Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Heirs vs. Airs

Heirs and airs 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.

Heirs (pronounced “errs” with a silent h; rhymes with fares, fairs, stairs) is the plural of the noun “heir.”

  • An heir is a son or daughter who inherits money or estate items from their parents, grandparents, or another benefactor. “Heirs” would indicate that several children–sons, daughters, or both–stand to inherit things from their parents.
  • In royal houses, “heir” indicates someone in line for the throne after the current monarch dies. “Heirs” would indicate more than one person is in line for the throne. For example, in England right now, heirs to the throne include Prince Charles, Prince Edward (Duke of Cambridge), Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis, Prince Harry (Duke of Sussex), and the recently wedded Princess Eugenie.

Airs (pronounced “errs”; rhymes with hairs, fairs, stairs) has multiple meanings.

  • It can be the plural of the noun air, meaning a piece of dancing music originating in the UK.
  • It can the plural of the noun air, in the phrase “put on airs,” which means to act cocky or like a big deal.
  • As a verb, it is the “he/she/it” form, it means to verbalize or speak aloud, as in the phrase “air one’s grievances.”

The following story uses both words correctly:

Arlene decided that, out of her four potential heirs, she would leave her home and a great deal of money to Hiram. They had always had a special relationship. Things weren’t as warm with the other children, Arlo, Harold, and Hermia. They were spoiled or treated her with contempt. On the rare occasion they did visit, Hermia airs her grievances about how hard it was when she grew up. Harold always complained about dinner. Arlo talked to his mother like she was a simpleton. 

Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Doormat vs. Dormant

Doormat and dormant 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.

Doormat (pronounced “dohr-meht”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it literally means a mat for wiping one’s feet at a doorway. Doormats can be made from woven grasses, rubber, foam, or a blend of materials.
  • As a noun, in a figurative sense, it means a person who is dominated and doesn’t fight back or sand up for his or herself.

Dormant (pronounced “dohr-muhnt”) is an adjective.

  • It describes a period of rest for a pasture or farm field, where nothing is planted and the soil is left untouched.
  • It can mean a period of rest, dullness, a period lacking activity or productivity.
  • In biology, it means a period of non-growth. Winter is associated with reduced activity in natures. Deciduous trees shed their leaves so they only have to support their wood trunks and branches. Their seed offspring are protected under the dirt to start germinating closer to spring’s arrival and longer days. Many land mammals hibernate. Many feathered birds migrate south, but not all do. Hummingbirds that do not migrate enter a state of torpor. Wood frogs and woolly bear caterpillars’ bodies produce an antifreeze chemical that allows them to solidify and their internal parts to stop working until the thaw comes.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Drogo stared at the doormat in the coffee shop. He needed to pitch some story ideas in an hour, but his sense of curiosity and creativity had lain dormant for quite some time. He just felt bored, if not ambivalent, towards everything. 

Out of the corner his eye, he saw someone’s coffee hit the floor. Then that same person keeled over onto the floor. While the other customers were scared stupid or screaming in shock, Drogo leapt into action. The man was unresponsive so he started performing CPR. Café staff called 911. 

Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Memoirs vs. Memories

Memoirs and memories 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.

Memoirs (pronounced “mehm-wars”) is a written record of a person’s experiences. While an autobiography covers a whole life written by the person who lived it, memoirs are a collection of anecdotes and stories of a life written by the person who lived it.

Memories (pronounced “mehm-ore-eez”) is the plural form of the noun memory. It means more than one recollection or remembered moment from one’s lifetime.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Meemaw was finally taking the time to write her memoirs. She’d been a veteran, a caregiver, and a farmer, just to name a few of her roles. Now at 75 she could take the time to document all her stories and memories for her younger family members to cherish forever. 

Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Cedilla vs. Scintilla

Cedilla and scintilla 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.

Cedilla (pronounced US:”seh-dihl-uh”/Spanish: “seh-dee-yuh”) is a noun. It means a pronunciation symbol, shaped like a small curl, that descends from the letter “c” in non-English words. It’s telling the reader this is an “sss” sound, not a “kuh” sound.

Some example Spanish words that include a cedilla are: Curaçao, Barça

The cedilla is also seen in some French words, like Niçoise, which means “from Nice, France.” In French the cedilla is called “Le cedille.”

