Easily Confused Words: Jig vs. Gig

Jig and Gig are easily confused words.

They are not homophones, but:

  • they have the same amount of letters
  • they share two letters in the same order “i-g”
  • their first letters tend to be pronounced the same way, or similarly, in many different words. For example, there’s good, and there’s justice, but then there’s gentle and gigantic. “?”

Jig is a noun, it means a dance. There’s other meanings to jig, used in fishing, building objects, but interestingly, there’s back and forth movement involved at some level.

Gig is a noun, it means a temporary job, a short-term work assignment, or an individual music, drama, or dance performance.


The following sentence uses both words correctly:

His inhibitions thrown to the wind, Andrew danced a jig at the end of his band’s last gig. It had been quite a wild ride.

Easily Confused Words (at a Restaurant): Gyro and Hero

Gyro and Hero are easily confused words.

Gyro is a noun. In the restaurant world, it’s Greek and it’s pronounced more like “yee-roh” instead of “gee-roh” or “jee-roh.” A gyro is a sandwich served on a pita or flatbread. It contains a beef and lamb blend that cooked on a rotating spit. It’s garnished with lettuce, onion, tomato, and a sauce called tzatziki sauce. Tzatziki sauce is yogurt base sauce containing cucumber and fresh green herbs.

In military and scientific circles, Gyro is short for gyroscope (J-eye-rohscope).

Hero is a noun. It means someone who displays courage and self-sacrifice to comes to the rescue of others. Heroes save lives, save reputations, and maybe a little of both.

In the restaurant world, a hero is a meat and vegetable sandwich known for being 6 inches to multiple feet long. Imagine a long stick of soft bread sliced laterally, then stacked with several deli meats, vegetables, condiments and dressings. Other names for this sandwich other than hero include submarine, sub, and grinder.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Gustaf had asked for a simple gyro, but in the noise, his server heard “hero.” And here it was, a heaping sandwich that almost took up the entire table. He was going to need a to-go box. 

Easily Confused Words: Strait vs. Straight

Strait and straight are homophones and easily confused words. Homophones means words that sound the same, but are spelled differently.

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. Similarly, autocorrect on mobile phones might suggest one word instead of the other, it would be easy to do since both words start with “s-t-r-a-i.”

Strait is a noun. As a geographical term, it’s a a naturally formed narrow waterway connecting larger bodies of water. Examples around the globe including Alaska’s Bering Strait, The Strait of Gibraltar off Spain, and the Bosporus Strait in Turkey. There are many more listed here.  A strait can also be a situation that resembles that waterway—involving tight financial budgets, tight timelines or deadlines, and therefore, stressful and emotionally intense situations. You’re in a strait if you don’t know if you’re going to be a success or make it out alive. So you can probably imagine what the phrase “dire straits” means: being in a really, really bad situation from which there’s possibly no escape or reprieve. [TRIVIA: Yes, it’s Mark Knopfler’s band name, circa 1970s-1980s. Short, catchy, has drama or intrigue=good band name!]

Straight is an adjective. It means a path that doesn’t waver or shift from one point to another, or another object that stays similarly rigid in its position or trajectory.

In slang, straight is synonymous with heterosexual. Straight-edge has been used to describe people who have a drug-free lifestyle. A “straight jacket” is a piece of clothing put on psychiatric patients to prevent them from hurting themselves or others. The sleeves do not have openings at the ends and are bound across the chest with fastenings.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Struan thought he was on a straight, predictable trajectory of wealth when he joined a snow crab fishing enterprise, but falling overboard near the Bering Strait during a fierce winter storm changed all that. 


Easily Confused Words: Suite vs. Sweet

Suite and Sweet are homophones and easily confused words.

Suite is a noun, meaning a set of rooms all connected to each other for temporary living quarters. Suites are typically found in hotels, motels, dormitories, cruise ships, or other non-permanent accommodations. They have individual sleeping spaces and restroom spaces, then a communal meeting space in the center where people talk, eat, watch TV, etc.

Suite can also mean a set of musical or art pieces meant to reflect a universal theme, they are meant to be enjoyed as a set, not necessarily individually.

Sweet is an adjective, referring to pleasing flavor, disposition or behavior.  Sweet flavors include honey, maple syrup, and sugar or nectar-like tastes.  A person with a sweet disposition is always a pleasure to be around, kind and generous.

