Words with R

What Happened to R?

by Owen Fourie

You’ll hear it in speech. You’ll see it in writing. Or, more accurately, you will not hear it in speech, and you will not see it in writing. It is the missing letter R.

Here are twenty instances of words that are affected by this anomaly.

In the following pairs, the correct word appears first with a brief definition. The incorrect version of the word follows in italics with a proposed definition.


determined by chance or personal whim

arbitry [try Arby’s]

suggestion to experience the fare of a well-known restaurant chain


a substance derived from barbituric acid and used, medically, as a sedative or anticonvulsant

barbituate [barbie-tuate]

perpetuation of Barbie doll fad


human offspring

childern [child-earn]

a child who earns money for various tasks


to become worse; to degenerate

deteriate [deter-i-ate]

Despite being deterred by some, I ate (junk food) and this habit became worse.


a person who takes on the risks of a business venture


an entrepreneur who succeeds despite lack of attention to detail

February [fe-brew-ery]

second month of the year in the Gregorian calendar


a month in which nothing should be brewed—no coffee, no beer


a group of people whose common interest or purpose bands them together

faternity [fat-ernity]

being overweight for an eternity


has a longer wavelength than visible light but a shorter wavelength than radio waves on the electromagnetic spectrum

infared [red infant]

the color of a crying Caucasian infant


the basic structure of a system, an organization, a country

infastructure [infant structure]

the skeletal structure of an infant


explain the meaning of words or actions

interpet [inter-pet]

internet service for your pets


someone who believes in and strives for civil liberty and the lessening of state control in every area of life

libetarian [li-bet-arian]

libertarian with a gambling problem


a building or a room housing a collection of books and related material for research or borrowing by the community

libary [li-bar-y]

place for censored books like Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


written works, particularly writings of superior quality

litature [lit-ature]

product of enlightenment and maturity, but not a written work


especially; a word used to distinguish or emphasize a point

particuly [party-cully]

a person who is easily tricked at parties [cully = a person who is easily duped]


the process of sweating

prespiration [pre-spiration]

the moment before you break into a sweat


a ghost that reveals itself by making noises and moving or throwing objects

poltregeist [poltre-geist]

a petty [paltry] ghost


relating to the action of breathing

respitory [re-spit-ory]

a vessel containing spittle


a person who assists an employer or an official with correspondence, record-keeping, appointments, and other related tasks


an inferior secretary, one who has a problem with spelling


an event, a gift, a fact that is unexpected

suprise [sup-rise]

a supper that has been levitated


an instrument used to measure temperature

themometer [the-mom-eater]

a cannibal who eats a mother

There are many words with one or more r’s that cause difficulty in pronunciation and spelling. If you can think of one or more, go ahead and list the incorrect version in your comments with your proposed definition.


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