Mixed-up Meanings

  1. What’s the Difference Between “Afflict” vs. “Inflict”?

    Chances are that, during times of … let’s say biological outbreak, you’re bound to hear the words afflicted, affliction, and inflict or inflicted used a lot—and to varying degrees of accuracy. It’s OK, this is normal: the English language is particularly confusing when it comes to usage of words that share a similar element. In this case, it’s –flict, ultimately based on the Latin verb …

  2. Is It “St. Patrick’s Day” Or “St. Patricks Day”?

    Celebrated every March 17 (or sometimes the weekend before, the weekend after, or … actually, throughout the entire month of March), St. Patrick’s Day is the day people around the world celebrate St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Although the celebrations we see today—which often include parades, pub crawls, and corn beef and cabbage—have little to do with the original feasts that took place …

  3. What Is The Difference Between “Quarantine” And “Isolation”?

    by John Kelly, Senior Research Editor at Dictionary.com During public health emergencies, like the outbreak of the coronavirus, it’s essential to stay informed. But a lot of that information, when it’s not misleading, can be overwhelming and confusing—down to the very words we use to talk about a crisis. What’s COVID-19? Is that the same thing as coronavirus? Is the disease an epidemic or pandemic? …

  4. “Latitude” vs. “Longitude”

    Was the thought of identifying latitude and longitude on a map in geography class one of your high-key stressors? Well, you’re not the only anxiety-ridden test taker out there! The concept of measuring Earth by coordinates isn’t an overwhelmingly hard concept to grasp, but identifying the difference between these two words can be a little tough. Since they are both units of measurement that help …

  5. “Ambiguous” vs. “Ambivalent”

    Just like people assume family members are inherently similar because they are related, people assume the same things about words: if they have similar spellings and soundings, they must be alike. As it is with people, the similarities between some related words that look and sound the same end there. Take ambiguous and ambivalent for example. They share the Latin prefix ambi-, which means “both,” …

  6. “Epidemic” vs. “Pandemic”: What Do These Terms Mean?

    Edited by John Kelly, Senior Research Editor at Dictionary.com If you recall the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s or are taking preparations against COVID-19 right now, then you’ve definitely heard the words epidemic and pandemic. With every biological outbreak, we encounter these words being used more and more frequently—and often, inaccurately. Why is it so easy for people to confuse these words? Well, both …

  7. What Is The Difference Between “Delegate” vs. “Superdelegate”?

    In any election, there’s a ton of information to get a handle on. When can you vote? Can you vote early? Where can you vote? And oh yeah, who and what are you voting for? On top of all that, the electoral process in the US can be just plain confusing—no matter how much attention you, ahem, paid in American Government class. There’s the general …

  8. “Economic” vs. “Economical”

    Cheap, expensive, lavish, meager, a steal, or a rip-off. These are just some ways to talk about an item that costs money. But there are two other words used to talk about money as well: economic and economical. These words have two different meanings, despite them both being adjectives. Plus they’re also only two letters off, adding to the confusion. It’s pretty likely you’re mixing …

  9. “Breach” vs. “Breech”: Don’t Confuse The Two!

    English is full of homophones, or words that have the same pronunciation but vastly different meanings, origins, and spelling. Some of the most confused homophones include their/they’re/there; affect and effect; and complement and compliment. Let’s add another pair to the list: breach and breech. Are you a whale watcher? A lawyer? A gun owner? You might know the definition of these words. But do you know how …

  10. What’s The Difference Between “Caucus” vs. “Primary”?

    In the US voting system, there are two rounds of voting generally every two and four years. First, a primary or a caucus is held. During those, voters pick a party nominee. For example, in a Democratic primary, voters (often but not necessarily registered as Democrats) would pick among Democratic candidates for an office. The winner of that election then goes on to run in …