A tongue-twister is a phrase that is designed to be difficult to articulate properly. Tongue-twisters may rely on similar but distinct phonemes (e.g., s [s] and sh [ʃ]), unfamiliar constructs in loanwords, or other features of a language.

The hardest tongue-twister in the English language according to Guinness World Records is supposedly The sixth sick sheikh's sixth sheep's sick.


Many tongue-twisters use a combination of alliteration and rhyme. They have two or three sequences of sounds, then the same sequences of sounds with some sounds exchanged. One example is Betty Botter ():
Betty Botter bought a bit of butter.
The butter Betty Botter bought was a bit bitter
And made her batter bitter.
But a bit of better butter
Makes batter better.
So Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter,
Making Betty Botter's bitter batter better.

Some tongue-twisters are short words or phrases, which become tongue-twisters when repeated rapidly, often expressed as "Say this ten times fast!".

"Wet rain."
"Peggy Babcock"
"Thin Thing"
= "French friend"
"Red Leather, yellow Leather"
"You Know You Need Unique New York"
"Sometimes sunshine"
"Irish wristwatch"
"Toy Boat."
"Tasty Twister"
"Flammable Flanimal"
"Big whip" is another that is difficult for some people to say quickly, due to the lip movement required between the "g" and "wh" sounds.

Some well-known English tongue-twisters are:

Billy blew a blue bubble while bouncing on a bongo.

"Peter Piper":

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

But if Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Were they pickled when he picked them from the vine?
Or was Peter Piper pickled when he picked the pickled peppers
Peppers picked from the pickled pepper vine?

"How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?":

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
A woodchuck would chuck all the wood that he could
if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

A woodchuck
would chuck
all the wood he could
if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

and using the same format,

"How many cars can a carpark park?":

How many cars can a carpark park
if a carpark could park cars?
A carpark could park all the cars that it could
if a carpark could park cars

"Sick hicks":

Six sick hicks nick six slick bricks with picks and sticks.

"Sister Suzie":

Sister Suzie sewing shirts for soldiers
Such skill at sewing shirts
Our shy young sister Suzie shows
Some soldiers send epistles
Say they'd rather sleep in thistles
Than the saucy, soft short shirts for soldiers Sister Suzie sews

"She sells sea shells":

Sister Sue sells sea shells.
She sells sea shells on shore.
The shells she sells.
Are sea shells she sees.
Sure she sees shells she sells.

"Night light":

You've known me to light a night light
on a light night like tonight.
or a variation:
There's no need to light a night light
on a light night like tonight,
for a night light's a slight light
an a night like tonight.

"Thistle sifter":

Theophilus Thistle, the successful thistle sifter,
in sifting thousands of unsifted thistles,
thrust thrice three thousand thistles
through the thick of his thumb.


Orange jello, lemon jello,
Orange jello, lemon jello,
Orange jello, lemon jello.

This next one won grand prize in a contest in Games Magazine in 1979: (Contest announced in issue of November/December 1979; results announced in issue of March/April 1980).

Shep Schwab shopped at Scott's Schnapps shop;
One shot of Scott's Schnapps stopped Schwab's watch.

Tongue-twister or mere alliteration?

The well-known sentence:
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
has alliteration but is not a true tongue-twister because repeating the words would and chuck multiple times is not difficult to speak. In contrast, the following sentence:
How many slips would a slip ship shift
If a slip ship could shift slips?
is a tongue-twister because the letters f and p and the letters s and sh are interchanged in an unfamiliar sequence that is difficult to speak without practice.


Some tongue-twisters are specifically designed to cause the inadvertent pronunciation of a swearword if the speaker stumbles verbally (see spoonerism). An example in Polish is ząb, zupa zębowa, dąb, zupa dębowa (a tooth, tooth soup, an oak, oak soup). The word dąb forces an unsuspecting victim to further utter dupa dębowa (oak arse).

