The Most Mispronounced Words Of 2023, Revealed

It’s not just you. Everyone had a hard time pronouncing these words over the past year.
The most mispronounced words of 2023 represented by a photo of the Kīlauea volcano in Hawai'i.

For the eighth year, Babbel has teamed up with captioner’s groups to discover which words gave people the most trouble through 2023. This year’s lists — covering both the United Kingdom and the United States — is dominated by names, with celebrities like Cillian Murphy and politicians like Vivek Ramaswamy. It makes sense: names and loanwords can go against the expectations of even the most conscientious of English speakers. In fact, people who speak or learn other languages may have a leg up.

This list, put together by the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters and The Captioning Group, provides a brief history of the year as told through slips of the tongue. How many do you know how to pronounce?

The United States

SZA [SIH-zuh]

The stage name of Solána Imani Rowe, an American singer-songwriter. SZA was included in Spotify’s top ten most streamed artists globally for the year, and is the most-nominated artist ahead of the 2024 Grammy Awards. Many fans expressed uncertainty about how to pronounce the singer’s stage name, with some thinking maybe you’re meant to spell out the letters.

Enceladus [en-SEH-luh-duhs]

The sixth largest moon of Saturn, where phosphates were discovered by NASA in June 2023, meaning that the moon contains all the chemical elements necessary for life.

Popocatépetl [poh-poh-kah-TEH-peh-til]

Active volcano in Mexico, considered to be one of the most dangerous because of its proximity to Mexico City. Ash and smoke appeared out of the volcano in May this year, and evacuation plans were put in place for millions of people in case of an eruption.

Psammophile [SAM-uh-file]

The winning word at this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee. It refers to any plant or animal that thrives in sandy soil.

Iam Tongi [EE-am DONG-ee]

The American singer who won this year’s season of American Idol, William ‘Iam’ Tongi is the first person from Hawaii, and the first Pacific Islander, to win the competition.

Cillian Murphy [KI-lee-uhn MUR-fee]

The Irish actor known for his title role in Oppenheimer, a major movie release of 2023 about the lead scientist who developed the nuclear bomb. Often mispronounced as if it begins with an S, the name Cillian actually starts with a hard K sound.

Vivek Ramaswamy [vih-VAKE rah-mah-SWAH-me]

An entrepreneur and Republican presidential candidate. Political strategist Donna Brazile was called out for her seemingly intentional mispronunciation of his name on Real Time with Bill Maher.

Choupette [SHOO-pet]

The name of Karl Lagerfeld’s cat, which means ‘sweetie’ in French. At the Met Gala this year, which was themed “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” several celebrities paid tribute to the feline, with both Doja Cat and Jared Leto donning cat outfits.

Kīlauea [kee-lou-EY-uh]

The name of a volcano in Hawaii which has erupted several times this year, most recently on the September 11, 2023.

Travis Kelce [TRA-vis kels]

American football player for the Kansas City Chiefs. He became even more famous this year when rumors started to swirl about him dating Taylor Swift. There has been discussion between Travis, his father and his brother about whether the name is supposed to be pronounced as one or two syllables, Kels or Kel-See. In fact, Travis’ brother Jason Kelce made the 2021 list of mispronounced words.

Honorable Mentions In The US

Stone of Scone [stown uhv skoon]

A stone used during coronation ceremonies of the British monarch, also known as the “Stone of Destiny,” which was present during the coronation of King Charles III in May of this year. Although it looks like the same word as the baked good “scone” ± the pronunciation of which is also debated — it is pronounced “skoon.”

Tom Wambsgans [tom WOMS-gans]

One of the main characters in the HBO drama series Succession, which aired its finale in May 2023.

Photograph by Claudette Barius/HBO

Nepo baby [NEH-po BAY-bee]

The term refers to children of celebrities who are famous and have succeeded because of their parents. At the beginning of 2023, New York magazine published a feature on Hollywood nepo babies. Since then, they have been constantly in the news. In October, Gwyneth Paltrow hit back at critics who used the term “nepo baby” to describe the success of her daughter, Apple Martin, as she made her runway debut.

The United Kingdom

Stone of Scone [stown uhv skoon]

A stone used during coronation ceremonies of the British monarch, also known as the “Stone of Destiny,” which was present during the coronation of King Charles III in May of this year. Although it looks like the same word as the baked good “scone” ± the pronunciation of which is also debated — it is pronounced “skoon.”

Padam [PAD-dahm]

Made famous by Kylie Minogue in her summer hit song “Padam Padam,” this word is an onomatopoeic interpretation of the sound of a heartbeat. The term has now entered queer vernacular with many uses as a question, greeting, exclamation or insult.

Barbenheimer [BAA-buhn-hai-muh]

A cultural sensation that emerged around the joint release of two movies — Barbie and Oppenheimer — in July and August 2023. As fans headed to cinemas in either pink or black depending on which film they were seeing, many memes were created around the theme. Some fans and viewers slipped up in pronouncing this word merge, opting for Barbieheimer instead. Other names of the phenomenon included Oppenbarbie and Boppenheimer.

Tom Wambsgans [tom WOMS-gans]

One of the main characters in the HBO drama series Succession, which aired its finale in May 2023.

Ozempic [oh-ZEM-pik]

A diabetes medication popularly used as a weight loss drug among celebrities. Has given rise to the term “Ozempic face” to refer to an alleged side effect of using the drug.

ULEZ [YU-lez]

The abbreviation for the ultra low emission zone around London, where charges are applied to certain vehicles that do not meet emissions standards.

Nepo baby [NEH-po BAY-bee]

The term refers to children of celebrities who are famous and have succeeded because of their parents. At the beginning of 2023, New York magazine published a feature on Hollywood nepo babies. Since then, they have been constantly in the news. In October, Gwyneth Paltrow hit back at critics who used the term “nepo baby” to describe the success of her daughter, Apple Martin, as she made her runway debut.

Bharat [BUH-ruht]

At the G20 meeting in September 2023, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the Sanskrit name for the Indian subcontinent for the first time: Bharat.

Decels [DEE-sells]

Short for “decelerationists,” referring to people who want to slow down technological progress, particularly with regard to conversations around artificial intelligence.

Suella Braverman [su-ELL-uh BRAH-vuh-mun]

A divisive British politician who served as Home Secretary for a second time. She was fired in a November 2023 cabinet reshuffle that made headlines.

Honorable Mentions In The UK

Fred Siriex [fred suh-ree-IKS]

French TV personality and chef, best known for appearing as the maître d’ on Channel 4’s First Dates and most recently as a contestant on this year’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.

Loewe [lo-WEH-veh]

A luxury fashion brand known for its high quality leather goods, clothing, accessories and fragrances. Actress Maggie Smith became the face of their new campaign in October 2023.

Dominik Szoboszlai [DAH-mi-nik SO-boss-lai]

Midfielder for Liverpool F.C., the Hungarian football player revealed this year that everyone had been mispronouncing his last name.

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