25 Difficult Words to Spell with Silent Letters

Silent letter may make it quite confusing for you to get the pronunciation of words right. However, getting your spelling right is one of the most essential components of successful writing.

When writing a cover letter, proposal, report, resume or school assignment, spelling mistakes can make the difference between getting the marks required to pass the assignment or getting hired for a job.

So, what can you do when silent letters in certain words is getting you confused?

Well, don’t fret! You are not alone. Plenty of native speakers also find spelling many words confusing!

Here is what you need to know: the English language borrows from many other languages and some of the English words that you struggle to pronounce were actually borrowed from other languages such as Latin, French, and Greek. This is why learning to spell some words may sometimes seem to be too difficult!

But it is still possible to improve your mastery of spelling words with silent letters.

You only need to know where to start.

Or, better yet, we can tell you! Start here at Boffins Portal.

That’s right! To help get your spellings right when writing your next important document, here is a conservative list of some of the most difficult words to spell with silent letters:

1. Aplomb

Demonstrable self-confidence and self-assurance.

Derived from the Middle age French phrase “a plomb“, which meant ‘a plumb line.”

2. Anemone

A flower of the buttercup species that is brightly coloured and deeply serrated leaves.

Drawn from the middle French word “anemone”, which meant “a wildflower.”

3. Autumn

The season of the year comes between summer and winter and lasting from September to November

Originated from the Latin word ‘autumnus’, which means ‘belonging to the woods.’

4. Benign

(of a person) polite and gentle; (of a condition) not having harmful effects

Developed from the Latin word “bene” which means “to be well.”

5. Champagne

An expensive pink or white sparkling wine that is made in Champagne in  Eastern France.

Derived from the Latin word “campania”, which referred to the rolling hills of the Campania countryside in the South of Rome.

6. Cologne

A liquid perfume that is made up of fragrant oils and alcohol

Derived from both French (French Cologne) and Latin (Latin Colonial Agrippina)

7. Colonel

The rank of a military officer below the Brigadier and above Lieutenant Colonel.

Derived from the 16th-century French word “coronelle” which meant “the commander or soldiers” or the commander of a regiment.”

8. Coulomb

A standard unit for measuring the electric charge, which is equal to the charge that accumulates by one second under the current of one ampere.

Borrowed from a French chemist called Charles Augustin de Coulomb who in the 1880s invented a method of measuring electric quantities.

9. Conscientious

The willingness to get one’s work done thoroughly well.

Borrowed from the Latin word “conscire” which means ‘to be aware of one’s wrongdoing.”

10. Deign

Undertake something that is considered to denigrate one’s sense of dignity.

Drawn from a 1300 French word “deinen” which meant “to think well of”, or “to think worthy” or “worthy of one’s dignity.”

11. Draught

A cool breeze inside a room or coming into a room through an open space.

Originated from an old English word “dreaht”, which meant to “drag” or to “draw” either ‘quantities of air or liquids.”

12. Feign

To act as if it is true; to pretend

Drawn from the 1300 French word “feindre” which meant “to lack courage” or “to demonstrate weakness” or “to be lazy” or “to hesitate”.

13. Flour

Powdered grain is created by grounding from foods such as maize, wheat, or millet and is used for making pastry, cakes, and bread.

Originated from the Old French word ‘fluer’ which meant ‘finest’ and also a variant of the English word ‘flower.”

14. Gnat

A tiny two-winged insect that closely resembles a mosquito, with some known for biting while others do not bite and they move around in large swarms; a person considered to be tiny or unimportant.

Drawn from the old English word “gneat”, meaning “a small flying insect”, which originated from the Pro-German word “gnattaz” which meant “a tiny insect that bites.”

15. Gnomes

A fabled dwarfish creature who is expected to safeguard the treasures that are found underground; a short ugly person.

Originated from the medieval Latin word “gnumus”, which referred to the elemental creatures that are believed to live underground.

16. Ignominious

Bringing about public shame or disgrace.

Originates from French in the 15th century, where it meant ‘dishonorable’ or ‘shameful’

17. Isthmus

A strip of land that connects two large masses of land across a sea or ocean; an arrow passage that connects two larger parts.

Originated from a 1550s Greek word “isthmos” which meant “a narrow passage of land between two water bodies”

18. Malign

Having an evil nature; bringing about evil outcomes; slander or talk evil about somebody.

Borrowed from the old French word “malignier”, meaning “to pervert” or “which originated from the Latin word “malignare” which meant “bad-natured” or “wicked.”

19. Mischievous

Having the tendency of playfully causing trouble to other people, which may also be quite annoying

Originates from the Anglo-Normal French word “meschevous” in the middle ages, which meant “coming to a sad end” or “bringing harmful effects.”

20. Onomatopoeia

A stylistic device whereby the sound of a word is related to its meaning e.g. tick-tock, ding dong, etc. 

Drawn from Latin but it can be traced back to Greek words “onama” that means “name and “poiein” that means “making.”

21. Quinoa

A plant of the goosefoot Species that normally grown in the Andes and its starchy seeds were consumed by those who grew it.

Originated in the Andean region in South America where the plant has been cultivated for more than 5000 years as an indigenous food.

22. Scissors

A tool that is made up of two blades joined together at the middle by a nut and is used for cutting paper, clothes, and any other material.

Originated from the old French word “cisoires” which meant a ‘cutting instrument” or “shears”.

23. Silhouette

The dark outline or shape of an object or someone that sticks out against a brighter black backdrop in low light environments.

Originated from the French finance minister in the 1750s, called Etienne de Silhouette, who imposed grave economic conditions on the French that particularly harmed the wealthy.

24. Succumb

The inability or lack of capacity to withstand temptation, pressure, negative force, or an ailment.

Drawn from the French word “succomber”, which originated from ‘succumbere’ a Latin word that means to ‘submit’ or ‘yield.’

25. Synecdoche

Using an element or component of something to represent the whole.

Originates from the Greek word “synekdokhe‘ which means“putting together”. It has been used in England since the 15th century as a figure of speech.

How did you find our list of difficult words to spell with silent letters? Which words were most confusing to spell?

Today, you have various applications online that can help you get the spelling and pronunciations of these words right.

But knowing their histories is another way of helping you remember to spell them out correctly.