Easily Confused Words: Precious vs. Precocious

Precious and precocious 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.

Precious (pronounced “preh-shuss”) has multiple meanings.

  • As an adjective, it can mean a rare resource of high monetary value. Gemstones formed into jewelry are described as “precious,” and lesser value ones are described as “semi-precious.”
  • As an adjective, it can mean something cherished.
  • As an adjective, it can mean something small and attractive.

Precocious (pronounced “pree-ko-shuss”) is an adjective. It describes someone, especially a child, showing maturity and intelligence of a much older person.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Presley adored her precious grandchildren. When her granddaughter Piper graduated from high school, Presley bought her a beautiful necklace of pearls and amethyst (Piper’s birthstone.) She also gave her a handwritten letter. The letter detailed how proud she was of this precocious, curious little girl who was now all grown up, and more than ready to take on the world.


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