Easily Confused Words: Sycophant vs. Psychopath

Sycophant and psychopath 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.

Sycophant (pronounced “sick-ohfant”) is an adjective. It means someone who is a shameless flatterer, a person seeking immediate reward for a phony act of admiring behavior. For example, politics is rife with sycophants; being a big financial or vocal supporter of a candidate virtually guarantees a person a job in the victor’s administration. It’s usually years later when it’s revealed how much people came to dislike each other, or never liked each other. It was all an act to advance one’s own career and profile.

Psychopath (pronounced “sigh-co-path”) is a noun, it means a human personality disorder. Psychopaths are recognizable by his/her lack of empathy, superficial emotions, and extreme selfishness. Learn more here.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Cybil was hoping to make CEO of the big bank. She wasn’t sure though, that she could stomach many more years of watching her back for the antics of psychopaths and the lukewarm company of sycophants. The higher one rose up, the lonelier it got at work. A good mentor was hard to find. 


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