Easily Confused Words: Disciple vs. Discipline

Disciple and discipline 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.

Disciple (pronounced “dee-sigh-pull”) is a noun. It means an adherent and follower of a specific leader’s teaching. For example, in Christianity, Jesus had 12 such followers. Disciple can be a verb, as in to teach or make someone a student, but it’s not a common, popular usage.

Discipline (pronounced “diss-uh-plihn”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it can mean a school of thought or subject matter.
  • As a noun, it can mean regular regimen intended to build good habits, good character, or both, for example, a drill.
  • As a noun, it can mean punishing or reprimanding someone in order to get him/her to improve their behavior.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Disa was a dedicated disciple of yoga and Pilates. She appreciated the calm and the strength that those disciplines had instilled in her since she started three years ago. At first, she hadn’t liked either, but she stuck with it. 


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