Easily Confused Words: Sickle vs. Cycle

Sickle and Cycle 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.

Sickle (pronounced “sih-kuhl”) is a noun. It means a metal blade with a wood handle used for cutting grain stalks down. Perhaps the most famous images of sickle is the logo for communist party: a hammer and a sickle are crossed in an “X” fashion.

Cycle (pronounced “sigh-kuhl”)

  • As a noun, it can mean a process. It can mean the sport of bicycling.
  • As a verb, it can mean the act of moving through a process, or being processed.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Cy had finished his homework. Before sundown, he was cycling down the country roads near his home. Something shiny glinted up on the road ahead. As he got closer, he realized it was a sickle used for cutting grain. It also looked like there was someone lying in the road next to it. 

He stopped his bike and checked on the person, an older man in overalls. They appeared to have passed out. Cy pulled out his cellphone and called EMS. They asked for the address. Cy peeked in the mailbox and read the address on it. EMS said they were on their way. 

Cy got the sickle out of the roadway, and stayed with the man until EMS arrived. His name was Mr. Johnson and he had fainted while working on his farm.

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