Easily Confused Words: Suit vs. Suite

Suit and suite 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.

Suit (pronounced “sue+tt”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means somewhat formal clothing ensemble for men and women. A suit is a jacket, and a skirt or pants all made from the same material, all in the same color. For men, a matching shirt and tie is usually worn too, but it is sold separately from the suit. Summer suits are made from cottons, polyesters, crepe, and seersucker, while fall/winter suits are made from wool, moleskin, suede, tartan, and tweed.
  • As a noun, it can also be short for “lawsuit,” or a legal case being brought against another person or organization. The person bringing the suit is called the plaintiff, the person/organization they are accusing is the defendant.
  • As a verb, it means to fit, to be appropriate for a person or thing. For example, an actor might be suited for certain roles as a bad guy.

Suite (pronounced “sweet”)  is a noun. It means a large room divided up into sub-rooms: sleeping quarters, a shared living room space, a shared dining space, a kitchen, one or more bathrooms. More expensive hotels, apartment and condo complexes offer suites. Some dorms on college campuses offer suites.

In software, a suite can mean a set of programs or applications designed by the same shop to work well with each other. For example, Adobe’s Creative Suite includes Photoshop (photo editing), Illustrator (drawing), and Indesign (layout). MS Office is also a suite including Word, Excel (spreadsheets), and Powerpoint (slideshow presentations).

The following story uses both words correctly:

Sonny got locked out of his hotel suite an hour before his big interview. He wasn’t wearing his suit, he didn’t have his portfolio handy, and worse, he didn’t have his wallet. He walked down to the front desk in his boxers and pleaded with them to let him back in room 2C. They obliged, but they insisted he show his ID to the staff member who helped him once they were in the room to confirm he belonged there. Otherwise, they’d call security immediately.


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