D

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  • D'oh= an interjection expressing annoyance, sheepishness, pain, regret, agitation, or a range of other emotions.
  • Dactyl= in poetry, a metrical foot consisting of one accented syllable followed by two unaccented ones.
  • Dais
  • Dam vs. damnDam: a structure used to hold back water, plus related verb senses. Damn: (1) to condemn, (2) to bring about the failure of, (3) to prove guilty, or (4) to send to everlasting punishment.
  • Dampen, damper, dampenerDamper = (1) something that deadens, restrains, or depresses, (2) an adjustable plate for controlling a draft, and (3) one that deadens vibrations. Dampen = (1) to deaden sound, and (2) to make slightly wet. Dampener = something that dampens.
  • Danglers
  • Daresay= (1) to suppose, or (2) to presume to say. It is one word.
  • Dark horse
  • DataData has evolved beyond its Latin roots and is now usually a singular mass noun, thought it tends to remain the plural form in science, finance, computing, and mathematics.
  • Dates and commas
  • Davy Jones's locker= the bottom of the sea.
  • Day in age (day and age)Day in age is an eggcorn from the redundant phrase day and age.
  • De facto= in reality or fact, or in effect.
  • De rigueur= socially obligatory, proper, or required by custom.
  • Dead set, dead-set, deadset= (1) fixed on a purpose or (2) resolutely. It is usually two unhyphenated words.
  • Dealt vs. dealedDealt is the preferred form everywhere.
  • Dearth= shortage or scarcity.
  • Decent vs. descentDecent = (1) polite and respectable, and (2) passable or adequate. Descent = (1) an act or instance of going downward, (2) a way down, (3) hereditary lineage, and (4) a sudden visit or attack.
  • DeceptivelyDeceptively is often confusing because it can bear contradictory meanings, so it is best avoided when its meaning isn't absolutely clear.
  • DecidedlyIt often bears removal, especially when it is a hedge word.
  • Decimate= (1) to destroy a large part of or (2) to inflict great destruction on something. Its Latin definitions are irrelevant.
  • DeconstructionIt was originally a literary-criticism term, but it's now widely used in a range of other senses.
  • Decry vs. descryTo decry is to denounce or disparage. To descry is (1) to see in the distance or (2) to discern with the eye.
  • Deduce vs. induceTo deduce is to draw a specific conclusion from a general principle. To induce is to derive a general principle from specific observations.
  • Deep-seeded vs. deep-seatedDeep-seated = deeply fixed firmly in place. Deep-seeded is a misspelling.
  • Defence vs. defenseDefense in the U.S.; defence everywhere else.
  • Definite articles
  • Defuse vs. diffuseTo defuse (something) is to make a threatening or dangerous situation safer. To diffuse something is to soften it by spreading it out.
  • Deign= to condescend to do something.
  • Demur vs. demureDemur = (1) to object, or (2) to hesitate because of doubt. Demure = (1) modest and reserved, or (2) affectedly shy.
  • Denounce vs. renounceDenounce: openly condemn. Renounce: publicly reject or give up.
  • Dependant vs. dependentIn American English, dependent is (1) an adjective meaning contingent on another, and (2) a noun meaning a person who is financially supported by someone else. Outside the U.S. dependent is conventionally the adjective and dependant the noun, though this is not always borne out in real-world usage.
  • Depository vs. repositoryDepository = a place where things are deposited and stored. Repository = a place where things are stored. They essentially the same in their main sense, but in actual usage there are subtle differences.
  • Deprecate vs. depreciateTo depreciate is (1) to lessen in value, or (2) to lower the value of something, especially by falsely undervaluing, disparaging, or belittling it. To deprecate something is to express disapproval of it or to disparage or belittle it. So the two words are synonymous in some uses.
  • Derring-doDerring-do = daring deeds or heroic daring.
  • Descendant vs. descendentDescendant is both a noun an an adjective, and descendent is a less common variant.
  • Despite vs. in spite ofThey mean the same.
  • Destroy vs. destructDestruct is mostly an unnecessary variant of destroy, except in rocketry and in the phrases self-destruct and auto-destruct.
  • Detract vs. distractTo detract is to diminish or take away from (something). To distract is to divert (someone's) attention or interest.
  • Device vs. deviseDevice is the noun. Devise is the verb.
  • Devil is in the details vs. God is in the detail
  • Dialectal vs. dialecticalDialectal corresponds to dialect. Dialectical is a less common variant of dialectic.
  • Dice vs. dieDie is singular. Dice is the plural.
  • Different from, different than, different toDifferent than and different to are fine, despite widespread belief to the contrary.
  • Dike vs. dykeDike is the American and Canadian spelling. Dyke is preferred outside North America. They share all their definitions.
  • Diktat
  • Dilemma= originally a choice between two mutually exclusive alternatives. It's now often used to refer to any difficult situation.
  • Directional words
  • Dis vs. dissThe wors meaning to disrespect or an instance of disrespect is spelled both ways.
  • Disassemble vs. dissembleDisassemble = to take apart. Dissemble = to disguise or to obscure.
  • Disburse vs. disperseDisburse = pay out. Disperse = scatter.
  • Disc vs. diskDisk refers to computer hardware. Discrefers to phonograph records, albums, and components of plows and brakd systems. In all other uses, the two spellings are interchangeable.
  • Discombobulate= to throw into a state of confusion.
