Easily Confused Words: Prescient vs. Precious

Prescient and precious 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.

Prescient (pronounced “preh-see-ihnt”) is an adjective. It describes something that foreshadows, or predicts, how future events unfold. Usually these things are noticed after those events have happened.

Precious (pronounced “preh-shuss”) is an adjective. It describes something fragile or delicate. It can also describe something highly valued, monetarily or emotionally. Sometimes it can be both. For example, in Lord of the Rings, Gollum was obsessed with the ring that would give him absolute power over Middle Earth. He referred to it as “precious.”

The following story uses both words correctly:

Prentiss had a bad feeling about a recent hire stealing from his family’s jewelry store. He told his uncle Charlie, the owner, about it. Charlie didn’t want to believe it. The new hire, Callie, was related to a friend. She was attractive, acted friendly, and had average grades in school. Charlie didn’t want to believe this could be true. He thought Prentiss was just being neurotic and was paranoid about his job.

Now it was two weeks later, and a precious stone had gone missing. A local pawn shop owner, Tyler, called, asking for an appraisal of a recent offering. It was a 1 carat emerald. Coincidentally, this is the exact size and type of stone that had gone missing.

“Who brought it in?” Charlie asked.

“A young woman with long blonde hair,”  Tyler told him. Charlie’s heart sank. Prentiss’ observations had been prescient. He was right all along. Now Charlie and Tyler would have to confront Callie, then he would have to let her go, and let his friend know what happened.

This post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Precocious vs. Precious


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