Easily Confused Words: Embellish vs. Embezzle

Embellish and embezzle 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.

Embellish (pronounced “em-behl-ihsh”; rhymes with relish) is a verb. It means to enhance or decorate something.

Most often, it’s used in a more abstract sense. Instead of literally adding beads, glitter, or bedazzling with bling, it’s used to describe what people do with the truth. Rather than be blunt or frank, they embellish the truth by adding more words, and positive-sounding phrasing, to make the audience think something great is happening.

Embezzle (pronounced “em-beh-zuhl”) is a verb. It means to spend the funds of an organization or business on personal items.

The following story uses both words correctly:

When Embry was caught trying to embezzle funds, he quickly found a legitimate excuse for why he needed to access the money. He insisted that it was for club business. The club had voted to make a charitable donation to a local burn unit. He wasn’t pressed further. In truth, the money was going towards a party and some new golf clubs.

The real truth would come to light months later. Club members had followed up with the burn unit to ask if the donation had been received. They didn’t have any record of any such donation.


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