Mixed-up Meanings

  1. “Introvert” vs. “Extrovert”

    They say that opposites attract, and that’s usually true for introvert–extrovert couples. We all have that one friend who can strike up a conversation with anyone, who does well in large groups, and who loves being around people. On the other hand, we also know those who prefer quiet one-on-one activities with friends, like visiting a museum or watching a movie, when they socialize. In …

  2. “Antibiotic” vs. “Abiotic” vs. “Antibody”: What Is The Difference?

    by John Kelly, Senior Research Editor at Dictionary.com In our article on virus vs. bacteria, we noted that vaccines can work on both viruses and bacteria. Antibiotics, however, are only effective against bacteria. But what is an antibiotic, exactly, and how is it different from another, frustratingly similar word: abiotic? And how do both of these words compare to antibody and antigen? This is a …

  3. “Climactic” vs. “Climatic”

    There’s nothing worse than getting ensconced in a book that’s building up to a big moment … only to be interrupted and have to put it down before the most exciting part. Are you missing out on the climatic moment? Or was it the climactic scene that got disturbed before you could read it through? Although they look and sound alike, these two adjectives are …

  4. “Virus” vs. “Bacteria”: What’s The Difference?

    It’s easy to confuse viruses and bacteria. They are both extremely tiny, for one thing, and, depending on what kind of bug you get, they can make you sick. OK, “extremely tiny” and “make you sick”? We do have technical words for these things. Viruses and bacteria are microscopic, meaning they are too small to see with the unaided eye. And pathogens are “disease-producing agents,” …

  5. “Asymptomatic” vs. “Asymptotic” vs. “Asystematic”: Is There A Difference?

    by John Kelly, Senior Research Editor at Dictionary.com Words that are hard to spell, sound alike, aren’t commonly used everyday, and have very technical meanings? They’re confusing! And the trio asymptomatic, asymptotic, and asystematic? Well, they make for a perfect storm of confusion. Let’s break down these words, all the way down to their nuts and bolts. Now, don’t be too daunted by all the …

  6. What’s the Difference Between “Sushi” vs. “Sashimi”?

    For anyone who isn’t an adventurous eater, words like sushi, and especially sashimi, might be intimidating. However, these are not only easy words to pronounce (they’re entirely phonetic), but they’re also incredibly specific and therefore difficult to confuse. Both sushi and sashimi are specific kinds of Japanese foods involving raw fish, but we’re going to break them down a little more specifically so that you …

  7. What Is The Difference Between “Amid” vs. “Amidst”?

    There’s amid. Then there’s amidst. Can they be used in the same way or are there important differences between them? Is one considered more correct? Hey, we get it. The English language is hard! But amid this jumble of words and amidst that mess of meaning, we’re here to help clear things up. What does amid mean? Amid is a preposition, a type of word …

  8. Cyclone vs. Typhoon vs. Hurricane: Are They All The Same?

    Are hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons distinct meteorological phenomena, or just different names for the same horrible type of storm? Cyclones explained Let’s start with cyclone, since it has the clearest and most precise definition of the three. A cyclone is “a large-scale, atmospheric wind-and-pressure system characterized by low pressure at its center and by circular wind motion.”  Cyclones spin “counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the …

  9. What Is The Difference Between “Furlough” vs. “Layoff”?

    by John Kelly, Senior Research Editor at Dictionary.com The coronavirus pandemic isn’t only affecting people’s health and safety. It is also impacting people’s livelihoods as the virus hits the economy. Cancellations, quarantines, and social distancing are causing many companies to furlough or lay off employees—and in some instances, both.  But what is the difference between furlough and layoff? For health, safety, and medical emergencies or …

  10. What Is The Difference Between A “Respirator” And A “Ventilator”?

    by John Kelly, Senior Research Editor at Dictionary.com During the coronavirus break, you may have heard that hospital and healthcare providers have faced a shortage of respirators and ventilators, two critical tools in fighting the infection. Now, many of us know that both respirators and ventilators deal with breathing in some way, but may be confused about the difference between them. Are they both just …