Common French expressions

These idiomatic expressions are widely used in places where French is spoken, but some make little sense when translated directly into English. They're similar to the English expressions How's it going? or What's up? in that, read literally, they don't make much sense. How's what going? Up … [Read more...]

Deduce vs. induce

To deduce is to draw a specific conclusion from a general principle. To induce is to derive a general principle from specific observations. The distinction extends to the verbs' corresponding nouns, deduction and induction, and they're the basis of what we mean when we say deductive or inductive … [Read more...]

Heterometric

A heterometric poem or stanza is composed of lines of varying lengths and metrical structures. The opposite is an isometric stanza, which is a stanza composed of lines of equal length and metrical structure. In traditional poetry, there are a few types of heterometric stanzas, including the Sapphic … [Read more...]

Quasi

Quasi was originally a Latin word meaning as if, and it's now an English word meaning seeming, seemingly, sort of, or in the nature of. It works as either an adjective or an adverb, and it's frequently used in phrasal adjectives. When quasi is a standalone adjective modifying a noun, no hyphen is … [Read more...]

Flammable vs. inflammable

flammable-inflammable-english

There is no difference in meaning between flammable and inflammable. Both describe things that are capable of burning or easy to ignite, but in all modern varieties of English, flammable is preferred. Inflammable, derived from the verb inflame, is the original word. But because the first … [Read more...]

Albeit

The conjunction albeit has been labeled archaic, but it appears to be making a comeback, especially in American English. It means though or although, but it is not interchangeable with these words in all circumstances. Think of it as a shorter way of saying although it is or although it … [Read more...]

De rigueur

The loanword de rigueur, meaning socially obligatory, proper, or required by custom, functions as an adjective in English. It comes from French, where it means, literally, of rigor and, less literally, according to strictness. De rigueur is also a common expression in that language, where it means … [Read more...]

Divorcée, divorcé, divorcee

A divorcée is a woman who has divorced, and a divorcé is a man who has divorced. The words come directly from French, which unlike English uses masculine and feminine forms for most nouns denoting people. In French, divorcé is the past participle of the verb divorcer. When the past participle is … [Read more...]

Myriad

The word myriad works as both (1) an adjective meaning innumerable, and (2) a noun referring to an innumerable quantity of something. Using it as an adjective is usually more concise.  For instance, in these sentences the words a and of could be removed from a myriad of with no loss of … [Read more...]

Port vs. starboard

Port and starboard are nautical terms with origins in Old English. Their meanings are simple: to an observer standing on a boat and facing the front of the craft, port is the left side of the boat, and starboard is the right. If it helps, just remember that port and left are both four-letter words … [Read more...]

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