Commonly Confused Pair of Words

Commonly confused words

Here’s a quick-reference list of pairs of words that regularly cause confusion.

 

Word 1

Meaning

Word 2

Meaning

accept

to agree to receive or do

except

not including

adverse

unfavourable, harmful

averse

strongly disliking; opposed

advice

recommendations about what to do

advise

to recommend something

affect

to change or make a difference to

effect

a result; to bring about a result

aisle

a passage between rows of seats

isle

an island

all together

all in one place, all at once

altogether

completely; on the whole

along

moving or extending horizontally on

a long

referring to something of great length

aloud

out loud

allowed

permitted

altar

a sacred table in a church

alter

to change

amoral

not concerned with right or wrong

immoral

not following accepted moral standards

appraise

to assess

apprise

to inform someone

assent

agreement, approval

ascent

the action of rising or climbing up

aural

relating to the ears or hearing

oral

relating to the mouth; spoken

balmy

pleasantly warm

barmy

foolish, crazy

bare

naked; to uncover

bear

to carry; to put up with

bated

with bated breath

(in great suspense)

baited

with bait attached or inserted

bazaar

a Middle Eastern market

bizarre

strange

berth

a bunk in a ship, train, etc.

birth

the emergence of a baby from the womb

born

having started life

borne

carried

bough

a branch of a tree

bow

to bend the head; the front of a ship

brake

a device for stopping a vehicle;

break

to separate into pieces; a pause

 

 

to stop a vehicle

 

 

breach

to break through or break a rule; a gap

breech

the back part of a gun barrel

broach

to raise a subject for discussion

brooch

a piece of jewellery

canvas

a type of strong cloth

canvass

to seek people’s votes

censure

to criticize strongly

censor

to ban parts of a book or film

cereal 

a grass producing an edible grain

serial 

happening in a series

chord

a group of musical notes

cord

a length of string; a cord-like body part

climactic

forming a climax

climatic

relating to climate

coarse

rough

course

a direction

complacent

smug and selfsatisfied

complaisant

willing to please

complement

to add to so as to improve; an addition that improves something

compliment

to praise or express approval; an admiring remark

council

a group of people who manage or advise

counsel

advice; to advise

cue

a signal for action; a wooden rod

queue

a line of people or vehicles

curb

to keep something in check; a control or limit

kerb

(in British English) the stone edge of a pavement

currant

a dried grape

current

happening now; a flow of water, air, or

electricity

defuse

to make a situation less tense

diffuse

to spread over a wide area

desert

a waterless, empty area

dessert

the sweet course of a meal

discreet

careful not to attract attention

discrete

separate and distinct

disinterested

impartial

uninterested

not interested

draught

a current of air

draft

a first version of a piece of writing

draw

an even score at the end of a game

drawer

a sliding storage compartment

dual

having two parts

duel

a fight or contest between two people

elicit

to draw out a reply or reaction

illicit

not allowed by law or rules

 

ensure

to make certain that something will happen

insure

to provide compensation if a person dies or property is damaged

envelop

to cover or surround

envelope

a paper container for a letter

exercise

physical activity; to do physical activity

exorcise

to drive out an evil spirit

fawn

a young deer; light brown

faun

a mythical being, part man, part goat

flaunt

to display ostentatiously

flout

to disregard a rule

flounder

to move clumsily;

to have difficulty doing something

founder

to fail

forbear

to refrain

forebear

an ancestor

foreword

an introduction to a book

forward

onwards, ahead

freeze

to turn to ice

frieze

a decoration along a wall

grisly

gruesome, revolting

grizzly

a type of bear

hoard

a store

horde

a large crowd of people

imply

to suggest indirectly

infer

to draw a conclusion

loath

reluctant, unwilling

loathe

to hate

loose

to unfasten; to set free

lose

to be deprived of; to be unable to find

meter

a measuring device

metre

a metric unit; rhythm in verse

militate

to be a powerful factor against

mitigate

to make less severe

palate

the roof of the mouth

palette

a board for mixing colours

pedal

a foot-operated lever

peddle

to sell goods

pole

a long, slender piece of wood

poll

voting in an election

pour

to flow or cause to flow

pore

a tiny opening; to study something closely

practice

the use of an idea or method; the work or business of a doctor, dentist, etc.

