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.