Other languages that use the cedilla are listed here.

Scintilla (pronounced “sihn-tihl-uh”) is a noun. It means something negligible, small, or virtually nonexistent, like a grain, a bit, a particle, a speck, or an iota.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Cedric didn’t study or practice one scintilla for his spanish exam. Naturally, when test time arrived, he was fumbling his pronunciations and he didn’t know the difference between a cedilla and a tilde.

 

 

Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Conniption vs. Contraption

Conniption and contraption 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.

Conniption (pronounced “kuh-nihp-shun”) is a noun. It means a fit of rage or hysterics. It is used negatively or disparingly.

Contraption (pronounced “kuhn-trap-shun”) is a noun. It means a manmade, typically mechanical or a technological creation. It’s another way of saying a device or a gadget.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Conlan was a fickle young man who always wanted new things. If he was told he couldn’t have the latest contraption that caught his eye, he wailed, he whined, he had a conniption. His parents were growing weary of these fits. They just couldn’t afford every new object that came along. They suggested he stay with his uncle for awhile, where going shopping was not a typical activity. 

Conlan was expected to help out on the farm while he stayed there. He and his uncle made birdhouses, animal troughs, and installed a windmill to a water well.  And during this time, he learned something about himself. As fun as it was to play with new shiny things, making new things that solved problems was even more fun.

Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Accent vs. Ascent

Accent and ascent 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.

Accent (pronounced “ack-sihnt”) has multiple meanings.

  • It can mean the unique inflections people in a geographic area use when pronouncing words.
  • It can mean stress or emphasis placed on some syllables over others.
  • In pronunciation, it can mean a special punctuation mark or marks featured over letters to aid readers in pronunciation. These type marks are more formally called diacritics.
    • Two examples:
      • the umlaut (two dots over a vowel) features in German words.
      • the acute or aigu (a short line rising to the right) features over letter “e” in French words.

Ascent (pronounced “uh-ssihnt”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means a physical rising of a person or object. It can also mean more figurative rising, for example, a new title or higher status in a workplace.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Accassia had worked for years at her company. She liked her job and the people she worked with. She was disappointed, however, to less experienced people have a rapid ascent to management while she stayed in place. She had actually help train several of these people. One day she could stand it no longer, so she asked one of her superiors why that was happening.

“Upper management doesn’t like your accent.”

“What?”

“It’s your accent, Accassia.”

“Are you serious? I want to be judged on what I do. I pull more than my own weight around here.” 

“They don’t like how you sound so they aren’t going to listen at your presentations.”

This post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Accent vs. Ascent

Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Tropical vs. Topical

Tropical and topical 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.

Tropical (pronounced “traw-pih-kuhl”) has multiple meanings.

  • As an adjective, it describes a climate known for mostly sunny weather, frequent rain, and from late summer to early fall, a good chance of hurricanes. When you look at a globe, these areas are framed by the Tropic of Cancer down to the Equator, and the Tropic of Capricorn up to the Equator.
  • As a noun, it means items related to a tropical climate in some way. The lightweight clothes and shoes that a person would wear to be comfortable are tropicals.

Topical (pronounced “taw-pih-kuhl”) has multiple meanings.

As an adjective:

  • It describes something contemporary, trending, or of the moment. For example, a topical discussion might include one or more of the following:
    • What political leaders are doing
    • Fashion
    • Weather behavior
    • Current issues and problems
  • In dermatology (skin medicine), it describes a prescribed ointment or gel applied to the skin for a desired result, like wrinkle or acne treatment. This word may also be used in over-the-counter products designed for the skin, like sunscreen, moisturizer, or first aid ointment.

As a noun, in philately (stamp collecting), it means a set of stamps with different artwork but pertaining to one central theme. For example, throughout the year, the USPS issues topicals. There are several issued for Christmas, for love and weddings. Other more unique topicals include native animals, foods, historical figures, statehood anniversaries, black history notables, children’s characters, musicians, and other noteworthy people and things.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Topaz was delighted that the time for her vacation had arrived. She hadn’t had a break in three years. She had renewed her passport months ago. She packed her bikini, her tropical clothes, her sun hat, and her topical moisturizer and sunscreens the night before. That night she was almost too excited to sleep. This was going to be awesome.