Timbre and timber are easily confused words. They are also homophones, meaning they sound the same, but are pronounced differently and mean different things.
The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary, but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted, or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.
Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.
Timbre (pronounced “tihm-buhr”) is a musical term. It refers to volume and tone quality of a voice, or a musical instrument’s sounds when it’s played.
Timber (pronounced “tihm-buhr”) has multiple meanings.
As a noun, it refers to:
- forests used for commercial building materials.
- wooded land
- wood that was part of a building that has fallen off.
- a cry made by lumberjacks when cutting trees to tell their teammates a tree is going falling and to get out of its path as soon as possible if they haven’t already.
- in equestrian sports, a fence or hurdle used for jumping.
As a verb, it refers to:
- performing the duties of a lumberjack
- to provide wood for supports or other use.
The following story uses both words correctly:
Timon came from a family of lumberjacks and people who worked in the timber industry. But he was more interested in chorale music, things like timbre, harmony, contraposto, and polyphony.