Easily Confused Words: Steel vs. Steal

Steel and steal are homophones and easily confused words. The spell-check of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up among these three words. As long as it’s a word and it is spelled correctly, spell-check keeps on scanning the document.

Steel is a noun. It means a metal material composed of iron and carbon. Steel is melded into a variety of objects for bridge and building construction, security gates, household cookware, surgical tools, and even some fashion undergarments.

Steel can also be an adjective. In this sense, it is figurative. It means someone or something strong and tough, or, rigid and unwavering: Superman is the “man of steel”(strength), focused athletes might have “nerves of steel” because they perform without perceivable fear (rigid, unwavering).

Steal is a verb.  It means when someone takes property or possessions that are not their own, or takes items for sale at a business, and doesn’t pay for them.

Steal can also be a noun. When someone buys something at an incredibly cheap price, he or she might say they got ‘a steal.’

The following sentence uses both words correctly:

In economically depressed communities, it is not uncommon for people to steal copper and steel materials that can be sold for quick cash.


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