Is there a single word which means "hard to pronounce" ?
For example Dijkstra is "hard to pronounce".

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    Unpronounceable? It does not need to be taken in an absolute sense. People like phrases like 'tongue-torturing" or "tortuous". – jobermark Nov 23 '15 at 21:17
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    Dijkstra is not hard to pronounce -- the 'j' just makes the 'i' long. But it is 'cryptic' -- there is a rule you have to know to 'decode' the spelling. – jobermark Nov 23 '15 at 21:19

The colloquial word, 'jaw-breaker', means "hard to pronounce":

jaw-breaker, n.
1. A word hard to pronounce ....

Several other words meaning "difficult to pronounce" are in use:

break-teeth adj. (also break-tooth) difficult to pronounce.

'Break-tooth' has a distinguished pedigree, including use by Sir Walter Scott (1827).

crack-jaw, adj.
Fit to crack the jaws; difficult to pronounce. Also transf.

'Crack-jaw' has a history of use that is even more illustrious than 'break-tooth', including uses by Disreali (1827) and Beerbohm (1920).

'Cramp' has its own charm, but is likely to lift an eyebrow or two when used:

cramp, adj.
1. a. Difficult to make out, understand, or decipher; crabbed.
cramp word: a word difficult to pronounce or understand.

(All from the OED Online.)

The first three of these words will very likely be easy to understand, even for people not familiar with their use and meaning. The fourth may require explanation of its meaning in most company, unless it is used in the phrase "cramp word", which might make the need to explain its meaning less likely. None of them are designated as obsolete or rare in the OED.


A word (or phrase) that's difficult to pronounce is a tongue-twister.

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    Yeah, I'd say "tongue-twister" comes closest to this meaning. I've never heard any of JEL's words applied in this sense, but "tongue-twister" is often used for a difficult-to-pronounce word or name -- "That's a real tongue-twister!" – Hot Licks Dec 31 '15 at 23:07

No, there is no single English word with that meaning. And the meaning is complicated.

The word Dijkstra isn't hard to pronounce. In English, it's pronounced /dayk strə/, like Dike Stra. Not hard. What's difficult about it is that it's Dutch spelling rules, not English spelling rules.
In Dutch, IJ is pronounced /ay/ (like eye; or /ey/ like hay) and that looks funny to English readers.

Even though Dutch spelling is far preferable to English spelling, because one can always tell from its spelling how to pronounce a Dutch word. This is not true of English, to say the least.

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    Everyone in Michigan knows how to pronounce Dijkstra. But the family spells it Dykstra. – curious-proofreader Nov 25 '15 at 2:26
  • Isn't Dutch "ij" conventionally transcribed /ɛi/? I know it can be realized phonetically with a lower quality for the initial element (mentioned as a note in this Wikipedia article) but from what I understand that sound change is still in progress and has not yet affected all speakers. – herisson Dec 30 '15 at 19:23
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    @curious-proofreader - However, any computer programmer who learned his art in the 70s is familiar with Edsger Dijkstra and probably knows how to pronounce (and spell) the name (if their professors did). – Hot Licks Dec 30 '15 at 20:50

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