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Signet vs cygnet

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  • Signet and cygnet are two words that are often confused. They are pronounced the same way but are spelled differently and have two different meanings, they are homophones. We will examine the definitions of signet and cygnet, where the words come from and some examples of their use in sentences.

    A signet is a seal that is stamped on documents in order to authenticate them. Most often, a signet is set in a ring, but not always.  When capitalized as in the Signet, the term indicates a seal used in England and Scotland for specific official purposes. The word signet is a borrowed word, taken from the French in the fourteenth century.

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    A cygnet is a young swan. Upon initial examination, the word cygnet seems to be unrelated to the word swan. However, cygnet is another case of a word borrowed from the French. The Old French word for swan is cigne, and the diminutive of this word is cygnet. Interestingly, cygnets are a dull, gray color, in opposition to adult swans which are white. This fact most probably inspired Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of The Ugly Duckling. 

    Examples

    She explained that a signet ring was a ring with her initials on it, like the earrings she has. (The Dalton Daily Citizen)

    They also purchased the expensive signet rings to help family members pay for their funeral if they were killed. (The Ocala Star Banner)

    A family of swans have had to be rescued from the River Lea in east London after getting covered in cooking oil—but a cygnet was seen dead in the water close by. (The Hackney Gazette)

    Swan No. 69 was originally brought to her as a cygnet, or baby swan, with its two sibling from none other than the Kenai Peninsula, where the three had been orphaned on a local lake in 2005. (The Kenai Peninsula Clarion)

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