Easily Confused Words: Sly vs. Sleigh

Sly and sleigh 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.

Sly (pronounced “sl-eye”) is an adjective. It means clever, calculating, or capable of deception.

  • In the phrase “on the sly,” someone is doing something in secret; he/she presumes no one else notices, or really cares enough to wonder about it. Typically it’s something wrong, but not always.
  • Sly can also be a noun, a nickname for Sylvester.

Sleigh (pronounced “sl-eh”) is a noun. It means a large cart with blades on the bottom edges instead of wheels. Sleighs are intended for travel over ice, pulled by reindeer, or dogs, or animals suited for extremely cold weather.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Svetlana wanted to buy her brother Silas a sleigh for his surprise birthday. The hard part wasn’t buying it, it was figuring out where to stash it so he wouldn’t find it. Silas was pretty sly, he sensed when something was up. She couldn’t always keep a secret, or contain her enthusiasm for happy news.

This post is related to other posts: Easily Confused Words: Slay vs. Sleigh.


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