –  (Adj) Reigning; ruling.

In the UK a queen regnant sits on the throne. 

21. Terpsichorean /ˌtəːpsɪkəˈriːən/ –  (Adj) Relating to dancing.

Anna had hoped that attending Ballet classes would uncover a secret Terpsichorean gift, but unfortunately it did not. 

22. Clerisy /ˈklɛrɪsi/ –  (Noun) Learned or literary people regarded as a social group or class.

The poet liked to consider himself a part of the rising state educated clerisy.

23. Deracinate /dɪˈrasɪneɪt/ –  (Verb) Uproot (someone) from their natural geographical, social, or cultural environment.

You can not deracinate the entire community in order to make way for your building project.

24. Fuliginous /fjuːˈlɪdʒɪnəs/ –  (Adj) Sooty; dusky.

A fuliginous, black smoke filled the air and choked those who breathed it in.

25. Oneiromancy /əˈnʌɪrə(ʊ)ˌmansi/ –  The interpretation of dreams in order to foretell the future.

I completely believe in astrology but I am not sure if I buy into oneiromancy.

26. Tatterdemalion  /ˌtatədɪˈmeɪljən/ –  (Adj) Tattered or dilapidated.

These tatterdemalion rags make up the best part of my wardrobe. 

27. Williwaw /ˈwɪlɪwɔː/ –  (noun) A sudden violent squall blowing offshore from a mountainous coast.

She arrived at the cliff edge, greeted by williwaws and claps of thunder.

28.  Funambulist  /fjuːˈnambjʊlɪst/ –  (Noun) A tightrope walker.

My father wanted me to be a funambulist like him.

29. Hypnopompic  /ˌhɪpnə(ʊ)ˈpɒmpɪk/ –  (Adj) Relating to the state immediately preceding waking up.

Her singing had put him into a strange hypnopompic like state.

30. Opsimath  /ˈɒpsɪmaθ/    (Noun) A person who begins to learn or study only late in life.

My thirst for knowledge grows with age, therefore I think it is fair to call me an opsimath.

So there we have it, 30 hard words to pronounce.  Isn’t the English Language wonderful!? 

If you’d like some more challenges, one way to make easy English words into hard English words to pronounce you can make them into Tongue Twisters. and to help your repititions, you can download the lesson notes for free. 


  1. Danni HOWE

    That’s a good Selection of words! I suppose They will be hard for native speakers. I’ll test my Husband’s knowledge 🙂 Thank you, Anna!

    • Anna

      Let me know how your husband did 🙂

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