Alley vs ally

  • Alley and ally are words that are close in spelling and pronunciation and may be considered confusables. Confusables is a catch-all term for words that are often misused or confused; there are many confusing words in the English language that may be easily confused for each other in spoken English and written English. Two words or more than two words, even if they are common words, may be confused because they are similar in spelling, similar in pronunciation, or similar in meaning. These commonly confused words may be pronounced the same way or pronounced differently or may be spelled the same way or spelled differently, or may have different meanings or have almost different meanings; they may be homophones, homonyms, heteronyms, homographs, words that have a similar spelling, or words that have a similar meaning. Sometimes, confusables are word constructions that are not proper English words. Confusables often confound native speakers of English, and they may be difficult for ESL students and those learning English to understand. Confusables are misspelled, misused words that have a different meaning from one another and may be nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, or any other part of speech. Spelling rules in English are not dependable; there are many exceptions. Often, the best procedure to learn new words and commonly misused words and commonly confused words in English is to make word lists of English words for the learner to study to understand the difference in spelling and meaning. To learn new words in the English language, one must not only study a spelling words list, one must know the meaning of words in one’s vocabulary word list. It is also helpful to memorize how to correctly pronounce words and to know the etymology of new words or where they are derived from. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake in English vocabulary, so do not rely on spell check but instead, learn to spell and learn the definitions of words. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a confusable in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Confusables are often used in wordplay like puns. We will examine the different meanings of the confusables alley and ally, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.


    An alley is a narrow lane between or behind buildings. An alley is generally too narrow to be a street; it is often used as a pedestrian walkway or a corridor for delivery trucks are sanitation trucks. An alley carries the connotation of being a place where business is conducted that should remain out of sight. The plural is alleys. The word alley is derived from the Old French word, alee, which means a corridor or a passageway.


    An ally is a person, organization, or country that aids or works in conjunction with another person, organization, or country. The plural of ally is allies. During World War II, the confederation of nations working to defeat Germany, Japan, and Italy were known as the Allied powers or Allied forces; the major members of this group were Great Britain, Russia, and the United States. Ally is also used as a verb to mean to combine efforts with another. Related words are allies, allied, allying. The word ally is derived from the Latin word, alligare, which means to tie together.


    To travel down an alley is to take a shortcut, even though it may take you longer to get where you’re going — depends on what you’re looking for. (Alpena News)

    Passing through a narrow alley starting from Dana Mandi Chowk of Hoshiarpur, one reaches the world-famous Dabbi Bazaar of Hoshiarpur that opens to a breathtaking display of an exquisite inlay wood art. (The Tribune)

    Being an ally for those in or seeking recovery is an honorable and pragmatic way to support both your local community and people worldwide. (Bangor Daily News)

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