Adverse vs. averse

Averse means (1) to be opposed or (2) to be strongly disinclined. Adverse means to be acting in opposition. Averse describes an attitude or a feeling, while adverse describes something that works against something else. The two adjectives are often confused. Adverse's corresponding noun is adversity. Averse's is averseness (aversity is not a word so far recognized by dictionaries). As adverbs, they're inflected similarly---adversely and aversely. Synonyms and examples Averse---some of whose … [Read more...]


The verb enthuse, formed by backformation from the adjective enthusiastic, means to be enthusiastic or to show enthusiasm. The word peeves some people who care about English usage, but it has been widespread in the language long enough to gain at least grudging acceptance. No one is forced to use it, but it is certainly a word, and most English speakers know what it means. Similar backformations such as donate (from donation) and diagnose (from diagnosis) are now unquestioned. Whether enthuse … [Read more...]

Flavor vs. flavour

Flavor and flavour are different spellings of the same word. Flavor is the preferred spelling in the United States, while flavour is the preferred spelling throughout the rest of the English-speaking world. The preference extends to all derivatives; American English has flavored, flavoring, flavorful, etc., while the other main varieties of English have flavoured, flavouring, flavourful, etc. Though flavor has become the American spelling, it is not new. Examples of its use are easily found … [Read more...]


In English, viz. means that is or namely. It's used in legal and technical writing as well as in footnotes of books because it saves space. Elsewhere it is unpronounceable, so it should give way a more familiar alternative. Viz. is short for the Latin loanword videlicet (meaning, literally, it is permitted to see). As with the abbreviations e.g. and i.e., viz. is followed by a period and should be set off from the surrounding sentence by commas. Examples This World Cup is seen to be … [Read more...]

Complement vs. compliment

To complement is to complete something, supplement it, enhance it, or bring it to perfection. For example, your shoes may complement your dress, you and your spouse may complement each other, or minced garlic may complement a pasta dish. To compliment is to give praise. For example, if I were to say that you have a very nice turtle, this would be a compliment to both you and your turtle. Both words also work as nouns whose meanings are easily inferred from the verb senses. A corresponding … [Read more...]


To vouchsafe is to condescend to grant something. These writers the word in its traditional sense: At last I am at liberty to vouchsafe to you the dozen rules in reading a political column. [NY Times] We note that the true Prince of Darkness, Dick Cheney, has been dutifully silent, and conspicuously absent, during the recent national security festivities, to vouchsafe the limelight to Junior. [Register] The condescension is key. Vouchsafe is not merely a synonym of grant. For example, … [Read more...]

Safe-deposit box

The phrase referring to a box in which valuables are stored is safe-deposit box, not safety-deposit box. The latter is an eggcorn resulting from a mishearing of the former. The mistake is understandable because the first two syllables of safe-deposit box sound like safety. … [Read more...]

Gray vs. grey

Gray and grey are different spellings of the same word, and both are used throughout the English-speaking world. But gray is more common in American English, while grey is more common in all the other main varieties of English. In the U.K., for instance, grey appears about twenty times for every instance of gray. In the U.S. the ratio is reversed. Both spellings, which have origins in the Old English grǽg, have existed hundreds of years.1 Grey gained ascendancy in all varieties of English in … [Read more...]

Hangar vs. hanger

A hanger is (1) one who hangs something, or (2) an item used to hang things. A hangar is a shelter used for housing and maintaining aircraft. Examples About 12 to 15 privately owned planes are parked outside at the Luzerne County-owned Wyoming Valley Airport in Forty Fort because the hangars are full. [Wilkes Barre Times-Leader (now offline)] The officer found five jackets on hangers inside the suitcase. [Royal Gazette] When the Sheriff's Office decided to build a hangar for its aviation … [Read more...]

Pendant vs. pendent

Pendent is an adjective meaning hanging, dangling, or suspended. It is often mistakenly used in place of pendant, a noun referring to something suspended from something else, especially a piece of jewelry. Examples Many have pink flowers that grow in a cluster; in some species the flowers are pendent. [Backyard Gardener] The front of the pendant contains pink faux-sapphires woven into rhodium-plated silver. [Neon Tommy] The lighting varies from modern to retro---multicolored, swirling … [Read more...]

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