It's Tricky is the title, here we go...
March 5, 2008 2:53 PM   Subscribe

Help me think of tricky spelling words to challenge my daughter!

My 7-year-old daughter and I are working on spelling lessons. Mostly we've been working on word families and more basic stuff, but she's getting pretty good at those, so I'd also like to think of some harder words to give her.

What are some words that would be challenging for a second grader to spell? She tends to write things down the way they sound, so words like "people" that sound different than they're spelled would be especially good.
posted by streetdreams to Writing & Language (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 100 Most Often Misspelled Words In English
posted by box at 2:59 PM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Perhaps have a look at the word of the day archive on Should be a fair few unknown and tricky words she wouldn't be familiar with.
posted by Static Vagabond at 3:01 PM on March 5, 2008

I'm sure people will give you scads and scads of these but my favorite word that I learned expressly for this purpose (dictionary game, you say it people try to spell it) though it may have been in fourth grade, was CHAMOIS.
posted by jessamyn at 3:08 PM on March 5, 2008

ooo, I remember being in 2nd grade (so 7 or 8 ish) and not knowing how to spell "enough". My teacher told me to look it up in the dictionary, which I thought was particularly stupid advice given that I didn't know how to spell it in the first place. I was panicked I'd never find it until the boy sitting next to me told me how it was spelled. I remember feeling that I'd cheated somehow...

So, slight side anecdote, but: "enough"!
posted by theRussian at 3:14 PM on March 5, 2008

Hmm, similar to Jessamyn's there's also challis. Practice all the different sounds for ough? Exacerbate is fun to say and looks weird when you spell it out.

You could also give her words that have some double letters (necessary, terrific, broccoli, etc.) if nothing else so she'll do better at spelling them when she's my age.
posted by artifarce at 3:14 PM on March 5, 2008

Best answer: Scripps National Spelling Bee Study Guides.
posted by tumble at 3:16 PM on March 5, 2008


Also the official smartypants speller word: onomatopoeia. It's the word for words that sound like the thing they represent, like splat. Splat is an onomatopoeia because it's a word that sounds like what it is. It's fun to say ("onna-motta-pee-a"), and it's easy to memorize the spelling because if you break it up into groups of three letters, it sort of rhymes. o-n-o---m-a-t---o-p-o---e-i-a.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:32 PM on March 5, 2008

challis = a fabric, pronounced "sha-lee"
chalice = a drinking cup, pronounced "cha-liss"
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:33 PM on March 5, 2008

The word "smorgasbord" took down half of my 4th grade class in a spelling bee once. To this day I still run to the dictionary every time I have to type it.
posted by reebear at 3:35 PM on March 5, 2008

Two words that very few people can spell correctly: ukulele and rhythm.
posted by fish tick at 3:43 PM on March 5, 2008

"Pneumonia" fascinated my first-grade class.

And I still cannot quite get "camouflage" or "piranha," and I see a ton of people struggle with "fuchsia." man I really hope I got those right
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:46 PM on March 5, 2008

I vividly remember an April 1st spelling quiz that had 'quohog' on it.
posted by cobaltnine at 4:05 PM on March 5, 2008

Yacht. Mnemonic. Jodhpurs.
posted by boo_radley at 4:07 PM on March 5, 2008

posted by geekyguy at 4:17 PM on March 5, 2008

I still remember trying to spell rhododendron in 2nd grade.



Love the title, BTW!
posted by beachhead2 at 5:14 PM on March 5, 2008

lachrymose took down every single one of the last ten people left standing at one of my middle school spelling bees. We all got to come back.
posted by crinklebat at 5:22 PM on March 5, 2008

Phlegmatic was the one my standard 4 teacher (your 6th grade, I think) used to take me down a peg when I was a spelling smarty-pants.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:24 PM on March 5, 2008

Best answer: You could go over one of these spelling poems and then do a quiz.
posted by acoutu at 5:24 PM on March 5, 2008

posted by AsRuinsAreToRome at 5:31 PM on March 5, 2008

I still get tripped up by "tongue" and "business" from time to time.

