Curtsy vs courtesy

Curtsy and courtesy 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 curtsy and courtesy, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

A curtsy is a formal gesture a female makes in the presence of royalty. To curtsy, a woman or girl places one foot in front of the other and bends the knees. In times past, little girls would curtsy to their elders, but this has long gone out of fashion. Curtsy is used as a noun or a verb; related words are curtsies, curtsied, curtsying. The word curtsy is actually a 16th century word that is a variant of the word courtesy.

Courtesy is polite behavior, good manners, behaving with respect and consideration of others. Courtesy is also used to mean an extra service a vendor may afford a paying customer. The word courtesy is noun and is derived from the old French words curteisie and cortoisie, which mean noble behavior.


Kate curtsied as the Queen’s car drove off, which was followed by a little curtsy from Charlotte. (Daily Express)

As Diana awkwardly makes her way around the room, curtsying to the Queen and dizzyingly trying to greet everyone (to little success) in the fourth season of The Crown, one thing is clear: she is an outsider. (Town and Country Magazine)

She is a San Francisco-based etiquette expert who offers workshops on courtesy and manners. (Washington Post)

The worse things get, courtesy of the selfish, insensitive and self-centered, the more likely businesses are to get shut down, some of them for good. (Flathead Beacon)

Leave a Comment