Misspelling of the Year 2013


To explore the psyche of a people, do not look at what they do–look at what they do wrong. Today, we introduce the Misspelling of the Year. A word that was looked up significantly more this year than the year before. A word with lots of different misspellings. A word in the news. The word: furlough.

In 2013, Dictionary.com saw tens of thousands of lookups of this word, often spelled without the ugh. Though the correct spelling is furlough, three variants ballooned in lookup volume: furlow was looked up 66 percent more in 2013 than it was in 2012, and furlo was looked up 60 percent more. We can’t calculate how many more times ferlow, which was in the top 10,000 words of 2013, was searched for because no one was searching for it in 2012.

The main reason folks were talking about furloughs was the October shutdown of the US government (sequester and sequestration searches also jumped 2.3 and 2.8 times relative to last year, but no one was misspelling those).

As for the misspellings. Well, it’s a rough road. The first uses in English were close to the Dutch: vorloffe and fore-loofe in the 1630s. You also get furloghs, furlows, and foreloffs in the early centuries of its use. Why on earth would we pronounce it “oh” but spell it “ough”? Cough cough. That’s tough. Though I have a few thoughts. Let’s step under this lovely bough. (It’s not as bad as it could be: hiccup was standardly spelled as hiccough for a few hundred years.) There are a lot of ways to say ‘g’, but we can’t go into all of them here.

Furlough wasn’t the only word that was giving folks trouble in 2013. In reviewing Dictionary.com’s misspellings of the year (I’d prefer to call them “nonstandard spellings” but the Spelling Despots among you would be at me with pitchphorks), three categories for types of misspellings emerged:

Prefix/suffix troubles

  • PERJUDICE and PERDJUICE for prejudice (think “pre judge” not “smoothie of perdition”)
  • PERCISE for precise (the -cise here is like in incision, so think “pre cut”)
  • ADAMIT for adamant (think “Wolverine has adamantium claws, not adamittens”)
  • AMETURE for amateur (the ama is about love, the -teur is for a doer, like actor in French is acteur; so think “French lover”)

Missing letters

  • AQUAINTED for acquainted (from the 1300s to about 1600 it didn’t have a “c” in English, you were born too late)
  • IFARED for infrared (awesome, don’t ever change)
  • TONSILECTOMY for tonsillectomy (two tonsils, two l’s to remove them)
  • ACHIEVMENT for achievement (spell “achieve” then add “ment”)
  • HIERACHICAL for hierarchical (sound it out?)

Just plain hard

  • EARY for eerie (at the end of the 18th century, suddenly English writers decided this word really needed a double “e,” sorry)
  • THROROUGH for thorough (this is probably just a typo)
  • INDITE for indict (the ending is related to dictionary or dictate–it’s talking about “saying,” you’re declaring an accusation)
  • IMAGRATION for immigration (look for “migrant” inside the word)

Studying nonstandard spellings also suggests some words that need to exist. An argu(e)ment can be made that assertation is a misspelling of assertion, but I would like to think it means something else. Like when someone just goes on and on asserting stuff to point that it feels like they’re reading you a dissertation.

But the word that is the best word in the whole data set and most needs your use and definitions: indiscrepancy. Go get it, Internet.

(Want to learn more about the many pronunciations of -ough? Check out our slideshow here.)


  1. web hosting -  February 4, 2014 - 11:53 am

    I remember writing “cushion” for ‘Cousin’ only once though!

  2. THE REAL wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 3, 2014 - 3:30 am

    @ the “wolf tamer and coal miner” who posted:

    “So, I’ve decided to quit minecraft because I think it’s really lame. Also I’d like to take this opportunity to admit that I have no idea how to tame wolves or punch trees or anything else like that. I’m very sorry.”

    Why, exactly, did you steal my name? For goodness’ sake, you don’t have to go using someone else’s screen name. If you’re trying to be funny, it’s not working. If you think I talk about Minecraft too much, I haven’t been – not for a long time. If you’re just being mean, get a life! Don’t you have anything better to do than trolling on a dictionary forum? And, fyi, I do know how to tame wolves (right-click them with bones until hearts bubble up from them) and punch trees (left-click on one until a block of wood pops out) and “anything else like that.” I realize some people may not like Minecraft, but you don’t have to go around saying it’s “really lame.” :|

  3. wolf tamer and coal miner -  January 29, 2014 - 8:16 pm

    So, I’ve decided to quit minecraft because I think it’s really lame. Also I’d like to take this opportunity to admit that I have no idea how to tame wolves or punch trees or anything like that. I’m very sorry.

  4. wolf tamer and coal miner -  January 29, 2014 - 1:30 am

    I have trouble spelling “excite” (exite), “experiment” (expirement), and “exercise” (excercise).

  5. An Awesome Minecrafter -  January 29, 2014 - 1:23 am

    A few minutes ago I saw an ad for a website called Lookany. Here is what it said:

    “Lookany Your Ultimate Web Ressource”


  6. Poonam -  January 27, 2014 - 10:44 pm

    I remember writing “cushion” for ‘Cousin’ only once though!

  7. An Awesome Minecrafter -  January 27, 2014 - 3:16 am

    Another thing that gets under my skin: people saying “wallah” instead of “voila.” I’m not sure why it bothers me so much, but it does.

    @Inept Nico:
    You could be right about the dash. I’m only in 7th grade, so I still have plenty to learn about grammar… And I didn’t know about the “Syldexics of the world, untie” thing.

  8. Spelling Queen -  January 25, 2014 - 4:44 pm

    I misspelled without for the longest time (withought) as well as maybe (mabye) As I type this, spell check attempts to correct me. (No wonder so many kids nowadays would be lost without it, maybe…) I would love to write a novel called “No Spell Check on a Typewriter”: a dystopian novel about when all the power goes out and no one can spell anything.

  9. Pookypooky -  January 18, 2014 - 12:00 pm

    My worst spelled word is fart because I keep putting part instead- do any other find this! ALso I forgot I love you Collins

  10. Inept Nico -  January 13, 2014 - 12:59 am

    @Awesome Minecrafter

    > The hyphen (little dash; this thing: -)
    Isn’t the ndash, and not a hyphen, used to indicate a pause – for the reader to take stock of the sentence?
    And is not the mdash another punctuation mark entirely — one can digress from the main thought — without breaking stride between sentences?

    > Minecrafters, unite! (or maybe, “untie”?)
    You usurpers, it was originally

    > ignoramuses
    I know this is the correct plural, but it does sound kind of effected. Wouldn’t “ignorami” go down much better? This latitutude is granted to the other word that pluralises in a whole mouthful :
    noun, plural hip·po·pot·a·mus·es, hip·po·pot·a·mi

    “Education is one of those things where every ignoramus and his brother is an expert” – unknown

    Is there a problem with the second verb’s number here? (I think that Fowler may call this something like the “singular by proximity” issue). Surely it should be
    … every ignoramus and his brother are experts ?


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