Sweet! is a slang exclamation when a scenario works out really well for someone and they can’t contain their enthusiasm or can’t believe their luck. Dictionary.com says this usage dates back to the 1950s, but personally, I recall it being popularized around the recent millennium (late 90s-early 2000s.) This was captured in films like 2000’s Dude, Where’s My Car? 

The following story uses both words correctly:

Seymour got a sweet surprise for his anniversary date! The hotel said the only room available was a penthouse suite on the top floor, and it wouldn’t cost more than the average room rate.

Easily Confused Words: Roll vs. Role

Roll and Role are homophones and easily confused words. The spell-check application in word processing software wouldn’t necessarily catch an error misplacing one of these words for the other. Spell-check is looking for words it doesn’t recognize against its own dictionary, it’s looking for words that look a little different from its dictionary and are possibly misspelled. Spell-check does not check for context or appropriate usage of similar sounding words.

Roll is a verb, meaning an object that tumbles or moves on its own. It order to roll, an object must be mostly round or spherical.  Boulders, tumbleweed, balls, these are all things that roll.

  • In the idiom, “on a roll”,  a person is experiencing long term, repeated success, as opposed to one fortunate event.
  • The term “rolling stone” came from the phrase, “a rolling stone gathers no moss,” meaning that staying in motion is an ideal state. People who behave like rolling stones move frequently, they don’t have jobs, relationships, or both, keeping them in one spot. Whether those jobs are relationships are a hindrance or not is a point of debate, both states have their good and bad points.
  • In the British idiom, “rolling in the deep”, someone is in the depths of extreme emotion usually related to their relationships, much like a ship in a vast, stormy ocean.
  • There’s a lot more idioms for “roll” that you will find at the link!

Roll is also a noun, meaning a round piece of yeast bread served with dinner.

Role is a noun, meaning a job or position at a company or business. On stage and in films, roles are the positions the actors play.

The following sentence uses both words correctly:

Whether her acting roles had her rolling in the dirt literally or figuratively, Rosa really threw herself into whatever they demanded.

Easily Confused Words: Fairy vs. Ferry

Fairy and Ferry are homophones and easily confused words. The spell-check in many word-processing software programs wouldn’t necessarily catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that are need to match what’s in it’s dictionary. Spell-check can’t detect context and usage, so it won’t pick up that you meant one word but typed another by mistake.

Fairy is a a noun, meaning a tiny, supernatural creature with special powers. Quite often, fairies are female, and they can fly. In literature and film, Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell, Ferngully’s Crysta are examples of fairies. In other cultures, like Irish, it’s spelled “Faerie.” [Among humans, “fairy” has been used as an insult or a derogatory term. I really don’t want to legitimize the use of insults on my blog, so please click the link for more info if you’re curious about the issue.]

Ferry is a verb, meaning carrying cargo or people over the same route via boat, plane, or another vehicle. The ferry exists because there’s a waterway or other impassable/unpassable terrain between points A and B.

Ferry can also be a noun, meaning the boat that transports people or cargo back and forth over a route. It can also mean a roadway that crosses several waterways or marshy swamp ground.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Finnaeus cursed his bad luck at missing the 7am ferry for the fifty-fifth time this year. No good luck charm or mystical fairy could pull him out of his predicament.

Easily Confused Words: Leak vs. Leek

Leak and Leek are easily confused words. They are also homophones, meaning words that sound the same, but they are spelled differently and have different meanings.

The spell-check application in most word processing software wouldn’t catch a mistake of these two words. Spell-check aims to tell you what isn’t a word, and what words aren’t spelled like the ones in its own dictionary. If it’s a word, and it’s spelled correctly, spell-check keeps right on looking.

Leak (pronounced “lee-k”) is a noun, meaning a place where water or other liquid is escaping where it should not be, for example: the faucet in a sink, a burst plumbing pipe, a fire hydrant, water spigot, or a plastic bottle with a hole in it or whose lid is not properly fastened.

In a more figurative sense, a leak is a release information that isn’t supposed to be public or shared with others outside a company, a club, or other group of people. To leak is to release this information without authorization.

Leek (pronounced “lee-k”) is a noun meaning a type of onion. Leeks are characterized by large blade leaves that extend from their bottom bulb. Typically, only the bottom third of the plant is what’s consumed. [ TRIVIA: Leeks are a national symbol of Wales.]

The following story uses both words correctly:

Luke had planned to make leek soup for dinner, but a milk jug in his refrigerator had a leak in it. It made a huge smelly mess, and it had managed to rot his entire vegetable drawer.