Easily Confused Words: Enunciate vs. Annunciate

Enunciate and Annunciate 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.

Enunciate (pronounced “ee-nuhn-see-ate”) is a verb. It means to speak with utmost clarity, saying each word slowly and pronouncing each syllable fully.

If you using a voice-command system and it doesn’t hear you the first time or even the third time, you may find yourself over-enunciating in order to be understood. Like Flo in a recent Progressive insurance ad. (I know I do.)

A less familiar meaning of enunciate means to declare or proclaim, but I don’t see this used much. Just be forewarned that if you use this spelling for this meaning, readers will likely balk.

Annunciate (pronounced “uh-nuhn-see-ate”) is a verb. It means to announce. It’s noun form, annunciation, means an announcement.

  • As a proper noun “the Annunciation” in Roman Catholicism is the day the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would bear the baby, Jesus Christ. This moment is captured in countless European paintings, sculpture, and frescoes, from the 4th Century and into the Renaissance. Learn more here.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Every week, a new sixth grader was asked to read the morning annunciations over the PA system at school. This week was Enfys’s turn, and he was very nervous. He didn’t have a lot of experience reading aloud.

“Maybe if I read them fast, I won’t feel nervous too long,” he thought, “I’ll just get it over with as soon as possible.”

So he stepped up to the mic and raced through them as fast he could. If he couldn’t pronounce a word, he didn’t care.

After a few sentences, the office administrator, Ms. Annaleigh, who had been listening, asked him to step away from the mic and let the button go.

“Enfys I am going to need you to go slower and enunciate more so everyone can understand you. I’m not catching anything you are saying. This is important information for the students to know. You need to try again. And first, we’re going to go through the script and make sure you know how to say all these words or pick easier ones.”

This was so embarrassing. 


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