Machiavellian

Machiavellian is an adjective used to describe conduct that is clever and dishonest, usually within politics. It can also describe a setting where people might use cunning and trickery to obtain a goal, such as a battle or election. History Niccolo Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat and writer of … [Read more...]

Absorption vs. adsorption

Absorption is the process by which things are absorbed. Adsorption, on the other hand, describes the act of gas or liquid molecules adhering to a surface. Both words are commonly misspelled as absorbtion and adsorbtion. This spelling error is usually corrected automatically by a computer's … [Read more...]

Dark horse

A dark horse is something or someone that is perceived to be an unlikely winner and does, in fact, succeed, usually in a competition. It should always be spelled as two words, and does not need to be set apart by quotation marks. The term was, unsurprisingly, coined in horse racing when the … [Read more...]

Shall vs. will

In the future tense, the use of shall and will is easily distinguished. One is always expected to use will. In questions, it is still appropriate to use shall for first person singular (I) and plural (we). However, using shall usually carries a subtext of comedy or irony. Most use will in all … [Read more...]

Orthopedic vs. orthopaedic

Orthopedic is the Americanized version of the word orthopaedic. Both refer to the medical specialty focusing on the body’s musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves. Orthopaedic comes from the Greek orthos (straight) and paidion (child), which … [Read more...]

Manner vs. manor

A manner is (1) a way of doing something, (2) a bearing or demeanor, and (3) a type. The plural form, manners, refers to a manner of behavior considered to be social correct. Constructions involving manner can often be shortened to single adverbs. For example, in a calm manner and in a public … [Read more...]

Get religion

Traditionally, to get religion is (1) to become religious, or (2) to end one's immoral behavior. The phrase still carries those definitions, but it's also used more figuratively to mean (1) to get serious about an issue and devote proper attention to it, and (2) to reform one's view toward … [Read more...]

Short shrift

The idiom short shrift means brief and unsympathetic treatment.1 Shrift comes from the archaic verb shrive, meaning to impose a penance upon. In its original form short shrift referred to a brief period of penance granted to a person condemned to death so he or she could be cured of immorality … [Read more...]

Tenant vs. tenet

A tenet is a principle held as being true, especially by an organization or a group of people. A tenant is (1) someone who pays rent to occupy property; (2) a dweller in a place; and, (3) in law, one who holds or possesses lands, tenements, or property by any kind of title. Examples Tenet He … [Read more...]

Mealy-mouthed

For a person, to be mealy-mouthed is to tend to say things in indirect, evasive, or deceptive ways. A mealy-mouthed statement is one that is indirect or evasive. The word is usually meant negatively; when people speak in mealy-mouthed ways, we tend to think they're afraid to speak plainly, are … [Read more...]

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