Working within and around entrepreneurship education brings me in contact with many different types of people. It is actually one of the coolest aspects of teaching entrepreneurship – it excludes no one. We work with every culture, every skill level, every background, every age, and every personality.

That being said – I have discovered that there is a shared pet peeve among my colleagues and I. It is the constant misuse and mispronunciation of the word “entrepreneurship.”

It may seem like a silly topic, but imagine if you were forced to go through life with someone always saying your name wrong. It would probably bother you, too.

As we get into this, I must ask that we not get into an argument over the actual definitions I put here. They are in no way all encompassing of all of the academic and professional definitions that have been published (it is surprisingly still an argument among academics). This is just simple layman language here.

CORRECT:

Entrepreneur – the person

Entrepreneurship – the action

Entrepreneurial – a way to describe a person or action that may or may not have something to do with starting an organization (i.e. – it was an entrepreneurial way to approach the challenge )

Now, these next few terms are technically words – but they get on most people’s nerves because they don’t really MEAN anything.

SLIGHTLY ANNOYING:

Entrepreneurialism – I just don’t get this term. Is this supposed to be like a theoretical way of looking at the world? Like idealism? Or like an economic system a country could take on such as capitalism or socialism? It seems just a plain weird use of the word.

Entrepreneurially – This one doesn’t bother quite so much as the one above. I generally don’t mind it if its coupled with something else – like entrepreneurially-minded. But please other than that – it’s just a vague sounding adverb. Kind of like when people use a word like tumultuously in a casual conversation.

Entrepreneurism – This one disgusts me almost as much as Skyline Chili loaded onto spaghetti. It’s similar to my above comparison to socialism and capitalism. But the term itself comes across as so restricting and formulaic, which is the very opposite of the essence of entrepreneurship. And how would you actually use it in a sentence?

JUST PLAIN WRONG:

Entrepreneural – It is not entrepreneural – It is not neural – its neurIAL. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard George Bush use this bastardization of the word in a speech. Put ALL the syllables in there.

Entrepreneurialship – It is funny when I see someone say this word – its like they aren’t sure which term is right, so they just put all of the versions together. Even as they say the word – you can see them saying to themselves – “crap, I know this wrong.”

Entrepreneurshipism – Ok, I admit – I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use this non-word, but I’m sure someone somewhere has. It just sounds like a hiccup.

Entrepreneurialistic – This seems like a word the Millennial generation would come up with to describe a positive way to look at life. (Never mind most entrepreneurs go into bankruptcy their first few times out of the gate.) I suppose in a marketing world where they are making up words – like the old Snicker’s campaign: “Learn to Speak Snacklish”– it would be cute, but when you are serious – don’t use it. It’s not a real word.

So, in serious conversations, if you stick with the basic three: entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurial; you will be in pretty good shape. If you stick to that, we’ll even forgive you for needing spell check to write them.

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