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Compact Oxford English Dictionary for Students

Common Spelling Errors

This list contains many of the most common English words which people find tricky to spell, together with short notes to help you remember the right spelling.

As most people find that they have trouble when spelling particular words, you might find it helpful to create your own list of words, together with ways to memorize the correct spellings: here's a worksheet for you to download.

You can also test yourself with our online spelling test.

All the words below follow the standard British English spelling.

abscess sc in the middle, two s's at the end
abseil ends with -seil (not -sail)
accommodate, accommodation, etc. two cs, two ms (often misspelled with only one m)
accumulate, accumulation, etc. two cs, one m
achieve i before e
acquaint, acquire, acquit, etc. remember the c before the q
address two ds
aggressive, aggression, etc. two g's, two s's
all right two words (not alright)
a lot two words (not alot)
amateur ends with -eur (not -uer)
anaesthetic -ae- after the n
Antarctic remember the c after the r
apartment only one p
apparent ends with -ent (not -ant)
aqueduct e after the u (not aqua-)
archaeology -ae- after the h
Arctic remember the c after the r
argument no e after the u
artefact arte- (arti- is the US spelling)
asterisk ends with -isk (Asterix is a cartoon character)
attach ends with -ach (no t)
beautiful, beauty, etc. remember the u (not beat-)
belief, believe i before e
benighted no k in the middle
besiege i before e
biased only one s
bigoted only one t
blatant ends with -ant (not -ent)
brief i before e
broccoli two cs, one l
buoy, buoyant u before the o
cappuccino two ps, two cs
Caribbean one r, two bs
ceiling e before i
cemetery 3 vowels, all es
civilian only one l
coconut -co- in the middle (no a)
commemorate two ms, then single m
commitment two ms, one t in the middle
committee two ms, two ts
comparative -rative (not -ritive)
compatible -tible (not -table)
competent ends with -ent (not -ant)
conceive e before i
consensus -sensus (not -census)
contemporary ends with -porary (not -pory)
correspondence ends with -ence (not -ance)
cursor ends with -or (not -er)
deceive e before i
definite -ite (not -ate)
descendant ends with -ant (not -ent)
despair begins with des- (not dis-)
desperate -per- in the middle (not -par-)
detach ends with -ach (no t)
diarrhoea two rs, ends with -hoea
disappear one s, two ps
disappoint one s, two ps
disastrous ends with -trous (not -terous)
discipline remember the c after the s
dissect two s's
ecstasy ecs- (not x), ends with -asy
eighth two hs, ends with -hth
embarrass, embarrassment, etc. two rs, two s's
environment remember the n before the m
espresso begins with es- (not ex-)
estuary -tuary (not -taury)
exaggerate, exaggeration two gs, one r
except remember the c after the x
exhilarate -lar- in the middle (not -ler-)
existence ends with -ence (not -ance)
extraordinary begins with extraor- (not extror-)
extrovert begins with extro- (not extra-)
familiar only one l
fascinate, fascination remember the c after the s
February two rs (-ruary not -uary)
fierce i before e
fluorescent fluor- (not flour-)
foreign e before i
forty begins with for- (no u)
friend i before e
fulfil, fulfilment two single ls
gauge -au- (not -ua-)
glamorous, glamorize -mor- in the middle (no u)
government remember the n before the m
graffiti two fs, one t
grammar ends with -ar (not -er)
grateful begins with grate- (not great-)
grief, grieve i before e
guarantee -ua- (not -au-)
guard, guardian, etc. -ua- (not -au-)
hamster ham-, (not hamp-)
handkerchief remember the d
harass, harassment, etc. one r, two s's
hers no apostrophe
hierarchy i before e, ends with -archy
hindrance ends with -drance (not -derance)
homogeneous the ending is -eous, with an e
honorary -nor- in the middle (no u)
humorous, humorist -mor- in the middle (no u)
hygiene, hygienic i before e
idiosyncrasy ends with -asy (not -acy)
imaginary ends with -ary (not -ery)
immediately ends with -ately (not -atly)
inadvertent ends with -ent (not -ant)
independent ends with -ent (not -ant)
inoculate one n, one c
insistent ends with -ent (not -ant)
instalment one l
interrupt, interruption two rs
introvert begins with intro- (not intra-)
irrelevant two rs, ends with -ant
itinerary ends with -ary (not -ery)
jocular ends with -ar (not -er)
judgement use judgement in general contexts, judgment in legal use
kernel ends with -el (not -al)
knowledge remember the d
language -guage (not -gauge)
liaise, liaison remember the second i: liais-
library two rs (-rary)
lightning lightn- (no e)
liquefy -efy (not -ify)
maintenance -ten- (not -tain-), ends with -ance
manoeuvre -oeu- in the middle, ends with -vre
medicine begins with medi- (not mede-)
Mediterranean one d, one t, two rs
millennium two ls, two ns
millionaire two ls, one n
miniature remember the a after the i : minia-
minuscule -uscule (not -iscule)
mischievous i before e, ends with -vous (not -vious)
misspell two s's
moreover remember the middle e
necessary, necessity, etc. one c, two s's
negotiate ends with -tiate (not -ciate)
niece i before e
noticeable remember the middle e
occasion two cs, one s
occur two cs, one r
occurrence two cs, two rs
omission, omit one m
opportunity two ps
ours no apostrophe
parallel two ls in the middle, ends with one l
parliament -lia- in the middle
pejorative begins with pej- (not perj-)
perceive e before i
permanent ends with -ent (not -ant)
persistent ends with -ent (not -ant)
pharaoh ends with -aoh (not -oah)
pigeon no d before the g
Portuguese ends with -guese (remember the 2nd u)
possess, possession, etc. two s's in the middle and two at the end
potato no e at the end of the singular (but add -es to make the plural)
privilege ends with -lege (not -ledge)
pronunciation -nunc- in the middle (no o)
propaganda begins with propa- (not propo-)
protein e before i
publicly ends with -cly (not -cally)
pursue, pursuit begins with pur- (not per-)
questionnaire two ns, one r
rarefied rare- (not rari-)
receive e before i
recommend, recommendation, etc. one c, two ms
refrigerator no d
relevant ends with -ant (not -ent)
relief, relieve i before e
religious ends with -gious (not -gous)
restaurateur no n: -rateur
resuscitate -susc- in the middle (not -suss-)
rhythm begins with rhy-, ends with -thm
rigorous -gor- in the middle (no u)
risotto one s, two ts
sacrilege -rilege (not -relige)
Scandinavian -din- in the middle (not -dan-)
seize e before i
separate -par- in the middle (not -per-)
siege i before e
sieve i before e
skilful two single ls
success, successful, etc. two cs, two s's
supersede -sede (not -cede)
suppress two ps
surprise begins with sur- (not sup-)
tariff one r, two fs
temperature -pera- in the middle
theirs no apostrophe
thief i before e
threshold one h in the middle
tomato no e at the end of the singular (but add -es to make the plural)
tomorrow one m, two rs
truly no e
underrate two rs in the middle
unforeseen remember the e after the r
until just one l at the end
unwieldy i before e
usage just one e, at the end
vaccinate two cs
vegetable vege- (not vega-)
veterinary -er- in the middle; -ary at the end
vulnerable remember the l before the n
Wednesday remember the d before the n
weird e before i
wield i before e
wilful two single ls
withhold two hs in the middle
yield i before e
yours no apostrophe

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