How Good Are You at Spelling, Really?

By: Emily Maggrett
Image: Leonard Mc Lane / Photodisc / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Are you REALLY a great speller? It's time to prove it by taking one of our hardest spelling quizzes yet!

All of the words in this quiz are English, but they've got Cuban, French, Latin, Greek and Cherokee origins. Some of them are drinks, some of them are trees, some of them are burial tombs and some of them are dogs.

Is that cheating? Nope! English, especially American English, has always borrowed from other languages. From German and French to Latin and Greek, English words have their roots in dozens of different languages. For instance, if you've ever worn "pajamas," snuggled under a "flannel" or changed your Facebook "avatar," you've spoken Persian, Welsh and Hindi.

This diversity is why English is such a wonderful (and difficult) language. So if you've ever wanted to test your English spelling skills, this is the closest thing to an adult spelling bee that you'll find on the Internet. 

Whether you're practicing for the SATs or GRE, studying English as a second language or want "good speller" bragging rights, this is the quiz you've been waiting for!


Which of these is the correct spelling?

"Silhouette" has got to be one of the hardest English words to spell! Referring to the shape or outline of something, this word comes to English from the French, inspired (for mysterious reasons) by an 18th century French politician and writer, Étienne de Silhouette.

Recognize the right spelling for this word?

We all hate being embarrassed, but we might hate trying to spell "embarrassing" even more! Just try to remember the double r and double s.

Can you pick the right spelling?

This word migrated to English in an interesting way. Starting off as the Egyptian word pr-‘o, which means "great house", it then became the Hebrew par‘ō, Greek Pharaō and Latin Pharaoh before joining Middle English vocabulary. Today it refers to ancient Egyptian kings.

Which one of these is spelled correctly?

Another word borrowed from the French! Meaning "personal driver", a chauffeur isn't just a person driving a limousine. Technically, you could call your cabbie a chauffeur!

How do you spell this word?

"Tomorrow" is a Middle English word combining two words, "to" and "morrow", which means "the next day". We don't say morrow very often, but tomorrow is still an essential part of our vocabulary.

Of these options, which one is the correct spelling?

Meaning "tiny," minuscule is a little word that can give spellers a huge amount of trouble! We remember it by using the "two u's" rule.

Recognize the right spelling for this word?

A "hierarchy" is a system where different members have different ranks. Examples include the Catholic Church, major league baseball and your local high school! Originally a Greek word, we can't spell this one without a dictionary!

Can you guess the right spelling for this word?

Meaning "to provide space for or to adapt to", this word is not very accommodating to our spelling needs! As this word came to English straight from Latin, we guess that's to be expected.

Choose the correct spelling.

"Calendar" comes from the Latin word "kalendarium", which means "account book". We always want to spell the end of it as "-der", because that's how it's pronounced.

Know how to spell this word?

It sounds like a very serious report, but "rapport" means the closeness that can arise between two people or a group. It comes from an old French word that means "bring back". It's hard to spell because of that final "t"!

Which one of these is spelled correctly?

Meaning "a right or privilege that a specific person or group has", prerogative is — you guessed it — another word that comes to us from Latin. It's not said very often, but the 1989 Bobby Brown song "My Prerogative" made it briefly famous.

Please choose the correct spelling.

Meaning "the time before the Biblical flood that spurred Noah to build his ark", antediluvian's spelling is easier to remember if you remember that "ante" means "before" in Latin. Use antediluvian to mock anything you think is old-fashioned; that's the word's most common usage today.

Can you pick the right spelling?

The Brussels sprout is actually a Mediterranean vegetable, but English speakers first encountered them in the city of Brussels, Belgium — hence the name. Most people are tempted to spell this word "Brussel sprouts", as that extra s can be hard to remember. That's why this otherwise easy word made it into this quiz!

Which of these is the correct spelling?

One of the world's most beautiful jewels, the sapphire's name is actually a misnomer. It comes from the Greek word "sappheiros", which refers to lapis lazuli, another stunning blue stone.

Recognize the right spelling for this word?

Many people have fond memories of Shrek, but originally, the word "ogre" referred to man-eating giants from French folklore. But they were named after the Etruscan god Orcus, who was a cannibal. We know little of ancient Etruscan culture, so it's fascinating that a bit of their mythology still lives on in our society.

How do you spell this word?

"Pterodactyl" might be hard to spell, but these dinosaurs were undeniably cool. They were a small, flying dinosaur that flourished during the Jurassic Period.

Choose the correct spelling.

This is a uniquely American term for prison. It comes from a Latin word, penitentiaria, which means “place of penitence”, and was first used by Quakers in the 18th century.

Which one of these is spelled the right way?

This word is French, French, French! Spelling it is difficult because it's hard to know where to use an a and where to use an e. We don't have any tips for remembering how to spell it, other than not being afraid to rely on your spellcheck!

