Easily Confused Words: Udder vs. Utter

Udder and utter are homophones and easily confused words.

Spell-check in word processing programs doesn’t check homophone errors. What spell-check does is look for the words that aren’t in its internal dictionary, and words that aren’t spelled like those in its internal dictionary. If you used a word that exists and that word is spelled correctly, spell-check continues scanning. Spell-check doesn’t ask about context. Autocorrect on phones is also clumsy in its attempts to guess what you want to say next.

Udder is a noun. It is the term for the teats (that contain mammary glands) of domesticated cows and goats. Udders are located near the hind legs of female animals.

Utter has multiple forms.

  • As an adjective, it’s more of a qualifier than a descriptor, like “very.” For example, utter catastrophe, utter happiness, utter disappointment, utter joy.
  • As a verb, to utter means to say something in a low, soft spoken, barely audible voice.

The following sentence uses both words correctly:

Morton knew if there was no grass, there would be no milk from the udder, so attempting to milk every morning would be an utter failure.


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