Can You Spell These Commonly Misused Words?

By: Ashley Linkletter
Estimated Completion Time
5 min
Can You Spell These Commonly Misused Words?
Image: Brooke Fasani Auchincloss/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images

About This Quiz

If you've ever wondered why the English language is so overwhelmingly difficult to master, even as a native English-speaker, you aren't alone. When the topic of teaching literacy is brought up, the main focus falls on reading and writing, while spelling remains an afterthought. Spellcheck is a useful tool for automatically correcting errors, whether they're the result of rushed typing or uncertainty, but it doesn't teach the whys and hows of English spelling.

There are some words that, no matter how many times you use them in a paragraph, you'll always find a challenge to spell accurately. Do you want proof? When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote "The Great Gatsby," he spelled "yacht" as "yatch" and "upon" as "apon" throughout his entire original manuscript. Thankfully, the use of mnemonic devices and other memorization techniques can go a long way in terms of correcting past spelling patterns (as can gaining an understanding of why certain words are spelled the way they are in the first place.)

Consider these questions like a spelling bee, but without the pressure (and you can do it in the comfort of your own home). All you'll need for this quiz is the ability to make decisions about spelling. If you get an answer right, that's great! If some questions leave you stumped, that's also a positive — now's your chance to learn all about the linguistic and historical factors that determine how a word is spelled.

Question 1 - morning
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The sun is up, and it's time to get _____, especially since you're all packed up and ready for _____ day. Can you guess which option is the right choice?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Despite being the author of modern-day literary classics such as "The Old Man and the Sea," American author Ernest Hemingway was infamous for his consistent misspelling of words such as "moving" and "loving" (he spells them as "moveing" and "loveing" in his manuscripts.)

Question 2 - waste
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It's not good to _____ food or _____ time. Can you choose the right spelling when used in this context?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

You can count celebrity chef Jamie Oliver as a member of the "waste versus waist" spelling club. In his case, Oliver opted for the wrong version of the word in a Tweet about "human waist" (he wasn't referring to human anatomy).

Question 3 - movie star
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It's a major _____ to meet your favorite movie star, as long as they're aware of their own _____. Which version matches up with its entry in the dictionary?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The fact that the word "privilege" is spelled without a "D" didn't stop John Cusack from adding one in a 2020 Tweet about U.S. politics. When the error was pointed out, Cusack claimed spellcheck switched his correct spelling to an incorrect version of the word.


Question 4 - fan
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This word can refer to an admirer or a rotating appliance that cools you down. Either way, you're probably a _____ of the _____ when it's really hot. Which spelling looks the most familiar?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

You might consider yourself Rihanna's greatest fan, but to her, you're merely one of the "phanz" (at least, according to a Tweet from a previous visit to Singapore.) While the spelling is likely intentional, remember that when it comes to fans, the "F" has it!

Question 5 - Scissors
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_____ are a type of tool used to cut paper. _____ are also a necessary item in any sewing kit. Have you figured out the right spelling for this ubiquitous cutting tool?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If you find yourself defaulting to the word "scissars," at least know you're making errors with the very best of them. Literary great Jane Austen reportedly spelled "scissors" with an "A" in her manuscripts, personal letters and journals.

Question 6 - food sensitivity
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A word that means making something fit for someone or something else, it's always good to tell your server if you have a food sensitivity so they can _____ your allergy. Are you able to identify the right spelling?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If you work in the service industry, you'll know that the majority of your time is spent trying to "accommodate" the needs of others. The two "C"s and two "M"s make the spelling particularly challenging (although the mnemonic "two cots need two mattresses" can be a helpful reminder.)


Question 7 -  sandwich
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_____ is _____? Do you know _____ sandwich you're going to choose? _____ option below is the right one?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The words "which" and "witch" can be confusing to non-native English speakers because they're examples of a homophone. A homophone is a word that shares the same sound and pronunciation as another word, even though they have different meanings.

Question 8 - A+
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You know you'll _____ an A+ on your English paper, and now you can't wait to _____ the good news. How is this rule-bending word spelled?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The spelling rule, "I" before "E," except after "C," works for many words, but "receive" is not one of them. Receive isn't the only word to defy the rule — the saying was coined after many "IE" words came into fashion all at once.

Question 9 - clerk
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You can't use the till _____ you have the proper training. _____ then, you'll have to get help from a co-worker. Which spelling of the word _____ is considered definitive?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

"Until" and "till" are spelled correctly, "untill" and "til" are not. During the Middle Ages, until was spelled with two "L"s, although this spelling has fallen by the wayside in favor of the single "L."


Question 10 - remember
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This word describes an event that has happened in the past. Its surprisingly tough spelling might have only _____ to you now.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The word "occurred" has two "C"s and two "R"s, a spelling fact that can be hard to remember. You may find it helpful to know that English words with a stress on the final syllable end with the same two letters (in this case, the word "occur").

