Mixed-up Meanings

  1. Supper vs. Dinner

    In parts of the US, supper and dinner are used interchangeably to refer to the evening meal, but they’re not exactly synonyms.  What do these words mean? Dinner, which dates back to the late 1200s, refers to the main meal of the day—historically, a meal served midday for many peoples. The term comes from the Middle English diner, which, via French, goes back to a …

  2. 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 …

  3. “Affect” vs. “Effect”: Use The Correct Word Every Time

    Affect or effect? Both of these words are verbs and nouns and their meanings overlap. Very confusing! This slippery duo can send even experienced writers into a spiral of uncertainty. Especially, since many people pronounce them in almost the exact same way. Here’s a basic guideline for affect vs effect: Generally, we use affect as a verb (an action word) and effect as a noun …

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    “Just Deserts” vs. “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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    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 interest, …

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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 …

  9. What Is The Difference Between “Anyway,” “Anyways,” And “Any Way”?

    Which word is it, anyway? Anyway is a common adverb used to mean “in any case,” while any way is an adjective-noun phrase that means “whichever path” or “in any manner.” Anyways is the informal form of anyway. While less common in formal writing, anyways abounds in everyday speech or dialogue. It often signals a transition. Anyway Anyway, used as an adverb, suggests a disregard …

  10. What’s The Difference Between “Imminent,” “Immanent,” And “Eminent”?

    When something is imminent, that means it’s “impending.”  Immanent isn’t a typo; it means “inherent.” And, e minent means “distinguished.” Now that that is cleared up … how do you use each of these in a sentence? How to use imminent in a sentence Imminent means “likely to occur at any moment or impending.” It refers to something that’s approaching, about to happen, anticipated, or threatening …