Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Wring vs. Ring

Wring and ring are easily confused words. They are also homophones, meaning they sound the same, but are spelled differently, and mean different things.

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.

Wring (pronounced “rihng”) is a verb. It means to twist and crush something to get the moisture out of it.

Typically humans wring out:

  • dripping wet laundry
  • a wet dish cleaning cloth or other cleaning cloth
  • dripping wet long hair on their head, either by twisting the hair itself, or twisting it in a towel.

Dogs wring themselves out by twisting their head and back to and fro, this force their loose skin to thrash the water droplets off their fur.

Ring (pronounced “rihng”) has multiple meanings.

As a verb:

  • It means to make circles around something else, or surround something with a circle or something circular. Like the classic children’s rhyme, “Ring Around the Rosie.”
  • It means to put a ring in a domestic animal’s nose.
  • It can mean to encircle a herd of animals as a means to corral them.
  • It can mean to form into a ring, as in making bagels, donuts, or a bread wreath from dough
  • It can be used in a game like horseshoes or ring toss, where the goal is to get as many rings or shoes to “ring” around the stake as possible.

As a noun:

  • It means a circular piece of jewelry worn around the base of fingers, thumb, or toes. Traditionally rings are metal. But today, silicone and other materials are used for safety, or to wear in place of a (much more valuable) metal wedding ring.
  • It can mean coloring on a bird or animal that encircles their neck, or forms circle patterns on their fur
    • Male mallard ducks have a white ring around their neck separating their dark green head plummage from their brown body plummage.
    • Ringed seals, leopards, and jaguars have fur spotted with rings.
  • It can mean a phone call made to someone else.
    • It is used in the 1986 song “Keep Your Hands To Yourself” by the Georgia Satellites. This usage is more typical of the 20th century. “Give a person a call” or “give a person a buzz” are similar phrases.

As a proper noun, it means a US company in the videocamera doorbell business that has expanded into other home security products. Proper nouns are always spelled with the first letter capitalized.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Wrigley had to wring out his clothes after getting caught in a torrential downpour. He was going to pick up a ring for his fiancee, Renaud. Earlier in the day, it had been beautiful outside, so taking his bike seemed like a good idea.


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