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WORDS AND THEIR MEANINGS

There are many words in the English language which, due to their spelling or pronunciation, are easily confused with others - here are just a few, with their meanings.

We would mention some of these words also have other meanings but we have only covered those applicable to the confusion.

AFFECT/EFFECT

Effect (as a noun) means a result, consequence, impression etc. 

As verbs they are used differently, Affect means to produce an effect upon, effect means to bring about.

AGGRAVATE and IRRITATE

Aggravate makes a situation worse.  Irritate means to annoy.

ALL RIGHT

Always two words, never "alright".

ALL TOGETHER and ALTOGETHER

All together means all at the same time.  Altogether means entirely.

ALTERNATE/ALTERNATIVE

In British English alternate means "every other" whereas alternative means "available as another choice", however in American usage alternate can be used to mean "available as another choice".

ANTISOCIAL/UNSOCIABLE/UNSOCIAL

There is some overlap in meaning but, in general, antisocial describes behaviour which harms society, unsociable refers to someone who dislikes the company of others and unsocial is used in phrases such as "working unsocial hours" meaning outside normal working hours. Unsociable can also be used in this phrase but unsocial is preferable.

ANYONE/ANY ONE

Anyone is only written as two words to emphasise numerical aspects e.g. "any one of us could go", at all other times it is written as one word.

ASSUME and PRESUME

Assume means take or accept as being true without proof.

Presume is to suppose to be true, take for granted.

Contributed by an anonymous visitor.

BETWEEN YOU AND ME or BETWEEN YOU AND I

Always "between you and me" NEVER "between you and I".

CANVAS and CANVASS

Canvas is a heavy fabric.            Canvass is to solicit for votes.

CLIMACTIC and CLIMATIC

Climactic refers to a climax.       Climatic refers to weather.

CONTINUAL/CONTINUOUS

Continual is when something happens very frequently, whereas continuous refers to something happening without a break.

DIFFER FROM and DIFFER WITH

Something can differ from another.

People differ with each other.

DISINTERESTED and UNINTERESTED

Disinterested mean to be unbiased, impartial.   Uninterested is to be unconcerned or bored.

FARTHER and FURTHER

Although both can be used, farther is usually used when referring to physical distance. e.g.

The hotel was farther down the road that we thought.

Nothing was further from his thoughts.

FLAMMABLE, INFLAMMABLE

Both these words mean combustible or ignitable - can be set alight. 

The correct word for items which cannot be set alight is non-flammable.

GIBE and GYBE (both can also be spelt "Jibe")

To gibe is to ridicule or make fun of whereas gybe is to move a sail or boom to the other side of a boat or to change the direction of a boat.

INCREDIBLE and INCREDULOUS

Incredible means unbelievable.   Incredulous means disbelieving or sceptical.

INGENIOUS/INGENUOUS

Ingenious means clever, skilful or resourceful whereas ingenuous means artless or frank.

LAY and LIE

Lay is to place something on a surface whereas you lie down on the floor.

LOOSE and LOSE

Loose is something that is not firmly or tightly fixed in place; detached or able to be detached or having freedom of movement. 

Lose is to mislay or cease to have, either physically or in an abstract sense.

Reshma Rao

LUXURIANT/LUXURIOUS

Luxuriant means lush, profuse or prolific and luxurious means extremely comfortable.

NOISOME and NOISY

Noisome means offensive, it has nothing to do with sound. Noisy means loud.

PREVARICATE/PROCRASTINATE

Prevariacate means to act or speak evasively whereas procrastinate means to postpone or put off an action.

PRONE and SUPINE

Prone is lying face down and supine is face up.

PROSTATE and PROSTRATE

The prostate is a reproductive gland in males.    Prostrate means lying face downwards or, in botanical terms, growing along the ground.

REGRETTABLY and REGRETFULLY

Regrettably means it was undesirable or unwelcome e.g. "regrettably you have been unsuccessful".  

Regretfully, is the showing of regret e.g.   He admitted regretfully to the burglary.

SEASONABLE/SEASONAL

Seasonable means usual or suitable for the season or opportune, seasonal means depending on, or varying with the season.

STATIONERY and STATIONARY

Stationery is writing paper, envelopes etc. whereas Stationary is when something is not moving.

THEIR and THERE

Their means belonging to them e.g. They went to pick up their tickets.

There generally refers to a place or position e.g. Please put your coat over there.

I would like to point out there are other meanings for this word!!!!

TORTUOUS and TORTUROUS

Tortuous means winding, full of twists and turns.  Torturous means painful, like torture.

TROOP and TROUPE

Troop is a group or assembled company.  Troupe is a company usually actors.

 

OTHER WORDS THAT ARE OFTEN MISUSED

DECIMATED - means cut BY a 10th, not to a 10th.

Patricia Ellistone

This was the original meaning, however, accordingly to some reputable dictionaries, it is now widely used as meaning "to destroy a large proportion of".

The following entry was found in http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/decimate?q=decimate 

 

"The earliest sense of decimate was ‘kill one in every ten of’, a reference to the ancient Roman practice of killing one in every ten of a group of soldiers as a collective punishment. This has been more or less totally superseded by the sense ‘kill or destroy a large proportion of’, although some traditionalists argue that this later sense is incorrect."

 

MOMENTARILY - means for a very short period of time, NOT in a moment.

Patricia Ellistone

QUANTUM - amounts are very small, not very large.

Patricia Ellistone

Quantum leap, however, means a sudden large increase or advance.


Other word related information and here.

 

If you have any favourites you feel should be added to this list, please send them to us at june@hintsandthings.co.uk


 

 

 

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