Can You Spell These Tricky Words?

By: Elisabeth Henderson
Estimated Completion Time
2 min
Is it possible to _____ a sitting president?
Indight
Indite
Indict
The word indict is one that you may be seeing mispelled a lot lately. It’s as often mispelled as it is misunderstood. As for the answer to the question, let’s leave that to the experts.
Indyghte

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I had to retake third grade English because my spelling was ________.
Deficient
It turns out the "I" before "E" except after "C" rule is deficient for the after "C" part as well. And, unlike the 75% correct rate that the “I" before "E” holds, the “after "C" part is less accurate. In fact, statistician Nathan Cunningham reports that it’s three times more likely to have the "I" before "E" after "C."
Deficeint
Difeceint
Dificient

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He paid with a $100 bill, but the cashier wouldn’t take it, since it was clearly _________.
Counterfeight
Counterfight
Counterfeit
There are many ways to detect a counterfeit $100 bill. You may be able to tell by the feel of the paper, the way borders look blurry, or ink that is not quite the right color. After 2009, $100 bills have a fresh new look, with many new security safeties built in.
Counterfit

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What do you call something intentionally cruel?
Viscous
Vicious
The word vicious refers to something that is brutal or intentionally cruel. Viscous, on the other hand, refers to a thick, sticky consistency. You wouldn’t want to mix these two up in a history paper describing an assault on civilians.
Vichous
Vishous

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Sometimes I go to the _______, just to remind myself that life is fleeting.
Cematary
Cemetery
If it weren’t for spellcheck, would you ever get this one right? It just seems like there should be an "a" in there somewhere, right? Oxford Dictionaries mentions that a good way to remember this is to think of it in opposition to graveyard, which has two "a"s.
Cemetary
Cametary

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We went out of our way to drive across the _____.
Damm
Dam
The word dam, meaning a constructed blockade to keep back water, is often confused with the expletive, damn. You can remember that the one the that is spelled as​ it sounds, is the one you would write. Damn, which makes no sense spelling wise, is not really for writing; it’s for saying.
Damn
Dame

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What could a shiny, sparkly object be described as?
Scentillating
Scentellating
Scintillating
This word scintillating is derived from the Latin for sparkly. It’s a strange word because it has extremely few related words in English (unlike many other words that originated from Latin).
Skantillating

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What is something you can have without knowing you have it?
Privelidge
Priviledge
Privilege
The essence of having privilege is having a right not granted to everyone. Because the advantages afforded by privilege are often unseen, especially to those who have them, privilege can be an elusive concept.
Priveligde

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What is the act of soaking something in called?
Absorbtion
Absorbcion
Absorption
The word absorption is tricky because it’s not spelled like the act of absorbing that it describes. Absorption can describe the process of absorbing or being absorbed, or it can signify the state of being absorbed in something.
Absorpcion

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What is a device for remembering?
Newmonic
Numonic
Mnemonic
A mnemonic is a device or system for remembering. Common mnemonics these days are catchy songs for remembering lists or acronyms that spell out a memorable word. It used to be more common, though, to use more complex mnemonics, such as imagining parts of a speech or story to be areas inside a house.
Pneumonic

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She was _______ unaware that her teeth were full of poppyseeds during her presentation.
Wholly
Many students are wholly unaware of​ how to spell wholly, but that’s OK because they would never use it in a sentence. If you do use it in sentences though, misspelling it causes some humorous gaffes.
Holey
Wholley
Hwolly

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It doesn’t make a difference how often you check your ______.
Wait
Weight
Yet another word that doesn’t work with the old elementary jingle. Weight places the "e" before the "i," after "w." Most of us probably get this word correct most of the time because it’s so common, ​our brains have it memorized by sight.
Wieght
Weigt

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We live at the end of the _______.
Culdesack
Kuldasac
Kul-de-sac
Cul-de-sac
The bizarre word cul-de-sac, which is most commonly used to describe a dead-end street that forms a half-circle, comes from the French. It literally means the bottom of a sack, which, if you look from a bird’s eye view, is pretty much what it looks like.

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If you have a good sense of beat, what do you have?
Rhythm
This is one of those pesky words that can kick you out of the spelling bee. Where does the "Y" go? The word comes from the Germanic word rhein, meaning to flow. It originally described rhymed verse.
Rythm
Rhythym
Rhthym

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He changed his personality like a _________.
Cameleon
Chameleon
The word chameleon has an "H" because it’s from the Greek khamei (on the ground) + leon (lion). Maybe Greek lions look different from American chameleons.
Cumeleon
Camelion

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She wasn’t popular in school because the kids said she was ____.
Weird
Weird is another of those weird words that does not follow the “I" before "E" except​ after "C” rule. While this rule seems to be just telling us lies, it is actually true 75% of the time.
Wired
Wierd
Weiyrd

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What is a word for a brutal slaughter?
Massacre
A massacre is a brutal slaughter that generally refers to people. The term applies to vastly different numbers of deaths. For instance, in the Hafia massacre in Palestine, 21 people were killed, while in the massacre at Jeju Island up to 60,000 people lost their lives.
Massicar
Masacre
Massacar

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She ______ illness in order to stay home from school.
Feyned
Fayned
Feighned
Feigned
The word feign derives from its Latin root fingere, meaning to mold or contrive. Feign still holds the meaning of contrive, or pretend, but that doesn’t explain why it’s spelled like this.

