Five hard-to-spell French words for English-speakers

US dictionary and online language-learning company team up to identify which words are most difficult to spell among anglophones. French provided many of them...

24 May 2019
By Selma Daddi

An American dictionary has published the most difficult words to spell for English-speakers and most of them come from the French language.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has joined forces with the language-learning company Babbel to analyse 10 years of data to see which words were most likely to eliminate contenders during the well-known US spelling contest Scripps National Spelling Bee.

As English borrows some of its vocabulary from French, here are five French words which are often misspelled by English-speakers.

  • Clafoutis (pronounced cla-foo-tee)
    A dessert consisting of a layer of cherries covered with batter and baked.
  • Bourrée (pronounced boo-ray)
    This is used for dancers. It is a ballet combination that consists of small crossing steps.
  • Pissaladière (pronounced pee-sa-la-dyair)
    This is a pastry topped with olives, onions and anchovies, a speciality in the South of France.
  • Réseau (pronounced ray-zoh)
    The Oxford dictionary defines this as a network or a grid (it has the same meaning in French). But it can also be used in astronomy for a group of meteorological stations.
  • Paillasson (pronounced pie-ya-son)
    The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as a coarsely woven natural or synthetic straw used for hats. In French paillasson means door mat.

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