Easily Confused Words: Smock vs. Smoke

Smock and smoke 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 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.

Smock has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means a protective shirt or thin jacket worn over clothes to protect them from stains while working. Artists wear smocks if they are wearing clothes they don’t want to get damaged.
  • As a verb, it means putting on a smock.
  • As a verb, it can also mean to gather fabric and stitch it together ornately with a honeycomb pattern so it’s stretchable. Clothes with this technique have “smocking.” In Northern Europe and the US, traditional dresses for babies and small children often had smocking near the neckline.

Smoke has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means the gray, cloudy air produced by fire, cigarettes, or chemicals.
  • As a verb, it means to light and inhale cigars, cigarettes, hookahs, or other burning material.
    • The gerund form, smoking, can mean the act of smoking a cigarette, or cooking a slab of meat with the smoke of a nearby fire.
  • As an adjective, smoking can mean very attractive or appealing.


The following story uses both words correctly:

Smilla was a painter who wore her smock to run errands. She felt it was a promotional tool that fit her budget quite nicely. It always sparked interesting conversations about what she did for a living. As she circled the aisles of Aldi, she realized she was tired of asking Smith, her sometimes boyfriend, to not smoke in the house near her work. Maybe they should just breakup already.


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