Posts by Dictionary.com

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    Is It “Just Deserts” Or “Just Desserts”?

    Did the dictionary … get it wrong?! We once featured the word comeuppance as our Word of the Day. Comeuppance, as we define it, means “deserved reward or just deserts, usually unpleasant.” More than a few of our brilliant and devoted users, wrote in to inform us that there was a typo in the definition: just deserts should be just desserts. Was an S left out of …

  2. When To Use Motherland vs. Fatherland

    The terms motherland and fatherland both refer to one’s native country, one’s country of origin, or the home of one’s ancestors. So, what’s the difference between motherland and others fatherland? What are the origins of motherland and fatherland? Whether a particular group uses (their language’s equivalent of, if they have one) motherland or fatherland is a matter of culture, tradition, or, in some instances, personal preference. In …

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    Do You Know The Names For The Different Types Of Fireworks?

    On Independence Day (July 4th), we “ooh” and “ahh” at the fireworks bursting in air, but did you know that different types of effects fireworks make have their own names? What’s a peony firework? The peony is one of the most common kinds of aerial pyrotechnic effects. It is named for a variety of plants with large, showy flowers. This firework display has a flower-like explosion …

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    Is An “Equinox” The Same As A “Solstice”?

    For centuries, humans have used different markers to note the changing seasons. The harvest moon has popularly been used to announce the fall, just as Groundhog Day tells us whether or not spring is on schedule. But, seasonal change owes much more to the equinox and the solstice than to groundhogs. What is an equinox? First, because we’re a dictionary and all, we’ll look at …

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    What’s The Difference Between “Piqued,” “Peeked,” And “Peaked?”

    English has a rich, extensive vocabulary. Problem is, sometimes those words run into each other, resulting in a tangled set of homophones , words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. The word set we’re examining today can send writers into a spiral of uncertainty when it comes to word choice, particularly in the context of one expression: piqued my interest, peaked my …

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    What Does It Mean To Be “Charged,” “Convicted,” And “Sentenced” For A Crime

    Three verbs that mean similar things: charge , convict , and sentence . They appear in the news constantly, but do you know what each term actually describes? What does charged mean? Let’s begin with charge. When a person is charged with a crime, a formal allegation (a statement not yet proven) of an offense is made. We typically refer to charges in the context of criminal law, which concerns …

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    Don’t Get Tripped Up By These Ten Tricky Homophones

    March 14 marks one of the geekiest days on the calendar. But, some people might confuse it for one of the tastiest. It’s Pi Day. Not pie, but pi (II, π), the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet. In mathematics, the character is used to represent a constant—the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter—which is approximately 3.14159+. While the infinitely long …

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    Does “Bimonthly” Mean Twice A Month Or Every Two Months?

    Both!  Bimonthly  can refer to something happening “every two months” or “twice a month.” Yep, bimonthly has, fittingly enough, two meanings. What does bi– mean? The prefix bi- means “two,” from the Latin bis, “twice.” A bimonthly publication can come out two times a month (on the second and last Friday, for instance) or every two months (January, then March, then May, and so on). Now, what if your …

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    What’s It Called When You Can “Taste” A Word Or “See” A Sound?

    Is it possible to see a taste? Or taste a word? The answer is yes, sort of. What is synesthesia? An involuntary neurological condition called synesthesia , which is also spelled synaesthesia, describes a version of this experience. Synesthesia is “a sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of …

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    What Is A Collective Noun?

    A  collective noun refers to a type of noun that encompasses “a whole group as a single entity” as well as the members of that group. It is considered singular in form. For example, words like faculty , herd , and team are collective nouns—they’re singular words but represent a group. There are collective nouns for people, animals, objects, and concepts. Collective nouns differ from mass nouns …

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