Reef vs wreath

Reef and wreath 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 confused in usage. Two words or more than two 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, words that have a similar spelling, or words that have a similar meaning. 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 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 for learning commonly misused words and commonly confused words in English is to make word lists of English words for the learner to study. 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 reef and wreath, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

A reef is a deposit of rock or coral near the surface of the ocean. Coral is made up of the skeletons of a certain type of sea creature. In sailing, a reef is the strip of sail that can be taken in to reduce the surface area of sail that is exposed to wind. The plural of reef is reefs. The word reef is derived from the Old Norse word, rif, which means rib.

A wreath is an arrangement of limbs, twigs, flowers, or leaves that are fashioned into a circle. A wreath may be hung on a door or wall or a tombstone. The plural of wreath is wreaths. Wreaths are often used to decorate the front doors of homes on holidays or are laid in remembrance of those who have died. The word wreath is derived from the Old English word, writha, which means to wind around.

Examples

Corals across large parts of the Great Barrier Reef could be hit by mass bleaching for the fourth time in just seven years by the end of January, according to a forecast from a United States government agency. (Guardian)

In addition, the heatwave wiped off all of the newborn corals in the area which indicate that heat waves might completely alter the distribution of corals on reefs. (Nature World News)

Volunteers lay more than 1,400 wreaths at the graves of veterans at Southview Cemetery in North Adams, as part of the national Wreaths Across America Day. (Berkshire Eagle)

A Christmas prankster has paid a unique tribute to his neighbor’s festive wreath in a gesture one fan has dubbed “the cutest and funniest neighborly act ever.” (Newsweek)

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