Rain, reign and rain

Rain is a condensation of moisture that drops to earth. Rain may be used as a noun or a verb, the verb forms are rain, rains, rained, raining. The adjective forms are rainy, rainier and rainiest. A derivitive is raininess. Rain may also be used to describe something that pours down in a fashion akin to rain. Rain comes from the Old English regn. Rein refers to the part of a horse bridle that is a long strip of leather attached to the bit which is in the mouth of the horse. There are two of … [Read more...]

Lesser or lessor

Lesser describes something has being smaller than something else, or having less of a certain quality. Not to be confused with fewer. Lesser is an adjective that is used before the noun it modifies. To be lesser-known is somewhat famous, but not of wide acclaim. Lessor is a person who leases their property. It is commonly used in reference to airplanes. It has two pronunciations in British English with the stress being allowed on either syllable. In the United States it has only one accepted … [Read more...]


A quay is a landing place built on the edge of a body of water, used primarily to load and unload items and people onto and from vessels. The plural is quays. It is only capitalized when it is part of a proper name. It is more commonly used outside of the United States, which prefers the term dock. The derivative quayage is the payment a customer would give to use a quay. This word can be pronounced three different ways (e.g., key, kay, and kway). Because of this, it may have a homonym … [Read more...]

Lie or lye


Lye is a harsh chemical used in making soap or washing solutions. The term was vastly more common in the 1800s (see ngram below) because people made their own lye at home. The process includes soaking hardwood ashes for days in water. The water becomes lye, which was then used to make soap. When it became more cost-effective to buy bars of soap in a store, the use of the word lye decreased.   Unfortunately, a common way to hear the word lye is in relation to a crime where someone … [Read more...]

Site vs cite

A site is a location, either used for a specific activity, construction, or important event. It also has come to mean a website. Cite is a verb which means to reference another's work, either by quotation or general idea. To cite someone, or to issue a citation, is to require them to appear in a court of law.  The verb forms include citing, cited, and cites. Cite has the derivatives of citation and citable. Site's other homonym sight is discussed here. Examples Organisers of the town’s … [Read more...]

Vale, vail, or veil

A vale is a valley, also a common township name in Wales. To vail is to take off your hat in a sign of respect. It is so archaic we were not able to find modern examples of its use. In the U.S., the word is more commonly associated with the Vail ski resort in Colorado. A veil is a piece of cloth worn over the head and sometimes face, normally associated with women and brides. To veil something is to obscure it or hide it, as a veil does.   Examples Near it hangs an oil sketch, … [Read more...]

Bough or bow

A bough (pronounced /bau/) is a main branch of a tree. Its homonym bow has several meanings including: to quit a competition, to bend the body in an act of submission or reverence, to acknowledge applause, or debut. Bow can be pronounced /bo/ and has an alternate meaning. It can be a tie of a ribbon, a weapon made to shoot arrows, or a rod strung with hair to play a stringed instrument. Examples There is an instinctive fear in all of us, probably dating back to primeaval times, when it … [Read more...]

Hairy vs. harry

Hairy can mean either being covered in hair, or causing fear or difficulty. The word has carried this dual meaning since the middle of the 19th century. The word makes the forms hairier and hairiest. To harry is to persistently attack or harass. It has been around since before the 12th century. Its derivatives include harried, harries, and harrying. Examples Hairy pigs have been introduced to a Dorset nature reserve to improve the habitat for endangered birds species such as the Dartford … [Read more...]

Gambol vs. gamble

To gambol is to playfully skip or frolic. It is spelled as gamboling and gamboled inside the US, and makes gambolling and gambolled outside the United States. However, it is gambol everywhere. To gamble is to bet money or take a risky action. It makes gambled and gambling and is spelled the same everywhere. A gamble is something that is especially risky or without assurance. Usually it is paired with the verb take, as in taking a gamble. A gambler is someone … [Read more...]

Shutter vs. shudder

A shutter is a panel attached to a window that can be closed for privacy. Also, it is the part of a camera that opens to expose light to the film. A person can shutter their windows by closing the shutters. To shudder is to shake or quake, usually as a result of fear or disgust. A shudder is the act of shaking. It also makes the adjective of shuddery. These words are homophones for some areas, including Southern US. Examples While neither company mentioned "Blackfish" as a contributing … [Read more...]

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