Easily Confused Words: Negligible vs. Eligible

Negligible and eligible 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.

Negligible (pronounced “negg-lih-juh-bull”) is an adjective. It describes a meager amount, at zero, or close to it.

Eligible (pronounced “ell-ih-juh-bull”) is an adjective. It describes someone or something being available for an opportunity or engagement.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Elias, an eligible bachelor, thought Eleanor just might be the one. They had a lot of the same interests. On their big date, however, she showed negligible interest in him. They both kept checking their phones.

They split the check and wouldn’t go out again.


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