Why do I want to type it "buisness" every time? That doesn't even make sense!
posted by Rock Steady at 5:31 PM on March 5, 2008


Also this thread has some fun ones.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:41 PM on March 5, 2008

Three thoughts (but since I did not visit very one of the links suggested by others I don't know if these are duplications):

1) accommodations is a very frequently misspelled word, but one that is easy to understand if you just realize the Latin commodius root

2) I believe my elementary school education was too strong on memorization and too weak on the rules that go into the formation of word sounds (e.g., changes in vowel sounds related to adjoining consonants),

3) don't just think of words that would be in a formal dictionary, but also proper nouns such as major cities, famous people's names, Fourier transforms, Peugeot cars, etc.
posted by forthright at 6:21 PM on March 5, 2008

"Bookkeeper" gets them every time, all those double letters.
posted by JujuB at 6:25 PM on March 5, 2008

I agree with artifarce. Knowing how to spell words with single letter/pair of letters is really useful. Necessary, tomorrow, satellite, recommend, desiccate, etc.

Also words that just plain look wrong even when they're right: supersede, iridescent, affidavit.

I remember winning a spelling bee in second grade with Indian. "CAPITAL I..."

I won another one in high school but don't remember any of the words involved. And I never got my prize. But I'm not bitter, twentysomething years later...
posted by bink at 7:31 PM on March 5, 2008

Definite. Wait, was that right? Also, rhythm.
posted by radioamy at 7:51 PM on March 5, 2008

occurance… the similarity to "current" always gets me and I try to spell it "occurrence".

posted by XMLicious at 8:10 PM on March 5, 2008

posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:28 PM on March 5, 2008

I would have won my district third-grade spelling bee had I known the correct spelling of "vacuum." I pass on this suggestion to save others from similar pain!
posted by ilana at 12:00 AM on March 6, 2008

Best answer: It sounds like you're working on "unfair words." Since these can't be solved with phonetics, she needs them as sight-words. Google "sight words" to get good lists of common, but unfair words. If, on the other hand, you want increasingly tricky phonetic words, don't be afraid to make them up. Ask her to spell crumbilstion, or read phrogment.
posted by agentofselection at 12:15 AM on March 6, 2008


... I can never get right for some reason


... I can but is supposed to be notoriously tricky (actually add 'notoriously' too)

And of course...

posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:34 AM on March 6, 2008

Buy a scrabble dictionary - long lists of words organised by number of letters - and look out for interesting shorter ones and easier longer ones, then extend as her skills grow. Plus it helps for scrabble.
posted by Sparx at 5:06 AM on March 6, 2008

I remember "adjacent" being a difficult word back when I was in fifth grade.

Also, "onomatopoeia" - I always thought that was a fun one.
posted by chan.caro at 6:45 AM on March 6, 2008

My sister couldn't spell "muscles" when she was that age.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:56 AM on March 6, 2008

Fluoride. Fluorescence.
posted by Tapioca at 9:51 AM on March 6, 2008

posted by dinger at 11:20 AM on March 6, 2008

In our sixth-grade spelling bee, "tertiary" downed half the class. In the regional spelling bee in third grade, I got knocked out on "answerer." I got nervous about the W and stuck it in there too soon.
posted by dizziest at 1:57 PM on March 6, 2008

Separate. One of my teachers pointed out that separate has "a rat" in it.
posted by kamikazegopher at 2:34 PM on March 6, 2008

Words that have knocked me out of spelling bees:
3rd grade: tomorrow (I spelled it with two m's. I still think my way looks better.)
8th grade: chassis (Hey, I don't read car magazines.)
posted by naoko at 2:53 PM on March 6, 2008

You know what might be another interesting thing to do spelling-wise, would be to group imported words and place names by language. So that, for example, she can learn that in Italian "c" and "cc" can make a ch sound (arrivederci, ciao, Gucci) and in Chinese "x" makes a sh sound (Xinhua News Agency, Xinjiang province, Guangxi province).
posted by XMLicious at 6:36 PM on March 6, 2008

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