Before we get too deep into the search for the world’s most difficult word to pronounce, we’ll have to start with a bit of soul-searching around that question. Words that are difficult for a native French speaker to pronounce may look vastly different from words that a native Mandarin speaker might struggle with. Just because Icelandic looks outlandish to an English speaker doesn’t mean it’s an objectively challenging language to pronounce. Just ask a native Icelander!
Rather than try to boil it down to one definitive “most difficult word to pronounce,” we might have to look at a few examples from a number of languages (and admit that we’re looking at this from the perspective of Anglophones).
But first, what is it, exactly, that makes some words easier or harder to pronounce?
The Mechanics Of Pronunciation
Usually, pronunciation struggles in a foreign language can be attributed to two types of missed connections: a disconnect between how a word is spelled and how it’s spoken, or a disconnect between the mouth positions you’re accustomed to and the ones used by speakers of your target language.
That words are often not phonetically reliable is a big pain point for language learners, and it’s one of the things non-native speakers often complain about most when studying English. Exhibit A: “choir.”
The physical movements of your mouth, tongue and teeth are also a big determining factor in how well you nail your foreign accent. Sometimes, getting used to an unfamiliar sound is truly a matter of muscle memory.
Beyond that, there are certain types of sounds that may be universally tricky for the human mouth to handle, regardless of how familiar you are with the words that contain them. Among these are rolled “r”s, “ths” (as in “baths”) and the Czech ř.
The Most Difficult English Word To Pronounce
If English is your mother tongue, you probably never gave much thought to how challenging it can be to master English pronunciation as an adult. Still, there are English words that even natives struggle with.
One Reddit user opened up this can of worms, and after more than 5,000 submissions, the Reddit community came up with this list of “10 most difficult English words to pronounce”:
The Most Difficult…
If we expand our inquiry to every other language in the world, the options (and the level of subjectivity) will only increase further.
Admittedly, these following possibilities were selected from the point of view of an English speaker. Here are a few contenders:
Fünfhundertfünfundfünfzig: five hundred fifty-five
мгла (mgla): haze
日(rì): day (seriously, just listen to it)
Jõululaululaulja: Christmas caroller
Llanhyfryddawelllehynafolybarcudprindanfygythiadtrienusyrhafnauole: The unofficial name of a village in Wales
Vaðlaheiðarvegavinnuverkfærageymsluskúraútidyralyklakippuhringur: A keychain ring for the outdoor key of road workers shed in a moor called Vaðlaheiði
Or just anything in Xhosa: