Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Willow vs. Wallow

Willow and wallow 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.

Willow (pronounced “wihl-oh”; rhymes with pillow)

  • As a noun, it can mean a type of tree that grows in wetlands and near waterways. Willow’s trademark is long slender branches that form a drooping canopy around the trunk. Willows are described as weeping because the branches resemble a heavy rain downpour or a streams of falling tears. Check out a slideshow here. By the way, to attach human behaviors or characteristics to a plant, object, or animal is personification.
  • As a noun, it can also be a first name for a female.

Wallow (“wahl-oh”; rhymes with swallow, hollow, follow) is a verb.

  • It can mean to roll around or laze about. For example, pigs, hippos, and elephants wallow in mud to stay cool in summer.
  • In the figurative sense, it can means to intensely dwell or sulk in negative emotions, like sadness or anger.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Wilson was wallowing in misery after getting dumped by his first girlfriend. His father, Winslow, founded him listening to his headphones behind the branches of a willow tree.

“Look, Wil, I know this is hard. But I need you, and more importantly, you need you to get past this. It’s not that it doesn’t hurt, it does, but you can’t waste days sulking about it. Find an activity. Get interested in something.”

“Like what?”

This post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Winnow vs. Willow.

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