  • Discomfit vs. discomfortDiscomfit = to throw into confusion, perplex, or embarras. Discomfort = to make uncomfortable. They tend to have much common ground.
  • DisconnectOriginally a verb, disconnect is now also a noun referring to a disparity.
  • Discrete vs. discreetDiscrete = separate or distinct. Discreet = cautious, reserved, or modest.
  • Disenfranchise vs. disfranchiseDisenfranchise is preferred in 21st-century English.
  • Disillusion vs. dissolutionDisillusion = to deprive of an illusion. Dissolution = the noun corresponding to dissolve.
  • Disinterested vs. uninterestedThe traditional distinction holds that disinterested means having no stake in the matter while uninterested means not engaged. Today, the former is often used in place of the latter.
  • Dispatch vs. despatchDispatch is preferred. The two spellings share all meanings.
  • Dispense with vs. dispose ofDispense with: to go without or to do away with. Dispose of: 1. to attend to; 2. to part with; 3. to get rid of; 4. to destroy.
  • Disposed vs. predisposedDisposed = (1) in a willing frame of mind toward something, (2) suitably placed or situated, or (3) having a tendency toward something. Predisposed = disposed in advance or inherently disposed.
  • Dissociate vs. disassociateDissociate is the more common form, but disassociate has been slowly gaining ground for decades.
  • Distinct vs. distinctiveDistinct = (1) easily distinguishable from other things, (2) discrete, or (3) easy to see. Distinctive = characteristic or serving to identify.
  • Distrust vs. mistrustDistrust = lack of trust based on experience. Mistrust = lack of trust based on lack of experience. But the words are often used interchangeably.
  • Divers vs. diverseDivers = (archaic) various or many. Diverse = having great variety.
  • Divorcée, divorcé, divorceeDivorcée = female. Divorcé = male. Divorcee = gender-neutral anglicization.
  • Do apologizeThe do weakens the apology.
  • Dog daysDog days = (1) the waning stage of a time period, especially of summer; or (2) a period of stagnation or languid activity.
  • Dog-eat-dogDog-eat-dog is the idiom. Doggy dog is an eggcorn.
  • Dole out vs. doll outThe phrasal verb meaning to administer or bestow, especially in small portions is dole out, not doll out.
  • Doppelgänger= (1) a spirit double or counterpart of a person, or (2) a lookalike.
  • Double entendre= a word or phrase that can be interpreted in two ways.
  • Double vs. redoubleDouble = to make something twice as great. Redouble = (1) to double something again, or (2) to make something much greater (as opposed to just twice as great).
  • Double-edged sworda good thing that is also a bad thing.
  • DoubtlesslyIt always bears replacement with doubtless, which functions as an adverb (in addition to being an adjective) by convention.
  • Doughnut vs. donutDoughnut is the older, more conventional, and preferred spelling. Donut is fast gaining ground, however.
  • Douse vs. dowseDouse = (1) to plunge into liquid, (2) to drench, or (3) to extinguish (especially flames). Dowse = to search underground using a divining rod.
  • Dove vs. divedDived remains the preferred form outside North America. Americans and Canadians now prefer the newer form, dove.
  • Down the pike vs. down the pipeDown the pike is the original, but both forms are widely used and understood.
  • Downfall vs. downsideDownfall = (1) a cause of sudden ruin, (2) a sudden ruin, or (3) a shower of rain or snow. Downside = (1) a disadvantageous aspect, (2) a downward tendency, or (3) the lower side of something.
  • Draconian
  • Draft vs. draughtOutside North America, a draught is (1) a current of air, (2) an animal that pulls loads, (3) a load pulled by such an animal, (4) a portion of liquid, and (5) the act of drawing liquid into the mouth; and a draft is (1) a written plan or preliminary sketch, (2) an order for a bank to pay money, (3) conscription into the military, and (4) the act of selecting someone for a role. North Americans use draft for all.
  • Dragged vs. drugDragged is the traditional form and is still considered standard, but drug is common in some parts of the U.S.
  • Dreamed vs. dreamtDreamed is the preferred form, but dreamt is a widely accepted variant.
  • Dribble vs. drivelDrivel = senseless talk or content. Dribble = a small, unsteady stream.
  • Dribs and drabs= little by little.
  • Drier vs. dryerDrier = more dry. Dryer = something that dries.
  • Drink the Kool-Aid= to become a firm believer in something or a passionate follower of a philosophy or movement.
  • DrollDroll originally meant amusingly odd or whimsically comical. It's now widely used to mean deadpan, sarcastic, muted, or dull.
  • Drop off vs. drop-off (vs. dropoff)Drop off: verb. Drop-off: noun.
  • Du jour= of the day; current or trendy.
  • Dual vs. duelDual = (1) composed of two usually like or complementary parts, (2) double, or (3) having a double character or purpose. Duel = (1) a prearranged combat between two people, or (2) a struggle for domination between two individuals, groups, or ideas.
  • Duly noted= appropriately or deservedly noted. Dually noted and dully noted are misspellings.
  • During the course of= wordy for during.
  • Dwarfs vs. dwarvesDwarves in fantasy fiction; dwarfs everywhere else.
  • Dwelled vs. dweltDwelled is now more common in American English (a new development). Dwelt is still preferred everywhere else.
  • Dyed in the wool= deeply committed or to the utmost degree.
  • Dyeing vs. dyingDying has to do with death. Dyeing has to do with coloring things.
  • Long in the tooth
  • Whirling dervish

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