Easily Confused Words: Constituent vs. Constitution

Constituent and constitution 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.

Constituent (pronounced “kuhn-stiht-tyoo-ihnt”) is a noun. It means a member of a voting population represented by a council member, senator, or other representative.

Constitution (pronounced “kawn-stiht-too-shun”) is a noun.

  • It can mean a founding set of rules for a country or state.
  • It can be another way of saying a physical creature’s body.
  • In the US, as a proper noun (always written capitalized), it means the US Constitution, not to be confused with similar documents for individual US states, or the constitutions of other countries.

The following story uses both words correctly:

After a number of scandals, Senator Connor Clay was being recalled from his duties in the Legislature. His constituents had bombarded the phone lines each time he screwed up. Among their complaints were frequent accusations that he was totally unfamiliar with the state constitution he has sworn to uphold. 

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