Commonly Confused Words

These are a few of the Commonly Confused Words that are most often confused with each other.

Adoptive & adopted : Children are adopted. But parents are adoptive.

Adverse & averse : Adverse means unfavourable or bad. Averse means strongly disliking or opposed to as in:

I am not averse to helping out.

Affect & effect : Affect means make a difference to whereas effect means a result or bring about (a result).

Ambiguous & ambivalent : Ambiguous primarily means having more than one meaning and open to different interpretations while ambivalent means having mixed feelings.

Amoral & immoral : amoral means not concerned with morality while immoral means not conforming to accepted standards of morality.

Appraise & apprise : Appraise means assess while apprise means inform.

Augur & auger : Augur means be a sign of a likely outcome whereas auger means a tool used for boring.

Censure & censor : Censure means express strong disapproval of whereas censor means suppress unacceptable parts of (a book, film, etc.).

Climactic & climatic : Climatic means forming a climax which means relating to climate.

Complacent & complaisant : Complacent means smug and self-satisfied whereas complaisant means willing to please.

Complement & compliment : Complement means a thing that enhances something by contributing extra features whereas compliment which means an expression of praise or politely congratulate.

Continuous & continual : Continuous primarily means without interruption and can refer to space as well as time as in the cliffs form a continuous line along the coast. Whereas Continual typically means happening frequently with intervals between as in the bus service has been disrupted by continual breakdowns.

Council & counsel : Council means an administrative or advisory body whereas counsel means advice or guidance.

Councillor & counsellor : A councillor is a member of a council whereas a counsellor is someone who gives guidance on personal or psychological problems.

Credible & creditable : Credible means believable or convincing whereas creditable means deserving acknowledgement and praise.

Definite & definitive : Definite means certain or sure whereas definitive means decisive and with authority.

Defuse & diffuse : Defuse means remove the fuse from (an explosive device) or reduce the danger or tension in (a difficult situation) whereas diffuse means spread over a wide area.

Desert & dessert : Desert means a waterless area whereas dessert means the sweet course.

Discreet & discrete : Discreet means careful and not to attract attention or give offence whereas discrete means separate or distinct.

Draft & draught : In British English draft means a preliminary version or an order to pay a sum whereas a draught is a current of air or an act of drinking. In North American English the spelling draft is used for all senses. The verb is usually spelled draft.

Draw & drawer : Draw is primarily a verb whereas drawer meaning sliding storage compartment.

Egoism & egotism : Egoism is a less common and more technical word for an ethical theory that treats self-interest as the foundation of morality. Egotism means excessive conceit or self-absorption.

Envelop & envelope : Envelop means wrap up, cover or surround completely whereas an envelope is a paper container used to enclose a letter or document.

Exceptionable & exceptional : Exceptionable means open to objection or causing disapproval or offence. Exceptional means something not typical or unusually good.

Fawn & faun : A fawn is a young deer and a light brown colour. A faun is a Roman deity that is part man, part goat.

Flaunt & flout : Flaunt means display ostentatiously while flout means openly disregard (a rule).

Flounder & founder : Flounder generally means have trouble doing or understanding something and be confused while founder means fail or come to nothing.

Forego & forgo : Forego means precede. But is also a less common spelling for forgo which means go without.

Grisly & grizzly : Grisly means causing horror or revulsion whereas grizzly is from the same root as grizzled and refers to the bear's white-tipped fur.

Hoard & horde : A hoard is a store of something valuable. Horde is a disparaging term for a large group of people.

Imply & infer : Imply is used with a speaker as its subject, as in he implied that the General was a traitor, and indicates that the speaker is suggesting something though not making an explicit statement. Infer is used in sentences such as we inferred from his words that the General was a traitor and indicates that something in the speaker's words enabled the listeners to deduce that the man was a traitor.

Its & it’s : The possessive its (as in turn the camera on its side) with the contraction it's (short for either it is or it has, as in it's my fault; it's been a hot day).

