Easily Confused Words: Despite vs. Despot

Despite and despot 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.

Despite (pronounced “dehss-pie-t”) has multiple meanings

  • As a preposition, it is used to indicate a situation that happens contrary to expectations, protest, or other conflict.
  • As a noun, it means contempt or other negative feelings towards someone or something else.

Despot (pronounced “dehss-poh”) is a noun. It means a ruler of a country with absolute power. This can be a monarch like a king or emperor, but it can also be an autocrat or dictator.

The following story uses both words correctly:

The economy had been in shambles for years, the currency was nearly worthless. Despite the anxiety and misery she and her countrymen felt, Desmonda couldn’t vote for a new candidate promising change and endless prosperity under his leadership. This Dwight Smith sounded too much like a despot, rather than a president who would listen to the people and other experts. He claimed to have all the answers. 

Desmonda remembered what her grandma had told her: no one could make good on “all or nothing” promises. Nothing good comes from leaders that try.

This post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Despot vs. Deposit.


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