Easily Confused Words: Acrimony vs. Alimony

Acrimony and alimony 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.

Acrimony (pronounced “ack-rih-moh-nee”) is a noun. It means intense negative feelings demonstrated in one’s speech and actions towards someone else. For example, in heated political debates, acrimony is often on full display by the people speaking: they are loud, defensive, talking over one another, and attacking one another’s reputation.

Alimony (pronounced “ehl-ih-moh-nee”) is a noun. It means a court-approved payment arrangement created during divorce proceedings in order to financially support a former spouse. Often this spouse was not a wage earner, or earned far less than the other spouse. Not all divorces involve alimony.

Traditionally in the US, alimony was paid to a former wife by the former husband. More recently, “palimony” has been a slang term used to describe alimony paid by a former wife to her former husband. To learn more about alimony in other countries, click here.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Judge Accalia Alexopolos handled a lot of divorce cases, but this latest one took the cake. The husband was demanding a high monthly stipend for alimony. However, the acrimony he displayed towards his estranged spouse and her attorney wasn’t helping his case at all. Any sympathy he might have garnered from the judge disappeared on the first day of the proceedings. 

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