English is host to an endless list of confusing words that although eerily similar have different meanings.
Being at a loose end today, we decided to compile a list of 14 confusing pairs.
In compiling this list, we have relied heavily on the 879-page Garner’s Modern American Usage and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition).
Here they are:
* imprudent; impudent
imprudent = rash or indiscreet; impudent = insolently disrespectful
* emigrate; immigrate
emigrate = to migrate or exit from a countryÃ‚Â ; immigrate = to migrate or enterÃ‚Â a country
* inapt; inept
inapt = not appropriate or not suitable; inept = clumsy
* continual; continuous
continual = intermittently, frequently recurring; continuous = unceasing
* incredible; incredulous
incredible = astounding; incredulous = disbelieving, doubting
* egoism; egotism
egoism = a doctrine that individual self-interest is the actual motive of all conscious action; egotism = exaggerated sense of self-importance
* indiscreet; indiscrete
indiscreet = lacking discretion; indiscrete = not divided into distinct or separate parts
* infest; infect
infest = to inhabit either as a parasite or in menacingly large numbers; infect = introduce a disease into an organism
* ingenious; ingenuous
ingenious = clever; ingenuous = innocent
* principal; principle
principal = main; principle = tenet
* prescribe; proscribe
prescribe = impose authoritatively; proscribe = prohibit
* complement; compliment
complement = supplement appropriately or adequately; compliment = praise
* pediatric; podiatric
pediatric = children; podiatric = feet
* prognosis; prognosticate
prognosis = forecast probable course of a disease; prognosticate = prediction or prophecy
Source: Garner’s Modern American Usage and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition)
Update (based on SI readers’ comments):
* brake; break (has multiple meanings but we will refer to the most common ones here)
brake = device to stop motion, to stop; break = to separate into parts, to violate, stroke of luck
* career; carrier
career = profession for which one trains, go at top speed; carrier = one that carries, bearer, container, individual or organization engaged in transporting people or goods for hire
* tortuous; torturous
tortuous = full of twists and turns; torturous = pertaining to torture
Good.. One of the useful posts 😉
* tortuous, torturous
* affect, effect (and the use of effect as a verb)
* thrifty, spendthrift
* elevate, alleviate
* prodigy, prodigal (I still haven’t been able to figure out if “The Prodigal Daughter” was aptly named)
* prosecute, persecute
* inflammable, non-flammable
We’ll add the above words to the list along with their meanings sometime today or tomorrow.
We’ve seen seemingly well-educated people confuse affect and effect while writing.
BTW, we’ve read Prodigal Daughter by Jeffrey Archer but can’t remember the details. All we can remember is that the book is a sequel to Kane & Abel, a fairly decent read.
I don’t know about others, I used to confuse indigenous with ingenuous and disingenuous.. so I completely stopped using all those words.
Some people even confuse Ã†nima for Enema.. it is not the same thing, people.
We’ll add disingenuous later today.
Did you mangle the original post when updating this? hope your boss didn’t notice this horrendous mistake!
Yes, the boss noticed and docked our pay.
Thanks. Fixed now. 🙂
Will update the post again later today with more examples.