practise

to do something repeatedly to gain skill; to do something regularly

prescribe

to authorize use of

proscribe

to officially forbid

 

medicine; to order authoritatively

 

something

principal

most important

principle

a fundamental rule or belief

sceptic

a person inclined to doubt

septic

infected with bacteria

sight

the ability to see

site

a location

stationary

not moving

stationery

writing materials

storey

a level of a building

story

a tale or account

titillate

to arouse interest

titivate

to make more attractive

tortuous

full of twists; complex

torturous

full of pain or suffering

wreath

an arrangement of flowers

wreathe

to surround or encircle

 

COMMONLY CONFUSED WORDS Contents Commonly confused words Here’s a quick-reference list of pairs of words that regularly cause confusion. Word 1 Meaning Word 2 Meaning accept to agree to receive or do except not including adverse unfavourable, harmful averse strongly disliking; opposed advice recommendations about what to do advise to recommend something affect to change or make a difference to effect a result; to bring about a result aisle a passage between rows of seats isle an island all together all in one place, all at once altogether completely; on the whole along moving or extending horizontally on a long referring to something of great length aloud out loud allowed permitted altar a sacred table in a church alter to change amoral not concerned with right or wrong immoral not following accepted moral standards appraise to assess apprise to inform someone assent agreement, approval ascent the action of rising or climbing up aural relating to the ears or hearing oral relating to the mouth; spoken balmy pleasantly warm barmy foolish, crazy bare naked; to uncover bear to carry; to put up with bated with bated breath (in great suspense) baited with bait attached or inserted bazaar a Middle Eastern market bizarre strange berth a bunk in a ship, train, etc. birth the emergence of a baby from the womb born having started life borne carried bough a branch of a tree bow to bend the head; the front of a ship brake a device for stopping a vehicle; break to separate into pieces; a pause 2 to stop a vehicle breach to break through or break a rule; a gap breech the back part of a gun barrel broach to raise a subject for discussion brooch a piece of jewellery canvas a type of strong cloth canvass to seek people’s votes censure to criticize strongly censor to ban parts of a book or film cereal a grass producing an edible grain serial happening in a series chord a group of musical notes cord a length of string; a cord-like body part climactic forming a climax climatic relating to climate coarse rough course a direction complacent smug and selfsatisfied complaisant willing to please complement to add to so as to improve; an addition that improves something compliment to praise or express approval; an admiring remark council a group of people who manage or advise counsel advice; to advise cue a signal for action; a wooden rod queue a line of people or vehicles curb to keep something in check; a control or limit kerb (in British English) the stone edge of a pavement currant a dried grape current happening now; a flow of water, air, or electricity defuse to make a situation less tense diffuse to spread over a wide area desert a waterless, empty area dessert the sweet course of a meal discreet careful not to attract attention discrete separate and distinct disinterested impartial uninterested not interested draught a current of air draft a first version of a piece of writing draw an even score at the end of a game drawer a sliding storage compartment dual having two parts duel a fight or contest between two people elicit to draw out a reply or reaction illicit not allowed by law or rules 3 ensure to make certain that something will happen insure to provide compensation if a person dies or property is damaged envelop to cover or surround envelope a paper container for a letter exercise physical activity; to do physical activity exorcise to drive out an evil spirit fawn a young deer; light brown faun a mythical being, part man, part goat flaunt to display ostentatiously flout to disregard a rule flounder to move clumsily; to have difficulty doing something founder to fail forbear to refrain forebear an ancestor foreword an introduction to a book forward onwards, ahead freeze to turn to ice frieze a decoration along a wall grisly gruesome, revolting grizzly a type of bear hoard a store horde a large crowd of people imply to suggest indirectly infer to draw a conclusion loath reluctant, unwilling loathe to hate loose to unfasten; to set free lose to be deprived of; to be unable to find meter a measuring device metre a metric unit; rhythm in verse militate to be a powerful factor against mitigate to make less severe palate the roof of the mouth palette a board for mixing colours pedal a foot -operated lever peddle to sell goods pole a long, slender piece of wood poll voting in an election pour to flow or cause to flow pore a tiny opening; to study something closely practice the use of an idea or method; the work or business of a doctor, dentist, etc. practise to do something repeatedly to gain skill; to do something regularly prescribe to authorize use of proscribe to officially forbid 4 medicine; to order authoritatively something principal most important principle a fundamental rule or belief sceptic a person inclined to doubt septic infected with bacteria sight the ability to see site a location stationary not moving stationery writing materials storey a level of a building story a tale or account titillate to arouse interest titivate to make more attractive tortuous full of twists; complex torturous full of pain or suffering wreath an arrangement of flowers wreathe to surround or encircl