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).

About the Author

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

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  2. Natalie
    Natalie06-05-2015

    Love this! Whenever I come across the word “slough”, I pause and then say really fast, “SluffSlewSlow”. Glad to know how to say it now!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko06-06-2015

      That’s why I wrote it, Natalie. I had no idea how to pronounce it either, so I researched it. :) Thanks for taking the time to post a nice comment.

  3. Robb
    Robb02-11-2015

    No one spells hiccup like Hiccough because it’s ridiculous lol
    Also, what’s Coughlin, that’s spoken as Coglin? I only know that as Cofflin?

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-12-2015

      Hiccup passed hiccough as the more common spelling around 1950. But hiccough is still around. And yes, I have friends named Coughlin who pronounce it COGLIN.http://bit.ly/1E33tAe

  4. Jim Slough
    Jim Slough01-04-2015

    My name is usually not said correctly. It rhymes with plow/plough/cow, etc., and is British. There is a town west of London England with the same name that also rhymes with plow. I usually get “slew”, “sluff” or “slow” from those who don’t know me.

  5. Wordy
    Wordy12-02-2014

    thorough (owe)

    • Win
      Win01-27-2015

      Thorough is the same sound as dough (oh)

      • Brian Wasko
        Brian Wasko02-02-2015

        Yes it it. But through and dough are different.

      • Dani
        Dani04-15-2015

        Not in British English. Then it’s almost like “eh”. Thu-reh.

        • Marty
          Marty03-22-2016

          Haha is that Scouse? I would have thought most Brits pronounce it thu-ruh… like borough.

          Incidentally, do Americans make borough sound the same as borrow?

          • Brian Wasko
            Brian Wasko03-23-2016

            No, it’s the same as “Burrow.”

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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’.

  9. 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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