Loath & loathe : Loath means reluctant or unwilling whereas loathe means dislike greatly.

Loose & lose : As a verb loose means unfasten or set free while lose means cease to have or become unable to find.

Luxuriant & luxurious : Luxuriant means rich and profuse in growth whereas luxurious means characterized by luxury or very comfortable and extravagant.

Marital & martial : Marital means a matter of marriage whereas martial means a matter of war.

Militate & mitigate : Militate is used in the form militate against to mean be an important factor in preventing. Mitigate means make (something bad) less severe.

Naturalism & naturalist : Naturalism is an artistic or literary approach or style. A naturalist is an expert in natural history or an exponent of naturalism.

Officious & official : Officious means asserting authority or interfering in an annoyingly domineering way. Official means relating to an authority or public body and having the approval or authorization of such a body.

Ordinance & ordnance : Ordinance means an authoritative order whereas ordnance means guns or munitions.

Palate & palette : The palate is the roof of the mouth. A palette, on the other hand, is an artist's board for mixing colours.

Pedal & peddle : Pedal is a noun denoting a foot-operated lever. As a verb it means move by means of pedals. Peddle is a verb meaning sell (goods). The associated noun from pedal is pedaller (US pedaler) and the noun from peddle is pedlar or peddler.

People & pupil : People means citizens and group of men and women whereas pupil means student.

Perquisite & prerequisite : A perquisite is a special right or privilege enjoyed as a result of one's position. Prerequisite is something that is required as a prior condition for something else. Prerequisite can also be an adjective meaning required as a prior condition.

Perspicuous & perspicacious : Perspicuous means expressing things clearly whereas perspicacious means having a ready understanding of things.

Principal & principle : Principal means first in order of importance or main. Principle is a noun meaning chiefly a basis of a system of thought or belief.

Proscribe & prescribe : Proscribe is a rather formal word meaning condemn or forbid whereas prescribe means either issue a medical prescription or recommend with authority.

Regretful & regrettable : Regretful means feeling or showing regret whereas regrettable means giving rise to regret or undesirable.

Shear & sheer : Shear means cut the wool off (a sheep) whereas sheer as a verb means swerve or change course quickly or avoid an unpleasant topic and as an adjective means nothing but absolute or perpendicular or (of a fabric) very thin.

Stationary & stationery : Stationary is an adjective with the sense not moving or changing whereas stationery is a noun meaning paper and other writing materials.

Story & storey : A Story is a tale or account while a storey is a floor of a building. In North America the spelling story is sometimes used for storey.

Titillate & titivate : Titillate means excite whereas titivate means adorn or smarten up.

Tortuous & torturous : Tortuous means full of twists and turns or excessively lengthy and complex whereas torturous means characterized by pain or suffering.

Turbid & turgid : Turbid is generally used in reference to a liquid and means cloudy or opaque. Turgid tends to mean tediously pompous or in reference to a river, swollen, overflowing.

Unexceptionable & unexceptional : Unexceptionable means that cannot be taken exception to or inoffensive whereas unexceptional means not exceptional or ordinary.

Unsociable, unsocial and antisocial : Unsociable means not enjoying the company of or engaging in activities with others. Unsocial usually means socially inconvenient and typically refers to the hours of work of a job. Antisocial means contrary to accepted social customs and therefore annoying.

Venal & venial : Venal means susceptible to bribery; corruptible whereas venial is used in Christian theology in reference to sin (a venial sin, unlike a mortal sin, is not regarded as depriving the soul of divine grace).

Who’s & whose : Who's is a contraction of who is or who has while whose is used in questions such as whose is this? and whose turn is it?

Wreath & wreathe : Wreath with no e at the end means arrangement of flowers while wreathe with an e is a verb meaning envelop, surround, or encircle.

Your & you're : You’re a contraction of you are while your is a possessive determiner used in phrases such as your turn.

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