Easily Confused Words: Barred vs. Bard

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.

Barred has multiple meanings.

  • As an adjective, it describes something with parallel wires, lines, stripes. For example: a barred window or a barred fabric.
  • As a past tense verb “bar”, it means being forbidden by law or other rule from doing something or participating in an activity. For example,  people in the US are barred from smoking indoors in many large cities. People who misbehaved and damaged property may be barred from entering businesses ever again. Someone is barred from driving because one’s license is suspended.
  • As an adjective, “bar,” when hyphenated, can indicate law certification (meaning, “passing the bar exam”) earned in a specific state, country, or territory. For example, an attorney may describe themselves as “Arkansas-barred” to indicate that they are qualified to represent clients in Arkansas.

Bard is a noun. It means someone skilled in the art of verse, like a poet or lyricist. It can also mean someone who performs verse accompanied by music. When someone says “the Bard,” they mean William Shakespeare, who died 400 years ago this year, 2016.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Barney went to an open mic poetry night for a year, hoping to woo lovers with his words. Instead of being crowned a contemporary bard in the Millennium, he was barred for getting into a brawl in the audience.


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