Easily Confused Words: Stollen vs. Stolen

Stollen and stolen are easily confused words. One word is German, the other is English.

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.

Stollen (pronounced “stohl-ehn”) is a proper noun. It means a sweet bread cake with nuts and candied fruit popular in Germany. The Italian Panettone is a similar idea, but it’s a tall cake with non-candied fruit.

Stolen (pronounced “stoh-lehn”) is the past participle of the verb steal. Steal means to take things without payment, without permission, or other protocol regarding another’s possessions.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Stefania had worked really hard to throw the ultimate holiday bash. Tonight was the night, and she was enjoying her party immensely until she noticed someone had stolen some of the desserts. Dang it, she hadn’t even gotten to try the stollen that Gertrude had brought. Argh!!


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