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Enervate vs. innervate

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  • The verb enervate means to weaken or destroy the strength or energy of. Its near homophone innervate—which is usually used in biological contexts with regard to nerves, though it’s sometimes used figuratively—means to stimulate to action. Because enervate sounds somewhat similar to both energize and innervate, it is sometimes treated as if it were synonymous with those words.

    Examples

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    Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people. [comment on Kingston Times News]

    Couple that with the Tailor’s live harmonic improvisations and the whole thing made for a truly a great way to steadily innervate everyone’s inner gypsy. [Westword]

    The problem with bringing in more outsiders is an issue that always resurfaces to enervate most reform movements. [Forbes]

    The seventh cranial nerve (facial nerve) innervates the muscles of facial expression. [Dynamic Chiropractic]

    Enervated by a priest shortage, its faithful often disregard official teachings with abandon while struggling to maintain a Catholic identity in a Protestant land. [Boston Globe]

    This is actually innervated by motor neurons, which are activated by loud sounds. [quoted on NPR]

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    Comments

    1. Just to note, these words are actual, and not simply near, homophones in dialects with pin/pen merger, which can lead to further confusion.

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