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...]

Aid vs. aide

An aide is an assistant or helper. The word always refers to a person. Aid is a noun referring to (1) assistance, or (2) something that assists (e.g., a hearing aid or a visual aid), and it's also a verb meaning to assist. Some dictionaries list aid as a variant of aide, but the words are generally … [Read more...]

Idle, idol, idyll

An idol is an object of worship. The word functions only as a noun. Idle has several definitions, including (1) inactive, (2) to pass time without doing work, (3) to run (a motor vehicle) while out of gear or not in motion, (4) to make inactive, and (5) a state of idling. It's usually an adjective, … [Read more...]

Borough, burro, burrow

A burro is a small donkey. Burrow means (1) a hole or tunnel, or (2) to dig a hole or tunnel. A third homophone is borough (sometimes shortened to boro in the U.S.), which is primarily a noun referring to administrative divisions within some towns, cities, and states. The words are homophones or … [Read more...]

Coarse vs. course

Coarse is only an adjective. Its main senses in today's English are (1) of low quality, (2) lacking refinement or vulgar, and (3) rough in texture or composed of large particles. For example, a movie regarded as obscene or lowbrow might be called coarse, as might a person who speaks in a rude or … [Read more...]

Vice vs. vise

vise

In the U.S., the word for the clamping tool comprising two jaws closed and opened by a screw or lever is spelled vise. Outside American English, the vise spelling rarely appears. The gripping tool is instead spelled vice. This word of course has several other meanings in all varieties of English, … [Read more...]

Retch vs. wretch

A wretch is an unhappy or unfortunate person, especially one in the depths of misery of some sort. The word has several senses extending from this one; it sometimes refers to a person who is despicable or contemptible but not necessarily unfortunate, and it's sometimes used for animals. It's also … [Read more...]

Gofer vs. gopher

Gophers are several species of burrowing rodents native to North America. A gofer is an employee who performs menial tasks and runs errands. Gofer is a new word, having arisen in the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century, and it derives from the phrase go for, as in go for coffee or go for … [Read more...]

Marry vs. merry

Marry is a verb meaning (1) to become someone's husband or wife, and (2) to officiate at a marriage ceremony. The adjective meaning jolly or festive is spelled merry, with an e.  Merry works as a noun in the verb phrase make merry, meaning to be festive or to celebrate, and it also appears in the … [Read more...]

Crumby vs. crummy

Crummy means shabby, miserable, or of little value. The word was originally spelled crumby, but crumby is shedding that definition and is increasingly confined to its older senses---(1) full of or covered in crumbs, and (2) tending to break into crumbs. In the second sense, it's synonymous with … [Read more...]

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