11 Word Facts You’re Wrong About


English has so many words: Big words. Small words. Words with silent letters. And whatever the heck is going on with squeamish. With so many words to choose from, it can be easy to get a little confused from time to time. In fact, there are a lot of words people use every day that they actually get wrong without even knowing it. Right now, we are going to look at just a few word facts that people commonly get wrong. If you consider yourself a word master, you might want to be careful about reading any further in case your whole world gets flipped upside down!

Commonly mistaken word facts

How do you pronounce GIF?

The correct pronunciation of GIF or gif is often the source of many fierce debates, both online and off. The inventor of the file format, Steve Wilhite, has strongly insisted for decades that the only correct pronunciation of gif is [ jif ] with a J sound and not [ gif ] with a hard G sound as in guard. While Steve makes a great argument by having invented the dang thing, the strong G pronunciation is still very common.

How do you pronounce niche?

The word niche is used to describe things people are good at or to refer to very specific consumer markets. But how do you pronounce it? Do you pronounce it as [ nich ] and rhyme it with itch? Or do you pronounce it as [ neesh ] and rhyme it with sheesh? Regardless of how you answered, you are right! As it turns out, both of these two pronunciations are correct.

Sounds like you want to learn about other words with hotly debated pronunciations. Check out this list!

Are flammable and inflammable opposites?

You likely already know that if something is flammable, it can easily catch on fire. As weird as it may look, the word inflammable is actually a synonym of flammable and also means that something can easily catch on fire. You see, the word inflammable is related to the word inflame and doesn’t use the prefix in- to mean “not” as in words like inexpensive or indecisive.

What does ambivalent mean?

Often, the word ambivalent is mistakenly used as a synonym of the words apathetic or uncaring. For example, someone might say that they are ambivalent about ice cream flavors when they mean that they don’t care what kind of ice cream you give them. However, the word ambivalent actually means to have mixed feelings about something or being unable to make a decision between two options. So, being ambivalent about ice cream flavors means you are actually torn between chocolate and vanilla and just can’t come to a decision about which you like more.

What does grizzly mean?

The word grizzly means “grayish” or “a bit gray.” The word that means “causing terror” or “gruesome” is the homophone grisly. The confusion probably comes from the names of grizzly bears, who many people find quite terrifying. Grizzly bears, who don’t actually have gray fur, get their name from the fact that their fur has white or gray tips, which can make the bears appear grizzly (“grayish”) in sunlight.

Do you find homophones appealing? Then read about peel vs. peal.

Is supposably a word?

To make a long story short, yes, supposably is an actual word. However, it probably doesn’t mean what you think it does. Supposably is used to mean that something is possible as in A skydiver could supposably survive a jump without a parachute. Supposably isn’t a synonym of supposedly, the word it is often used interchangeably with. Supposedly is used to refer to something that is assumed true without definitive knowledge or something that is claimed to be true but is actually not.

What does impeach mean?

It is commonly thought that a politician is impeached if they are kicked out of office. However, this isn’t the case. To impeach someone means to accuse them of a crime or offense rather than prove they are actually guilty of something. Likewise, an impeachment only involves presenting charges against someone. It is the resulting trial and sentencing that may actually involve proving a person’s guilt and then punishing them for it.

What is the plural of cactus?

If you know your Latin, you likely already know half of the answer to this question. The word cacti is a correct plural of cactus. However, there is also another option. Similar to words like octopus and platypus, the word cactus has two correct plurals: cacti and cactuses. Both of these are fine to use, so feel free to use whichever you like.

What happens when someone is electrocuted?

The answer to this question seems obvious, but many people get this one wrong. If someone is electrocuted, it means they are killed or executed by electricity. Either way, they are dead. If someone survives even a nearly lethal run-in with electricity, they haven’t been electrocuted. That doesn’t mean they had any fun, though!

What does bemused mean?

The adjective bemused isn’t a synonym of amused, a word that sounds and is spelled almost the same. Bemused means “to be confused” or “to be lost in thought.” However, bemused can mean “to be mildly amused in a detached way,” so there is a good reason for the confusion.

Is confetti a singular word?

The word confetti is actually a plural noun that takes a singular verb. Coming from Italian, confetti is the plural of confetto. In Italian, confetto refers to a particular bonbon-like candy. While confetto could in theory be used in English to refer to a single bit of paper, it is a rarely used word.

Take the quiz!

Now that you’ve hammered out the confusion around these words, head over to our quiz to see how much you remember … and what you may still choose to be wrong about (“jif”, seriously?).

Throw the confetti! Time to read about words with uncommon singular forms.

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