Of these options, which one is the correct spelling?

"Pronunciation" is difficult to spell because "pronounce" is spelled so differently. The human tendency toward logic and consistency makes us expect "pronunciation" to be spelled "pronounciation", but that's just not the case. This word has been tripping up spelling bee competitors for years!

Recognize the right spelling for this word?

This is a Dutch/Afrikaans word that literally means "wild beast". However, the animal it refers to, the gnu, is a large antelope that is similar to wild cattle in character — hardly a dangerous slavering beast.

Know how to spell this word?

British people spell this word with an s, while Americans spell it with a z. With two spellings that are technically correct, "realize" can really be confusing to spell!

Three of these words are spelled incorrectly. Please select the one which is not.

In the U.S., this word is spelled "kilometer", while outside the U.S., it's spelled "kilometer". That's what makes this word truly tricky! It refers to a distance of 1,000 meters, or .62 miles.

Can you pick the right spelling?

Nowadays we often say "hack" instead of "hackneyed", but the meaning is the same: lazy and inept. In England, before there were automobiles, a "hackney" was a sort of horse-drawn cab. When the word "hackneyed" was coined, calling something "hackneyed" meant you were calling it cheap, as most wealthy people during that period of time had their own carriages.

Recognize the right spelling for this word?

The nickname for camouflage clothes is "camo", but it might as well be "camou"! Camouflage was invented by the French during World War I, which is why we're stuck with this difficult spelling.

Which one of these is spelled correctly?

The machete is a large knife, originally invented in the Caribbean and South America. It comes from the Spanish word "macho", which means hammer.

Can you guess the right spelling for this word?

The region and culture known as "the Caribbean" are named after the Carib or Caribe, a people who lived in the West Indies. Many North American islands are located in the Caribbean, including Jamaica, the Bahamas, Haiti, Cuba, Saint Martin, Grenada and Aruba.

How do you spell this word?

"Dachshund" is a German word meaning "badger dog". The breed was originally developed for digging up badger holes (apparently something that was a big problem in the 19th century). In the U.S., we pronounce this name as "doxen" and are as likely as not to call these dogs "hot dog dogs".

Can you select the right spelling for this word?

Another French word with a wild, wild spelling, "liaison" is almost impossible to spell without a dictionary. This word refers to a person who is acting as a go-between for two people or groups.

How is this word spelled?

"Ancillary" is an adjective that refers to something or someone that is functioning in a supporting role. Oddly, it comes from the older English word "ancilla", which means "maidservant".

Choose the correct spelling.

Another of those terrifically difficult Greek words, "ecstasy" come from the Greek word ἔκστασις, or ékstasis. In English, we use it to refer to pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, but its original meaning had more to do with unusual states induced by religious feelings.

Recognize the right spelling for this word?

This grim word means "burial place or monument made of stone". In the United Kingdom, it's spelled "sepulchre", but Americans spell it "sepulcher".

Which one of these is spelled correctly?

This delicious vegetable is actually a fruit. It's also spelled with fewer a's than you'd think!

Of these options, which one is the correct spelling?

This word means "in the wrong time". You might use it to refer to a "lords and ladies" movie where people say "cool", or you might use it to gently mock something old-fashioned, such as an 8 p.m. curfew for an eighteen-year-old. Either way, this word is much easier to say than to spell!

Can you select the right spelling for this word?

People love to claim that millennials are ruining everything, but the real problem is the person who decided to call millennials "millennials", because it's caused everybody a lot of spelling issues. This word has two n's, three l's and too much media coverage!

How do you spell this word?

We've included this word in the quiz because it's always so tempting to spell "senator" as "senater". The correct -or ending makes a senator sound like some sort of advanced robot, i.e. the Senator 5000.

Three of these words are spelled incorrectly. Please select the one which is not.

Sequoias are tall trees. They're named after a revered Cherokee Native American historical figure who was called Sequoyah. He invented the first Cherokee writing system.

Which one of these is spelled the right way?

It's a momentous occasion when we spell "occasion" right, as this word sounds like it should be spelled "ohkayshun"! It comes to us from the Late Middle English and is a very useful word, which is inconvenient for most spellers.

Recognize the right spelling for this word?

Some style guides have you hyphenate filmmaking; others do not. Either way, it's a word you usually have to look up to get right, which is why it's part of this quiz!

Can you pick the right spelling?

A daiquiri is a fantastic cocktail, generally containing rum and juice. It's named after the Cuban region from which it comes. We recommend drinking it rather than spelling it!

Which one of these is spelled correctly?

Meaning "a long line or extended braid", queue is remarkable for containing way more vowels in a row than most English words. That's because it comes from a French word, of course! Originally, it meant "horse's tail".

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