The INSIDER Summary:
• Just because a pronunciation is used by a lot of people, doesn’t mean it’s correct.
• Here are 21 words (including cache, quasi, and transient) you’ve likely been mispronouncing.
Convinced you’re a pronunciation pro? Don’t be so sure. Dig into the dictionary and you’ll find that, in many cases, widely used pronunciations are completely wrong.
Ready to test your knowledge? Here’s the right way to pronounce 21 common words.
A few notes before you start: Bold type indicates which syllable gets emphasis, and if you want to hear the correct pronunciations out loud, click on each word and you’ll be redirected to a online dictionary.
(noun): a hiding place especially for concealing and preserving provisions or implements
A lot of people say “ka-shay,” but it’s actually pronounced like “kash.”
(noun): an athletic contest that is a long-distance race consisting of three phases (as swimming, bicycling, and running)
It’s pronounced “try-ath-lawn,” not “try-ath-a-lawn.” Drop that extra, unnecessary “a.”
(noun): the branch of science that involves the study of animals and animal behaviour
Oddly enough, this isn’t pronounced like “zoo-awl-oh-gee.” It’s actually “zoh-awl-oh-gee.”
(adjective): not firm, not hard or solid
This word actually doesn’t rhyme with “acid.” The standard pronunciation is “flak-sed,” not “flas-sid.”
(adjective): boring or ordinary, not interesting
It feels weird to say it this way, but the standard pronunciation is “buh-nal,” not “bay-nul.”
(noun): food usable by people
It’s not “vick-chu-al” — this word is actually pronounced “vih-tel” (rhymes with “little”).
(noun): a frozen sweet dessert made from fruit or fruit juices
A lot of people add an extra “r” and say “sher-bert.” It’s just “sher-bet.”
(noun): an introductory performance, action, or event preceding and preparing for the principal or a more important matter
It’s “prell-yood,” not “pray-lood.”
(adv): many times
The correct pronunciation is “off-en” with a silent “t,” not “off-ten.”
(adj): of or relating to the south pole or to the region near it
It’s tempting to drop that first “c,” but remember: It’s “Ant-ark-tik,” not “Ant-ar-tik.”
(adj): able or tending to cause annoyance, trouble, or minor injury
Sadly, the more fun pronunciation (“miss-chee-vee-us”) is the wrong one. It’s just “miss-chiv-us.”
(noun): something that serves as a check or stop, as in, “put the kibosh on that.”
This is pronounced “kai-bosh,” not “kee-bosh.”
(noun): a person in charge of the financial accounts of a company or organisation
It makes very little sense, but this is actually pronounced like the word “controller.” The weird spelling resulted from a blend of two words: “Comptroller” began as a variant of “controller,” but it was influenced by the French word “compte,” which means “an account.”
(noun): a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors
This is another word where people tend to add an extra syllable that’s not really there. It’s “reel-tor,” not “reel-a-tor.”
(adj): in some way or sense but not in a true, direct, or complete way
The Merriam-Webster, Oxford, and MacMillan dictionaries agree: This word is pronounced “kway-zai,” not “kwah-zai.”
(adj): passing especially quickly into and out of existence
Believe it or not, the “s” in this word has an “sh” sound. It’s technically pronounced “transh-ee-ent,” not “tran-zee-ent.”
(adjective): used to describe a command you must obey without question or excuse
Don’t mistake this word for the similar-sounding “preemptive.” This one is pronounced “pe-remp-tor-ee,” not “pre-emp-tor-ee.”
(adj): admired and respected by people
“Press-tij-us” (not “press-teej-us”) is the preferred pronunciation.
(noun): an employee (as of a hotel or a public facility) who performs personal services for customers
Merriam-Webster says this word should be pronounced “val-ett,” though most of us tend to stick with “val-ay.”
(noun): a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted
Technically there are two correct pronunciations of this word: “neesh” and “nitch.” But “nitch” is actually a far older pronunciation that was considered correct long before “neesh” came into the picture, according to Merriam-Webster.
(noun): a festive celebration
Some dictionaries include both “gay-la” and “gah-la,” but “gay-la” is preferred.
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