9 words people constantly mispronounce

It’s a universal feeling: The word is on the tip of your tongue when you suddenly second-guess the pronunciation. After an awkward pause in the middle of your sentence, you throw in a more basic synonym instead.

Doing your research ahead of time can help you avoid these tongue-tying situations, ensuring you sound intelligent while conversing with ease. Here are the nine words people most often mispronounce and the correct ways to say them.


Niche is one of the most commonly mispronounced words in the dictionary. If you say “nitch,” you’re right on target — this is the traditionally accepted way to pronounce this word (which means, among other definitions, a specialized role).

The pronunciation “neesh,” however, is becoming more mainstream. So if you panic and say “neesh,” chances are nobody will look at you weird.


Often read phonetically as “EP-i-tome,” this noun is actually pronounced “uh-PI-tuh-mee.” The word first appeared in print all the way back in 1520 and refers to a person or thing that’s the ideal example of a specific quality or type. For example: “Kate Middleton is the epitome of style and grace.”


Hyperbole is a figure of speech that means an exaggeration. It’s pronounced “high-PER-buh-lee” — remarkably similar to epitome. But while it might seem clear once you see it written out, this is another tricky one: It’s not uncommon to hear people pronounce this word “HIGH-per-bowl.” Moral of the story? Every word is not as it seems. Here’s an example of a phrase that’s hyperbole: “He was running faster than the wind.”


Feeling mischievous? If you announce it, make sure you say the word right. The correct pronunciation of this word is “MIS-chuh-vus.” However, many people say “mis-CHEE-vee-us” instead. 

If you’re in the second group, you aren’t crazy. According to Merriam-Webster, the word was often spelled “mischievious” as long ago as the 16th century. Today, however, this alternate spelling and pronunciation are considered nonstandard. So “MIS-chuh-vus” it is.


Often used as a music term, segue means to continue to what’s next without stopping. Although it doesn’t look like it, this word is pronounced “SEG-way.” 

Need a little extra help to retrain your brain from “seh-GOO”? Picture a Segway vehicle in your head when you say the word. Just don’t forget to switch back to the correct “segue” spelling if you’re writing the word out. 


It’s tempting to pronounce this word as “ih-LEH-juh-bul.” But if you do, whoever you’re talking to will likely get confused: That’s how a totally separate word, illegible, is pronounced. Stick to “ELL-ih-ju-bull” so your conversation partner stays on track — you’re talking about whether somebody or something is qualified to participate, not whether you can read their handwriting


“AH-plih-ka-bull” is the most commonly accepted pronunciation of this adjective. However, Merriam-Webster says “ah-PLIK-a-bull” is also allowable. In other words, whichever version comes out of your mouth first is acceptable — as long as the word is applicable to the topic at hand. 


You might not use this word in everyday conversation. Meaning “passing quickly into and out of existence,” this double-duty adjective and noun provide a prettier way to refer to things or people that are brief, temporary, or short-lived.

The correct pronunciation of “transient” is “TRAN-she-ent.” But “TRAN-zee-ent” is often used, too — so don’t worry if you slip up.


Taking a lunch break? Make sure you know how to order what you want to eat. Quinoa is a nutritious grain that’s often substituted for rice in various dishes. The word comes from the Spanish language, drawing on the Quechua word “kinua.” And, good news, the pronunciation is actually pretty simple: “I’d like the grilled chicken on a bed of KEEN-wah.”