Easily Confused Words: Tort vs. Torte

Tort and torte are easily confused words.

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 also tries to anticipate what word you want based on the first few letters. But words sharing those first few letters doesn’t mean the words are related.

Tort is a noun, meaning a lawsuit pertaining to a wrongful act that caused injury to another person, hence that victim is entitled to financial compensation.

Here in the US, “tort reform” is a contentious issue in healthcare debates. Tort reform is intended to change the ability of a patient (or their family) to sue, and place a limit on how much cash that patient (or family) can sue for in a malpractice lawsuit. This reform, if it happened, would impact future malpractice lawsuits, but it would potentially reduce costs of malpractice insurance that many doctors currently carry, and potentially reduce the numbers of tests doctors currently run on patients to avoid making costly misdiagnoses that lead to malpractice lawsuits. But tort reform hasn’t happened yet, and that might be more than you ever wanted to know about US medicine in 2015.

Torte is a noun, meaning a rich, flavorful cake made of eggs, nuts or breadcrumbs, and very little, if any, flour. Tortes typically have extremely thin layers that are separated by fruit, glaze, whipped cream, mousse, ganache, or frosting (icing.) Cakes, their dessert cousin, are made with more flour, and have 2-5 thick layers.

The following story uses both words correctly:

There were two things attorney Tori loved: helping her clients win their torts in court, and tortes, which she quipped, ‘were ‘torte-ally awesome.’ It could be argued that she should have become a gluten-free baker instead.


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