Controller vs comptroller

  • Controller and comptroller are two 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 controller and comptroller, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences


    A controller is someone who manages, regulates, or guides something. Controller may also mean a component of a machine or video game by which an operator guides the machine or game. In financial terms, a controller is a high-level accounting employee in an organization; he or she is the head of the financial division in an organization and is concerned with the financial health of the company or institution. The word controller is derived from the Old French word, contrerelleor, who was the person who oversaw the king’s household finances.


    A comptroller is a high-level accounting employee in an organization; the position performs the same duties and has the same responsibilities as a controller. Comptroller is mostly an American term and usually, but not always, applies to a governmental position. The word comptroller shows up as early as the 1400s as a misspelling of the word controller, with an influence from the French word, compte, meaning to count. The word comptroller took hold in the United States in the 1800s.


    The former financial controller at Theranos Inc. said the company run by Elizabeth Holmes, who is on criminal trial in federal court in San Jose, went years without having its financial statements audited. (Barron’s)

    The former financial controller of a Sydney school has been jailed for at least five-and-a-half years after he stole $7.4 million of the school’s funds to feed his gambling addiction. (Sydney Morning Herald)

    An audit by the state Comptroller’s Office has found that the village Board of Trustees failed to properly audit financial claims before paying them, and failed to obtain written quotes for all bids solicited. (Watertown Daily Times)

    Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Jason Mumpower visited Rutherford County last week to further explain the American Rescue Plan funds and their potential uses. (Murfreesboro Post)

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