If need be or if needs be

If need be is an idiom which means if the need manifests. It became an idiom when conditional phrases (beginning with if) stopped requiring the subjunctive. Now we say "if it is right", not "if it be right". It is used most often as a modifying phrase and does not require commas unless needed for clarity, which may often be the case. Most dictionaries, if they list it as an idiom at all, list the singular. Therefore, in writing the singular form is used almost 10:1. But if needs be could … [Read more...]

Hope or hopes

Hope can be a verb or a noun. As a verb, it means to desire or believe something to be true or to come to pass. As a noun it is the feeling of desiring or believing something to be true or to come to pass. The noun form may be countable or uncountable. To lose all hope is subtly different than people losing their hopes and dreams. One is the mass idea of losing any chance of hoping, and the other is losing specific hopes that can be listed. To have hope (mass) is different than to have … [Read more...]

Shore up

Shore can be a noun meaning the part of land that meets the ocean, or a lake or river. Or it can just generally be that which is not water, or all land. A second definition is something that prevents falling or drifting. This second definition leads to the transitive verb (with an object) form. Usually used with the preposition up, to shore something is to use shores to support or brace it. It can also be used more generally to reinforce or support something or someone. Examples Now, … [Read more...]

Nib vs nub

A nib is something small that comes to a point. Originally it was the tip of a quill pen, and now is commonly used to describe the metal piece at the end of an ink-well pen or the tip of any writing instrument. It may also mean a bird's beak or bill. In cooking, a nib is a small piece of a roasted product, like coffee or cocoa beans. It is always used in a compound form, such as, cacao nib or coffee nib. A nub may also mean a tiny piece that projects or sticks out, though not generally … [Read more...]


A potluck is a usually the name of a meal where everyone brings something, usually unplanned. Or, it may mean a meal that is made from whatever is available for an unexpected visitor. It may be used as an adjective or noun. When used as a noun, it is made plural by adding an s. It comes from the sixteenth century where an author used pot-luck to mean the unexpected guest got the "luck of the pot" or whatever was already prepared. There is also an Irish tradition of everyone bringing … [Read more...]

Tide over

Tide over is a transitive verb (meaning that it is an action that has a direct object). The verb means to aide or provide resources for a short amount of time. It may refer to life-sustaining needs, such as, money or food or sleep, etc. Or, it may be used concerning addictions or simply cravings. The verb dates back to the early 1800s. Tide can also be a verb on its own, either transitive or intransitive. Without an object (intransitive) it means to move as the tide moves, in and out or up … [Read more...]

Renege vs rescind

To renege is to go back on a promise, to make a denial, or revoke something. It is pronounced many different ways. The first syllable may have the long or short e sound. And the (nege) syllable can be /nehg/, /nahg/, or /nig/. A person who reneges is a reneger. It is also used sometimes in board or card games when a player has broken the rules. In the game of euchre, you play cards by suit. If you play a card later, but should have played it earlier in the game, you reneged on the promise … [Read more...]

Salient vs salience

Salient is an adjective meaning extremely necessary or stands out from the rest. It is also a synonym for jumping and rocketing upwards. Lastly, it is sometimes a noun used for an object that juts out from the rest of the environment, especially if it is part of military defenses. A common phrase is to call a good or valid point in an argument a salient point. Salience is the noun form of the condition of being salient. It may also be used to call something a highlight, or a definitive … [Read more...]


  Braggadocio is the kind of talking someone does when they are attempting to appear cocky or boastful. It is also a synonym for braggart, which is the name for a bragger, or someone who is boastful and usually loud about it. The plural for braggadocio is braggadocios. This is only to be used when referring to two or more people who are braggarts. It should not to be confused with the adjective form, which is braggadocious. Some confusion may come from the adjective form not being … [Read more...]


  Ajar can be an adverb or adjective describing something as being partially open. An archaic and obsolete definition for ajar is for something to be out of sync with its surroundings or to be jarred. The a- prefix is often used in words as a stand in for to (aside means to the side), in (as in the process of or in a certain condition), or on (e.g., if someone is walking afoot, he or she is walking on foot). This comes from the simplification of the Old English two word … [Read more...]

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