Easily Confused Words: Scabbard vs. Scarab

Scabbard and scarab 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.

Scabbard (pronounced “scab-uhrd”) is a noun. It is a sleeve or sheath for holding a sword.

Scarab (pronounced “scare-uhb”) is a noun.

  • It is a species of beetle. A sacred symbol in ancient Egyptian art and artifacts, it represents immortality and regeneration. These ideas were personified as the god Khepri, who had the head of a scarab.
  • It can mean a gem or stone cut to resemble a beetle.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Dr. Scott couldn’t believe his luck. On day 30 of his excavation, one of his students found the scabbard of a high-ranking Egyptian soldier. It was embellished with intricate carvings and sparkled with carved gems resembling scarabs. Hopefully the sword itself would be found as well. 


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