Top ten words with the most difficult pronunciations are revealed

Aoife, Saoirse, omicron and Kyiv: Top ten words with the most difficult pronunciations are revealed – as Irish names, foreign foods and Americanisations leave us baffled

  • The pronunciation of Irish names and foreign foods are the most difficult for us
  • Study found ‘how to pronounce Aoife’ was searched on Google 111,000 times
  • It found that we are also confused by Americanisations like schedule, ‘shed-yool’

If you’ve ever stumbled over friend’s name, or struggled with your meal order, you’re not alone. Irish names, foreign food and Americanisations rank among the words we find the most difficult to pronounce, according to a study.

Based on Google search results, the research found that the hardest name of all is Aoife, pronounced ‘ee-fa’, which generated 111,000 searches over the course of last year, The Times reports. 

Saoirse, pronounced ‘sur-sha’, ranked as the second, while the third was omicron, which has at least two common pronounciations in use – ‘om-my-kron’ and ‘om-uh-kron’. 

Next comes Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, which is pronounced ‘keev’ in Ukrainian. 

English speaking countries have traditionally referred to the city as ‘key-ev’, like chicken ‘kiev’ but a campaign since 2018 prefers the sounding to be ‘kee-yiv’ or ‘keev’.

Finishing the top five is the Brazilian super fruit açaí – pronounced ‘ah-sah-ee’ – the Brazilian super fruit, followed by two more Irish names, Niamh and Siobhan, pronounced ‘neev’ and ‘shi-vawn’ respectively, as well as gyros – ‘yee-ros’ -, which is a type of kebab.

Another name commonly mispronounced is the Vietnamese surname Nguyen, typically said ‘n-win’.

We also get confused by Americanisations like the word schedule, which comes in tenth place in the study. 

The confusion might be because there are two common pronunciations — ‘shed-yool’ and ‘sked-yool’, the former being the traditional English version and the latter being American. 

Lee Beardsley, of Slotbox, told The Times: ‘This research might highlight how many of us have been wrongly pronouncing everyday words without realising — and even worse, it highlights our mispronunciations of names. 

‘The influence of current events can also be seen, with many Brits wanting to find the correct pronunciation of Kyiv and omicron to involve them in topical conversation.’