Easily Confused Words: Waive vs. Wave

Waive and wave are easily confused words. They are also homophones, meaning they sound the same, but are spelled differently and mean different things.

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.

Waive (pronounced “wayv”) is a verb.

  • It can mean to refuse or decline a legal right or other privilege, or access. Also, to be refused or declined a right or privilege in special circumstances. The noun form, waiver, means a document that formalizes the act of waving.
  • It can mean to decline consideration or deliberation.
  • It can also mean to put off an activity.

Wave (pronounced “wayv”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means ocean waters that lap and crash onto the shore.
  • As a verb, it means to move an object back and forth. This can be your hand—flat palm, fingers extended–to gesture “hello” to someone nearby. It can also be a flag, or the automatic motion of windshield wipers.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Waverleigh was enjoying surfing the waves with her two boys, Wyatt and Wynton. When the best one of the day appeared, she waived her opportunity to ride it to watch their exuberance cruising across its crest instead. 

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