An imbroglio is a big mess of people or ideas, a complicated fight, or detailed scandal. It can sometimes be used to describe something particularly embarrassing as well. The plural is made by adding an s, imbroglios. It comes from the Italian word imbrogliare, which means to entangle or confuse. In the English language, imbroglio has been around at least since 1750. According to Google's ngram viewer, the word peaked in popularity in the 1930s but is still more frequent today than in … [Read more...]

Ibid vs idem

Ibid is an abbreviation of ibidem, a Latin word that means, literally, in the same place. Ibid is used mainly in footnotes or references to note a source that was previously mentioned, saving time and space by not repeating the same thing over and over again. Note here that it is the exact same source in the exact same place, so the duplicate citation would be exactly the same. Some style guides and dictionaries will tell you to use a period with ibid., others will say it is fine without, … [Read more...]

Deleterious vs detrimental

Deleterious is an adjective used to describe something or someone as dangerous or causing injury, usually in an unobtrusive or surprising manner. The adverb form is deleteriously, and the noun form is deleteriousness. Detrimental is also an adjective used to describe something or someone as dangerous or causing injury, usually in an obvious or expected way. The adverb form is detrimentally, and the noun form is still detrimental. Examples This suggests that work-study programs give … [Read more...]

Estimation or approximation

An estimation is the act of estimating, or guessing, about the quantity, quality, or other aspect of an object or person. An approximation can be an object or person that is almost exactly like something else, but not quite, either by defect or design. If by design, it is not meant to be exact. The adjective form is approximative. In general, an approximation has more information and comes more intentionally closer to the mark than an estimation. Side note: A rare, but related, word … [Read more...]

Promulgate vs propagate

Promulgate is a verb that means to declare something widely and officially. It can be one person spreading his or her belief of something or a government announcing a new policy. It has two noun forms, promulgation and promulgator. There are many differing ways to pronounce the vowel sounds in promulgate, and all are accepted as correct. Propagate, besides being commonly misspelled with two o's, is a verb that means to create, usually when talking about vegetation, though sometimes it … [Read more...]


Proviso is a noun that stands for a requirement needing to be met in order for another agreement to be made, a condition or qualification to a set of terms. The plural is provisos. Provisoes is listed as an accepted alternative; however, this is far less common. So rare we couldn't find a good example of its use in the English language. In all, this word has fallen in popularity to a derivative, provision. Provision can be a synonym for proviso, but can also mean the act of providing … [Read more...]

Legitimate vs legitimitize

Legitimate is an adjective describing something or someone being genuine or of real value, permitted by a set of rules or laws. In one case, it is used to describe a child as being born of parents who were married, though this use is a little out-dated. This can also be a verb, legitimated or legitimating, and it means the action of making something or someone legitimate according to the definition above. It has two noun forms, legitimation and legitimator. Legitimize is simply another … [Read more...]

Legal vs legit

Legal is an adjective that describes something or someone as having to do with or being permitted by the law or system of laws in a country or organization. It may also be used as a noun for items that follow the law. The adverb form is legally. Legit is slang for legitimate, which is in turn a synonym for legal. Legit can also be used to mean genuine or professional, of real quality. It is also used in the phrase go legit to mean that an organization or person is going to follow the rules or … [Read more...]

Proximal vs proximate

Proximal is an adjective that describes something or someone as near something else, or nearest a central point. In this sense it is a synonym of proximate. However, both words have other definitions that make them distinct. Proximal is often used in medical and dental fields. If something is proximal it is near the center of the body (as opposed to distal). Each tooth has a proximal surface. The adverb form is proximally. Proximate can carry a causal definition, that because one thing … [Read more...]


Pusillanimous is an adjective that describes something or someone as afraid or weak, consistently without bravery or courage, timid. In pronunciation, the first vowel makes a long u sound while the second vowel is a short i (pew sill an ee muss). The adverb form is pusillanimously. The noun form is pusillanimity or pusillanimousness, with the former being the more preferred form. It is very close to the original Latin pusillanimus that meant small spirit or small mind. This word's usage … [Read more...]

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