An English example of this sort:

I'm not the pheasant plucker, I'm the pheasant plucker's mate,
And I'm only plucking pheasants 'cause the pheasant plucker's late.
I'm not the pheasant plucker, I'm the pheasant plucker's son,
And I'm only plucking pheasants till the pheasant pluckers come.

Or another:

I'm a sheet slitter
If sheets need slitting,
Sheets I slit.

Or another: I'm a sock cutter and I cut socks.

Loanwords and other language elements

Certain loanwords contain unfamiliar constructs, which are used in tongue-twisters. For example, Finnish strutsin perhe (the family of an ostrich) has the consonant cluster "str", whereas such consonant clusters do not occur in native Finnish words. Repeated, this might be pronounced as "strutsin perse" ("ostrich's arse").

Other features of language can make for tongue-twisters; for instance, the Czech strč prst skrz krk (stick a finger through the throat) relies on the absence of vowels, although syllabic r is a normal Czech sound.


There are tongue twisters in every language. An example of a trabalenguas (as it is called in Spanish) is "Rosa reza por la raza rusa, pero para, porque para pura risa por la raza rusa reza Rosa" which roughly means "Rose prays for the Russian race but stops because laughing is what Rose does when praying for the Russian race."

One Japanese twister (attempted by child genius Chiyo Mihama in the Anime series Azumanga Daioh) is Basu Gasu Bakuhatsu, Busu Basu Gaido, meaning "Bus Gas Explosion, Ugly Bus Guide." Another (as heard on Please Come Home... Mr. Bulbous) is Tonari No Kyaku Wa Yoku Kaki Kuu Kyaku Da, meaning "The customer next to me eats a lot of persimmons (or oysters)". Still another (featured in the Anime series Clannad, where Tomoya challenges Fūko with it) is Tokyo Tokkyo Kyokakyoku, which means "The Tokyo Special Patent Approval office."

An example in Polish is "Król Karol kupił królowej Karolinie korale koloru koralowego" (King Charles bought Queen Caroline a coral colour necklace). And other like: "W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie" (In Szczebrzeszyn a beetle buzzes in the reed) or "Stół z powyłamywanymi nogami" (Table with legs broken out).

In Scouse, the dialect of the English city of Liverpool, it is common to say They do, though, don't they, though. In Scouse this is easy as all of the diagraphs 'th' are pronounced as a 'd', but saying it quickly in Standard RP or GA (GA they do though don't they though.ogg) can be very difficult.

In the Philippines, popular tongue-twisters spread. These are: "Minikaniko ni Moniko ang makina ng minika ni Monika", "Botika, Bituka, Butiki" and the one word, "Nakakapagpabagabag".

Although in Czech is well known the "Tři sta třicet tři stříbrných stříkaček stříkalo přes tři sta třicet tři stříbrných střech" (333 silver syringes squirted over 333 silver roofs), one of the most difficult is vowel-free "Smrž pln skvrn zvlh z mlh" (The morel full of stains become wet from fog). However, tongue-twisters based on repeating the one or two difficult words are more common: "Nenaolejuje-li Julie koleje, naolejuji je já" (Should not July oil the tracks I will oil them myself). Popular are also long words created by adding various prefixes and suffixes (such as "nejneobhospodařovávatelnějšími") which – although grammatically correct – do not have much use in common language.

The most famous French twister (called "virelangue") is certainly "Un chasseur sachant chasser doit savoir chasser sans son chien", meaning "a hunter who knows how to hunt knows how to hunt without his dog".

Very difficult russian one is "Korabli lavirovali-lavirovali, lavirovali-lavirovali, da ne vilavirovali" meaning "Ships have been manoeuvring, manoeuvring and couldn't finish manoeuvring".

The Georgian tongue-twister, "ბაყაყი წყალში ყიყინებს" (baq'aq'i ts'q'alshi q'iq'inebs; "the frog is croaking in the water") contains several instances of a uvular ejective consonant that is very difficult for non-Georgians.

The sign language equivalent of a tongue twister is called a finger fumbler. According to Susan Fischer, the phrase Good blood, bad blood is a tongue-twister in English as well as a finger-fumbler in ASL.


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