Hosanna: 1. an interjection used as an exclamation of praise, especially of God; 2. a noun referring to an expression of fervent or worshipful praise; 3. a verb, seldom used, meaning to praise fervently. The verb is inflected hosannaed and hosannaing. In modern English, the word is almost exclusively used in the noun sense. As in the examples below, hosanna is usually used in the plural. The initial h is sometimes capitalized---as in the Los Angeles Times example---but most publications … [Read more...]

Cession vs. session

Cession refers to (1) the act of ceding or surrendering something, and (2) something that is ceded. Session can refer to several things, including (1) a period of time devoted to a specific activity, (2) a meeting of a legislative or judicial body, and (3) a term at a school or university. Both words only function as nouns, and they sound the same. Otherwise, they have no common ground. Still, they're occasionally mixed up---for example: [B]ut the large land sessions won by the Tribes … [Read more...]

Outside of

When the phrase outside of functions adverbially or prepositionally, of could almost always be removed with no loss of meaning. For example, of serves no purpose in these sentences and could be removed: For the June 6 meeting, police were waiting outside of the packed auditorium in case the large and angered crowd became unruly. [Patch] Orange County residents who live outside of Chapel Hill won't be charged a fee to use the town's library. [Burlington Times-News] When outside of functions … [Read more...]

Governance vs. government

Governance and government are interchangeable in the sense the process of governing, but they differ in other senses. Government often refers to the governing body itself, while governance often refers to the act of governing. So members of a government are engaged in governance. Meanwhile, governance is often the better word for the administration of nongovernmental organizations (corporations, for example), while government works better in reference to the public administration of nations, … [Read more...]

Fritter away

One definition of the verb fritter is to squander little by little. This is the sense used in the phrasal verb fritter away and its derivatives. To fritter something away---usually money, time, or another resource---is to waste it piece by piece. Frit sometimes appears in place of fritter. Frit is a recognized word, but it is a relatively obscure term having to do with glass and enamels and traditionally has nothing to do with squandering. While we might consider frit a variant of … [Read more...]

Statute of limitations

A statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit on legal cases.1 For example, if a state imposes a statute of limitations of one year on libel cases, then a person in that state can only be sued for libel if the court action is initiated within one year of the release of the allegedly libelous publication. There is more to statutes of limitation than this, but we'll leave the legal intricacies to the lawyers. Outside legal contexts, the term is often used figuratively to mean a time … [Read more...]

Burnout vs. burn out

The compound word burnout is either a noun or an adjective. As a noun it refers to (1) a failure of something to keep burning, (2) physical or emotional exhaustion, (3) a fire that completely destroys something, and (4) someone whose mental faculties are diminished due to extended drug use. Its rare adjectival senses extend from its uses as a noun. When you need a verb meaning (1) to fail to keep burning, (2) to burn completely,or (3) to become physically or emotionally exhausted, use the … [Read more...]

No one vs. noone (vs. no-one)

While phrases like no body, some body, and some one have evolved into the compound words nobody, somebody, and someone, the similar phrase no one has never gone this route. A quick internet search reveals that noone is surprisingly common, but the two-word form and the hyphenated form (no-one) remain far more common in books and in edited publications. The hyphenated form, no-one, is especially common outside North America---it is almost completely absent from 21st -century U.S. and Canadian … [Read more...]


The simple definition of deceptively is in a deceptive way, but in actual use the adverb is often ambiguous, sometimes meaning in reality but not in appearance and sometimes in appearance but not in reality. Because of the potential confusion, deceptively might be best avoided where its meaning isn't clear. For example, if I were to say, "The cat is deceptively friendly," it could mean either (1) that the cat seems unfriendly but is actually friendly, (2) that the cat seems friendly but is … [Read more...]


Contumely is a strange word because the -ly suffix makes it sound like an adverb. But the word is in fact a noun (plural contumelies) referring to (1) arrogant contempt, or (2) an arrogant act or scornful insult. The word comes from the Latin contumelia, meaning a reproach or insult, and it may be distantly related to the similarly rare contumacy, whose definition is rebelliousness or obstinate resistance to authority. Examples [I]n the last two decades of his life, McGuinness heaped more … [Read more...]

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