Question 11 - laundry
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It's a good idea to _____ your whites from your darks and to _____ your delicates from the rest of the wash when you do laundry. Can you keep this word's correct spelling _____ from its incorrect spelling?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The correct spelling of the word, whether it's functioning as a verb or an adjective, is "separate" and not "seperate." Try to think of sepArAte's spelling as AutomAtic — both separate and automatic have two "A"s to help you remember the exact spelling.

Question 12 - Government
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A governing body of people is known as a _____. Types of _____ include democracy, monarchy and oligarchy. Do you know how this important political word is spelled?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Make sure to include the "N" after the "R" when spelling "government." Although many native English speakers have dropped the "N" sound from the spoken word, the correct pronunciation is that of the word "govern."


Question 13 - spelling
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You're _____ going to want to spell this word correctly and we _____ think you can do it! What's the right spelling for this unassumingly difficult word?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

As it turns out, "definitely" is one the most misspelled words in the English language. What make this basic word so confusing? The way it's pronounced versus the way it's spelled. When said aloud, it is often pronounced as though the word is "def-in-AT-ley" instead of "def-IN-IT-ley."

Question 14 - Pharaoh
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King Tutankhamun is one of the most famous examples of a _____, an ancient Egyptian king and ruler. Only one of the following two spellings is right. Do you know which one it is?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The unique spelling of the word "pharaoh" comes from its lineage as a word throughout history. From the Hebrew word "par'ōh" to the Greek word "pharaō" and then to the Middle English word "pharao," it's clear that the seemingly switched "A" and "O" are here to stay.

Question 15 - blog
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You'll want to make sure your blog post is free from spelling errors by reading it privately first if you want to post it _____. Are you able to accurately spell this finicky adverb when writing for the public?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Almost all adverbs with an "-ic" ending in the form of a modified adjective end with the letters "-ically," which makes the spelling of the word "publicly" such a difficult one to remember (even for the most dedicated spelling and grammar buffs).


Question 16 - Leap Year
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_____ is the shortest day of the year, even when it's a leap year. You know that _____ comes after January, but do you know how to spell the name of the month?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Technically, the month of February should be pronounced as it's spelled, "Fe-brew-airy." Over many years, the pronunciation has changed to "Feb-you-airy," making the extra "R" in February challenging to remember.

Question 17 - Wednesday
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The day between Tuesday and Thursday, _____'s child is full of woe. Can you pick out the right spelling for this celebrated weekday?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

You've got to give it to William Shakespeare, he really tried to make his spelling of "Wensday" work (obviously, it wasn't a success). The extra "D" in Wednesday stems from Woden, the Anglo-Saxon god of poetic inspiration and fury, whose official day also happens to be the modern-day "hump day."

Question 18 - eye doctor
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When you visit the eye doctor, they might put drops to your eyes to _____ the pupils and make them widen and expand. What is the right way to spell this term?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

A somewhat deceptive word in terms of spelling, the term "dilate" is often mispronounced as though it has three syllables instead of two ("di-AH-late" insead of the correct "di-late") leading to the insertion of an extra "A" after the "I."


Question 19 - indict
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The legal term _____ means to formally accuse someone of a crime — it's also notoriously challenging to spell.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The reason "indict" has a silent "C" is mainly stylistic. Even though the word indict was pronounced and spelled as "endite" for 300 years, English scholars changed the spelling to reflect the word's Latin root, "indictare," which means "to proclaim."

Question 20 - religious
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It would be considered _____ to steal religious art from a religious institution. Do you know enough about hard-to-spell words to get this one right?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

In order to spell "sacrilegious" correctly, it's important to know that the term stems from word "sacrilege" (which comes from the Latin words for sacred and and to gather or steal) and not the similar-sounding word "religious."

Question 21 - inventor
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A very clever idea or invention is known as being _____ (not to be confused with a person who is a genius). How does this word look when spelled correctly?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Even though "ingenious" and "genius" have similar meanings, the words are linguistically unrelated. Ingenious is an adjective and comes from the Latin word "ingeniosus," meaning "natural disposition." Genius is a noun and took on the meaning of "exceptional, natural ability" in the 17th century.


Question 22 - baby mice
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Ants, grains of sand and baby mice could all be described as _____. Figuring out the proper spelling for _____ might be more challenging than it sounds. Can you pick out the exact spelling?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Despite the fact that the word refers to tiny, small and miniature things, the word is actually spelled "minuscule" and not "miniscule." The latter spelling option is used so often that in some cases, "miniscule" is considered a variant on the traditional spelling.