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What is the form of parking dreaded by driving novices?
Paralell
Parallel
The spelling for parallel makes sense when you look at where it comes from. It originates with the Greek combination para (beside) + allelois (each other). Para can also mean beyond, as in paranormal, which doesn’t mean not normal, but beyond normal.
Parralel
Parellel

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The family _____ had been going on for 20 years but no one could remember how it started.
Feud
The word feud means a fight or enduring hostility. It may come from a Germanic word for a ​foe. Some famous feuds include the hostility between Queen Elizabeth I of England and Mary Queen of Scots, as well as the Montagues and Capulets in "Romeo and Juliet."
Fuud
Fewd
Fieud

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It just isn’t _____ to buy everything in bulk.
Feasable
Feasible
Feasible means capable of being done, or doable. It comes from the French word for “to do,” faire. Faire conjugates to fais, which looks a lot like the word feasible. But it doesn’t explain the ea.
Fesable
Pheasible

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After a week of shoveling manure, I had to see my ______.
Masoose
Meseusse
Meusoose
Masseuse
Masseuse, as you may guess, is a French word. It comes from the word masser, meaning to massage. A masseuse only refers to a woman, while masseur refers to a man who rubs you down with oils. Don’t confuse them!

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What is a natural disguise?
Camoflage
Kamoflage
Camouflage
Camouflage occurs naturally among animals and insects. Butterflies have eyes on their backs and lions blend in with the dry grasses. The military began experimenting with camouflage in 1940.
Camooflaje

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Contrary to most people, caffeine has the ______ of making me sleepy.
Effect
The word effect has the effect of causing students everywhere to misspell it. It’s definitely hard to remember which is which, affect or effect. One rule of thumb is that effect is a noun, while affect is a verb (usually).
Affect
Efect
Afect

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What is a term for something that goes against religion?
Sacrelgious
Sacrilegious
The word sacrilegious is not spelled the same way as “religion,” as one might think it would be, since the common meaning of the word is going against religious practices. The word comes from the Latin roots sac (holy and legere) to take possession of holy things​ or stealing holy things.
Sacriligious
Sackrelgious

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What is a fancy meal?
Gourmet
A nice meal is often referred to as gourmet. The word comes from the French, gourmand, which refers to a person who is a specialist in the art of eating and drinking. A gourmand was originally a wine taster.
Gormet
Gormee
Gormeet

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What is a common bane of world travelers?
Diarrhea
Diarrhea is not something you want to have or spell in public. If only a spell checker would just fix it before you even noticed. The word originates from the Greek dia (through) and rhein (flow.) Finding the origin of the problem is a different issue.
Diarea
Dioreah
Diorhea

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Where is there an abundance of cacti and a lack of water?
Dessert
Desiert
Desert
If you write in your report that you went to the Gobi Dessert, your teacher will really wonder about your taste. Deserts don’t have to be covered in sand, contrary to common perception. They are defined by the low amounts of annual rainfall, rather than the ground cover.
Deseret

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What do you call a cookie in England?
Biskit
Biscuit
If you ask for a biscuit in England, you’re likely to get a cookie. The strange spelling comes from the French origin of the word. The cui combination is common in French, though uncommon in English.
Biscut
Biscit

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She _____ packed her tights instead of her shirt and spent the day wearing pants on her arms.
Accidently
Axidently
Accidentally
Accidentally is not a word you get right by accident. You have to remember this one. You have to write it 100 times on the chalkboard to make it sink down to your fingers gripping the chalk. No one says “ax-i-dent-a-ly.”
Acidentally

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______ may seem like it should be spring, but it’s still the dead of winter.
February
Perhaps February is the cruelest month. Winter has been going strong for months and it’s not slowing down. Also, why the "r"? Well, it comes from a Roman festival, Februa, where people were purified through washing.
Febuary
Febuery
Febureary

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What’s the feeling you get when school is out for summer?
Uphoria
Euforia
Euphoria
The beginning of summer can bring on euphoria. Similarly, jumping into cold, clear spring water on a hot day can bring about this intense feeling of well being. Eu comes from the Greek for good or well and phoria is from pherein, to bear.
Ewephoria

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What is a quick way to clean the floors?
Vakumme
Vacuum
The vacuum was hailed as a time-saving lifesaver for housewives. The word vacuum comes from the Latin vacuus, empty. How many housewives looked to the vacuum for salvation, only to realize they were living in a vacuum?
Vacume
Vackume

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What is Alfred Nobel famous for inventing?
Dinamyte
Dynamite
The trade name Dynamite comes from the Greek word from which “dynamic” and “dynamism” are derived. It means “power.” Alfred Nobel made his explosive discovery in 1867.
Dynomight
Dynomite

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What’s the name for that feeling when you are out of you’re mind with happiness?
Eggstatic
Ecstatic
Though the word ecstatic now usually means being taken over with intense positive emotions, it used to refer to a range of emotions. That’s because the word originally came from the Greek eckstatikos, meaning “unstable,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. The experience of ecstasy was historically related to a mystical experience that was out of your control.
Ekstatick
Eccstatic

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