ABC language school in Covent Garden

English might be one of the world’s most commonly spoken languages, but this doesn’t mean it is the easiest to learn! In fact, there are plenty of difficult English words which can make it tricky to grasp the language. Here, we take a look at the most difficult words in English and provide all the tips you need to overcome the common language challenges associated with them:

The 5 Most Difficult Words in English

From spelling and meaning to pronunciation and emphasis, there are various aspects that can make a particular world difficult to say or understand. These five words are commonly cited as being amongst the most difficult English words:

1. Library

It may seem deceptively simple, but the word ‘library’ is routinely mispronounced. Many people miss out the first ‘r’ sound and say, ‘lib-eree’, for example. If you want to pronounce this one correctly, be sure to increase both ‘r’ sounds and emphasise the first as you say, ‘lib-rah-ree’.

2. Phenomenon

When you look at the spelling of ‘phenomenon’, it’s easy to see why it’s amongst the most difficult English words to pronounce! Firstly, you will need to know that the ‘Ph’ at the start of the word is actually pronounced as an ‘F’ sound. Then, take your time to spell out the other syllables slowly – Fen-om-e-non.

3. Sixth

The ‘th’ sound can be difficult for many non-native speakers to pronounce but the addition of an ‘x’ only makes matters worse! When saying this word out loud, you will hear what sounds like an ‘s’ sound between the ‘x’ and the ‘th’. This softens the word a little and makes it easier to transition from the hard ‘x’ to the softer ‘th’.

4. Accessory

The double letter ‘c’ often creates an ‘s’ sound… but not in this case! Here, the first ‘c’ gives a hard ‘c’ sound, while the second is pronounced as a soft ‘c’ (more similar to an ‘s’ sound). The result? Ak-sess-or-ee.

5. Scissors

Again, many people will mistakenly use a hard ‘c’ sound when pronouncing the word ‘scissors’ but, here, the ‘sc’ is simply pronounced as an ‘s’. However, when people say the word, it typically features a ‘z’ sound in the middle and end – ‘sizz-uhz’.

Why Are English Words Difficult to Pronounce?

English words are often pronounced differently to how they are spelled, which can cause a considerable amount of confusion. There are a number of rules that can help you to understand why this is, but there are also a number of exceptions to every rule!

For example, when an ‘s’ follows a quiet or unstressed consonant, it typically has a characteristic ‘s’ sound but, if it follows a voiced or stressed consonant, a vowel or another ‘s’, it usually has a ‘z’ sound.

Learning these language rules helps to understand why there are so many difficult English words to say but it also gives you the tools and the knowledge you need to know how to pronounce English words correctly.

Learning to Speak English

Learning to read, write and speak English can all be beneficial, but you do not necessarily have to do these all at once. Being able to read English won’t necessarily mean that you know how to pronounce English words or that you can hold a conversation with a native English speaker, for example.

By focusing on your speaking and listening skills, you can begin using your English language skills straight away. Whether you are communicating over the phone, in person or via video, English speaking and listening skills will be invaluable.

Of course, it is important to find the right method of learning to help you achieve your goals and, at ABC School, we provide a range of options, including:

Callan Method

Focusing on speaking, listening and pronunciation, the Callan Method will improve your understanding and spoken English.

General English

Incorporating speaking and fluency skills, listening skills, vocabulary and idioms, as well as reading, writing and grammar, our general English course will provide everything you need to use English in day-to-day life.


Formalise your language skills with courses and exams from the International English Language Testing System. Ideal for students and professionals, you will focus on speaking, listening, reading and writing before taking mock exams and practice tests to prepare you for the real thing.

Intensive English

Fast-track your achievements and boost your speaking, listening, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, writing and reading skills in record-time with our Intensive English courses.

Whether you are learning English a new hobby, preparing to attend university in the UK or you want to enhance your English language skills to expand your career options, we will help you overcome difficult English words and reach your goals!

To find out more, explore our course options now and get in touch with our team at

What Are the Most Difficult Words in English?