Question 23 - bee
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Buzz, hiss, snap! These three words are examples of _____, a literary term referring to words that resemble a sound. Can you spell this doozy of a word?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Even the most dedicated English literature scholars will find themselves scratching their heads when it comes to the spelling of the word "onomatopoeia." Considering the word has eight vowels and the "T" is generally pronounced as an "N," we won't fault you for needing to look up this literary term.

Question 24 - fussy
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Some might call you fussy, but you prefer the the word _____. Are you a _____ enough speller to get this word right on the first try?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

It's hard to be "conscientious" when you're trying to spell this word to describe someone who is moral and principled. Because the letters "SC" and and "T" are often to blame for incorrect spelling, a good mnemonic to remember is the "conscientious SCIENTist" is having afternoon tea."


Question 25 - agree
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Meaning to agree without question, the word _____ is so difficult to spell that you might just have to _____ that you can't figure it out. Do you have to _____ or not?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

With its confusing initial placement of "ACQ" and the similarly difficult string of vowels and sibilant consonants that follow, the word "acquiesce" is near-impossible to get right on the first try (you may have to acquiesce to repeated practice to master the spelling of this word).

Question 26 - Bologna
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Whether you use the word _____ to describe lunch meat or you use it as a term for something that isn't true, there's no denying the confusing spelling of this word. Which version is spelled correctly?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The word "bologna" describes a type of cured meat made from beef and pork that is traditionally made in the small town of Bologna, Italy. As bologna grew in popularity and became a staple in lunchboxes across America, manufacturers chose to spell the word as it's commonly spelled.

Question 27 - Fuchsia
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A bright purple-tinged pink, the color _____ is named after the _____ plant. Which of the following spelling options is correct?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

We have German botanist Leonhart Fuchs to thank for the spelling of "fuchsia." The fuchsia plant was discovered by fellow botanist Charles Plumier in the latter half of the 17th century and subsequently named after Fuchs.


Question 28 - Nauseous
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Feeling queasy? About to throw up? You would probably describe yourself as _____. Do you know the right spelling for this commonly misspelled and misused word?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The word "nauseous" is often used interchangeably with "nauseated," a related word with equally tricky spelling. Although the two words are treated as having the same meaning, "nauseous" refers to something that causes nausea — even though it's typically used to describe the state of feeling sick.

Question 29 - Orangutan
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These orange-haired primates are called _____ and can be found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. What type of great ape fits this description?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Poor orangutans, if only they knew how much confusion the spelling of their name causes the rest of the world! The long list of incorrect spelling variations of the word "orangutan" are related to differences in pronunciation around the world.

Question 30 - hockey
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Items which are meant for particular activities are known as _____. For example, hockey players might have a collection of hockey _____. How is this word spelled?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The sneaky "R" in the third syllable of "paraphernalia" makes this word a difficult spelling challenge for even the most seasoned writing professionals. It's frustrating spelling comes down to the difference between how it is commonly pronounced versus how it is spelled.


Question 31 - dancing
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It's said that if you've got _____ and you've got music, why would you ask for anything more? This hard-to-spell word describes a regular, repeated pattern of sound or movement. Is this a word you know how to spell?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Even if you're known for having impeccable "rhythm" on the dance floor, you still might struggle to remember the word's tricky spelling. The next time you're stumped trying to spell rhythm, think of this acrostic mnemonic device: "Rhythm Has Your Two Hips Moving."

Question 32 - Misspelled
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It seems ironic that a word meaning, "to spell incorrectly" is so often _____. Which version of the word is accurate?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The combination of sibilant sounds and multiple "L"s make the word "misspelled" a difficult string of letters to remember. Even if "misspelled" is a word you've read and said aloud countless times, it can be a frustrating word to get right on paper the first time.

Question 33 - talking
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This word refers to the way another word is pronounced. After all, it's important to learn the correct _____ when discovering new words. Do you know the correct spelling of this word?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

When you're learning new words and languages, it's important to get both the spelling and pronunciation correct. One way to remember the correct spelling for "pronunciation" is to try writing it out slowly with your finger — the "nun" syllable feels more natural when expressed in written form.


Question 34 - Dessert
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Fans of sweet treats will tell you that you try eating _____ first. Other people think _____ should be saved for last. Only you know the best time to enjoy _____, so tell us: how is this word spelled?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The absence or presence of an extra "S" makes all the difference when it comes to spelling the word "dessert" correctly! Just remember, a single "S" spells out desert (as in, an arid stretch of sand — a related word with only one "S").

Question 35 - Cemetery
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A _____ is a place where the dead are buried (it's also a synonym for the word "graveyard"). Can you spell this word?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Thanks to the misleading pronunciation of "cemetery," the most common misspelling of the word inserts the letter "A" where the final "E" should go. Do you need a mnemonic for spelling cemetery" correctly? Remember that cemeteries are eerie (another word with the letter "E" repeated three times).

You Got:
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