Alum vs alum

Alum and alum  are two words that are spelled identically but are pronounced differently and have different meanings, which makes them heteronyms. These word pairs are often misused words. Heteronyms exist because of our ever-changing English language, and these words with the same spelling and different pronunciation and meaning are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. It can be difficult to learn how to spell different words that look the same but are not pronounced the same, and how to use them in sentences, because they are easily confused. The way the pronunciations and definitions differ can be confusing even to native English speakers when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly. Phonological spelling and spelling rules do not always work, and most people avoid misspelling and misuse by studying vocabulary words from spelling lists, enhancing their literacy skills through spelling practice, and learning words in English by studying a dictionary of the English language. English words are also spelled according to their etymologies rather than their sound. For instance, the word tear meaning a liquid drop that falls from an eye is derived from the Old English word tear, meaning a drop or nectar; tear meaning to pull apart comes from the Old English word tearan, which means to lacerate. Heteronyms are confusing words and are commonly misspelled words because of the confusion that arises from words that are pronounced differently but are spelled the same and come from a different etymology. They are often used in puns and riddles. When reading, it is sometimes difficult to know which word is being used in a sentence and how to pronounce the word phonetically. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake in English vocabulary, so do not rely on spell check for these commonly confused words but instead, learn to spell. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a heteronym in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Do not confuse heteronyms with homophones, which are two or more words that are pronounced in the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings like sow and sew; do not confuse them with homonyms, which are words that have the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings like spring as in spring forth and spring as in the season of the year. Heteronyms are a type of homograph, which is a word that is spelled the same as another word but has a different meaning. We will examine the definitions of the words alum and alum, where these words came from, and a few examples of their use in sentences.

Alum (AL-um) is aluminium potassium sulfate, a chemical. Alum is used to enhance the taste of food and enhance its shelf life; purify water; in deodorants, for leather tanning, etc. Alum is found in the grocery store and is used for pickling foods. The word alum is derived from the Latin word, alumen, which means bitter salt.

Alum (uh LUM) is an American abbreviation that means alumna or alumnus. An alum is a former student of a high school, college or university.


People keep their underground tanks regularly cleaned at regular intervals and add alum twice weekly, and yet the amount of slime that piles up is unbelievable. (The News International)

Liquid aluminum sulfate — often referred to as “alum” in the trade — is a chemical agent that “grabs onto dirt and debris so that it’s settled out,” Calamita said. (Daily Press)

Amarillo Symphony to premiere work by WTAMU alum Christopher Garcia at weekend performances (Amarillo Globe-News)

Lee-Scott alum and Clemson senior Turk Pettit receives his award as the NCAA’s individual national champion on Monday at the Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Opeklika Auburn News)

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