Burrow vs borrow

Burrow and borrow 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 burrow and borrow, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

A burrow is a tunnel or a hole that has been dug by an animal. Burrow is also used as a verb to mean tunneling or digging a hole. Related words are burrows, burrowed, burrowing. The word burrow is derived from the Old English word, burgh, which means a fortress.

Borrow means to use something that belongs to someone else with the intention of returning it. To properly borrow something, one should have the permission of the owner to use it and then return it. One may borrow money from a bank, in which case, one pays for the privilege. One may borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbor, in which case, you should repay the favor in kind. Borrow is a verb; related words are borrows, borrowed, borrowing. The word borrow is derived from the Old English word, borgian, which means to lend.


Upon arriving in the New World, the Germans noticed how the native groundhogs would come out of their burrows before the snow melted. (Savannah Morning News)

The mole is a revolutionary heat probe designed to burrow 16 feet into the Martian soil and take the planet’s temperature. (Business Insider India)

The O’Reilly Center for Hope will bring multiple agencies under one roof to provide resources and education for those in poverty, homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, struggling with mental health issues or folks just needing a shower or to borrow a shovel from the tool lending library. (Springfield News-Leader)

Tencent in talks with banks to borrow US$6 billion in Asia’s biggest syndicated loan for a Chinese firm since 2019 (South China Morning Post)

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