Word Facts

  1. Principal vs. Principle

    Is the head of a school called a principal or a principle? These two words are frustratingly similar, leaving even the most experienced English speakers to second-guess which word means what. So, today, we’ll discuss the distinct meanings between these easy-to-confuse terms—and leave you with a little trick to help differentiate between your principals and your principles. What is a principal? A principal is “a …

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    These Hacks Remind Us That Spelling Still Matters

  3. Are There Any Words Without Rhymes?

      What rhymes with orange? Orange rhymes with Blorenge  (a mountain in Wales) and sporange (a technical word for a sac where spores are made). Of course, if you want to write a rhyming poem about oranges, the scientific or geographic research involved might be a little tough. What rhymes with silver? While we’re at it, while silver hangs on to the same rumor, it actually rhymes with Wilver (a nickname) and chilver (a ewe …

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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 …

  5. 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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    Kangaroo Words: Words That Contain Their Own Synonyms

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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 crimes considered …

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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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