Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: High vs. Height

High and height 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.

High (pronounced “h-eye”; rhymes with sky, nigh, why, bye)

  • As an adjective, it describes a position in the air, or well above ground level, relative to other things. In a more abstract sense, it can indicate a large amount, like money or a price.
  • As an adverb it can mean  rank, degree, or relative position to someone or something else.
  • It can also be a noun, meaning a feeling of elation, or carefree “floating” feeling in their head though the speaker hasn’t actually physically moved, their feet haven’t left the ground. (This is the feeling drug users describe after taking marijuana, hallucinogens, cocaine, and other currently illegal substances.) Athletes who pushed their physical limits often describe a “runners high” after exerting themselves.
  • High is found in a lot of idioms, far more than I can get into one blogpost.

Height (“h-eye-tt”; rhymes with light, might, sight) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it can mean how tall or short a person (or other creature) is. Most places use the metric system to indicate height, but the US uses the English system, for example: many US basketball players are at least 6’0, approximately 183 cm.
  • As a noun, it can mean how tall or short a sculpture, a wall, or a building is. It can also refer to how tall or short a vehicle must be to pass through a bridge, tunnel or other structure. If you are driving in the US, you might see a sign on a bridge or hotel driveway overhang saying “Clearance: 8’9.” This means a truck or other vehicle must be shorter than that height to safely pass under that bridge or structure without crashing, scratching, etc.
  • As a noun, it can mean a more abstract sense of height, it can’t be actually seen with the eye but a new apex of status or performance has been reached.
    • For example: just three month after their IPO, the home decor online retailer Furnish’s stock reached heights never before seen in their business category. 
    • For example: the Postal Service song lyrics, 2003’s “Such Great Heights“:”They will see us waving from such great heights, come down now, they’ll say…”

The following story uses both words correctly:

As the shortest kid in his class, Higby wanted to have more height. He thought if he walked on his tiptoes, with his heels held high off the ground, his body might get the message. So far, though, it was not working and his feet hurt.

This post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Hi vs. High

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