How to Pronounce “Slough”: Slew? Sluff? Slow? Slug? Slog?

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I‘ve read Pilgrim’s Progress several times but still had to look up how to pronounce slough, as in Slough of Despond. Does it rhyme with cow? Do? Cuff?

ough

Have you thought about the letter combination ough? No letter combination in English is more frustrating. It can be pronounced at least nine different ways:

rough (uff)
through (oo)
bough (ow)
cough (off)
dough (oh)
hiccough (up)
fought (aw)
Poughkeepsie (uh)
Coughlin (og)

Slough causes problems because it’s pronounced different ways, depending on meaning. Slough pronounced sluff is the term for shedding skin, like snakes do. Slough meaning wet, swampy ground can be pronounced either sloo or slou (rhymes with cow). Dictionary.com prefers slou, while the American Heritage Dictionary prefers sloo. I’m going with sloo too (because it rhymes with goo, which seems appropriate).

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Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Wordy
    Wordy12-02-2014

    thorough (owe)

  2. Tom
    Tom06-02-2014

    I’m going to pronounce it sloo, because I don’t know what pronouncing it slou means!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko06-03-2014

      That is a bit vague, huh? I’ve edited the post, adding “rhymes with cow” to clarify what I mean by “slou.”

      I was trying to avoid using phonetic symbols in this post and the sound OW (as in cow, how, & brow) is impossible to represent clearly. SLOW is obviously pronounced differently. SLOU was my attempt to indicate the pronunciation of SLOUGH that rhymes with COW. But OU has several pronunciations too. Oh well. I hope this change improves clarity. Thanks for mentioning it.

  3. Vicky
    Vicky05-30-2013

    I’ve always wondered this and thank you! I’ve read Little House on the Prairie for the last 25 years and muffled through it to myself until I started reading it to daughter and realized I can’t muffle through words, unless I want to sound uneducated. Oh, and I was pronouncing it like plough, only I said it very fast and out of the corner of my mouth in hopes that she wouldn’t notice!

  4. Cheryl Epp
    Cheryl Epp08-07-2011

    It might depend on where you’re from. In my part of the world, ‘slough’ rhymes with ‘blue’ and ‘true’, but when I’ve heard British versions of Pilgrim’s Progress, ‘slough’ rhymes with ‘cow’ and ‘wow’.

  5. Mrs. Joy H. Reinicke
    Mrs. Joy H. Reinicke08-04-2011

    I love this kinda stuff. Used to play in-the-car games with Jessica & Joshua: How many different ways can you spell to/too/two or blue/blew, etc. And I wonder…if something is delicious, is it good fud or gooed food? I especially liked your “og” example! lol

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko08-05-2011

      I do too, Joy. I guess that’s obvious. Thanks for the comment. Great to hear from you!

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