English Words that are Spelt Weirdly

shutterstock_161773502The English language is quite fascinating, but it can also be incredibly complicated and confusing, especially to those who are learning English as a second language. There are many letter combinations that sound different within different words (like “ch” in “chrome” and “machine”) which seem to be there just to confuse everyone.

But interestingly, there are actually some good reasons why these words have become what they are.


The word “thought” has actually gone through a few different ways of spelling before landing it’s current way of spelling. Some of these ways include “þoht”, “ðoght”, “thowgth”, “thouch”, “thotht”, “thoughte”, and “thowcht”. The word was originally pronounced with a German sounding “Ach!” where the “gh” sits. The English language went through changes, and it was decided that the “ach” sounds would be removed from the English language, however spelling for words had been clearly established. Therefore, the “gh” stayed in the word but the sound of it changed.


Indeed, this word used to be spelt “sissors” or “sizars”, which can seem to make a bit more sense than having that letter “c” in there. It was thought to have come from the Latin word “scindere” meaning “to split”. But, it actually came from the French word “cisorium” meaning “cutting implement”.


A lot of Latin words inspired English words as we know them. Some have even come from French words, as in the example of the word “scissors”. However, sometimes letters from Latin words have made an appearance in words that never came from Latin origins. This is what happened with the word “island”. “Island” comes from the Old English word “iglund”, and was sometimes spelled “illond”, “ylonde” or “ilande”. Somewhere along the lines, the “s” was picked up from the Latin word “insula” and someone put the “s” where it was never meant to be.


The word was first introduced into the English language in the 1500’s, but there were two ways of spelling it. It was spelled “coronel” and “colonel”, each of these being from two different languages. “Coronel” came from the French language, while “colonel” came from Italy. There was uncertainty on the spelling and so it was spelled both ways for many years. It was then decided to spell it the Italian way, but pronounce it with the French “r” sound, so as to compromise with both words.


Again, this word was heavily influenced by Latin. The word “receipt” was originally spelled as “receit” as it came from the French language. It was never pronounced with a “p” sound at all. However, Latin enthusiasts decided to add the “p” into the word to associate it with the Latin word, “receptus”. The pronunciation remained the same as the French word, but had the additional “p” added in.


Wednesday has gone through several spelling changes including “Wodnesdaeg”, “Weodnesdei”, “Wenysday”, “Wonysday” and “Weddinsday”. The name of the day originated from the Anglo-Saxon God, Woden. Woden was all about fury and poetic inspiration, and he even cured horses. Wednesday was his day, and was originally “Woden’s Day”. Even Shakespeare wrote the day spelled as “Wensday” to match it’s pronunciation, but it never stuck.


English has borrowed and used many words from other countries and languages, and then used them as our own or altered them slightly to make it our own. “Zucchini” is actually Italian, and it is spelled in English in the exact way it was intended in Italian.


The Old English verb “acan” is where the word “ache” originates. However, some believed the word had originated from one of the Greek spirits, Akhos. Algos, Akhos and Lupa were the Spirits of Pain and Anguish according to Greek mythology, and many thought “ache” was due to this myth. Hence, we were left with a strange spelling and an unnecessary “h”.