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Desert vs desert

  • Desert and desert 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 desert and desert, where these words came from, and a few examples of their use in sentences.


     

    Desert (duh ZERT) means to abandon, to be disloyal, to leave in the lurch. The verb desert is often applied to people who leave the military without permission. Related words are deserts, deserted, deserting, deserter. The verb desert is derived from the Latin word desertare, which means to abandon or forsake.

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    Desert (DEH zert) means an arid land area that receives little rainfall. A desert is usually composed primarily of sand or rock and contains little plant or animal life. The word desert is often used figuratively to mean something that is barren, harsh or lifeless. Desert is derived from the Latin word desertum, which means a thing that is abandoned.

    Examples

    One answer is desalination, but that needs a source of brine from which to remove the salt—which in turn requires that your desert be near the sea. (The Economist)

    The Six Senses Shaharut, located in the stark Negev Desert in southern Israel, was described as “the perfect destination for the intrepid luxury traveler.” (The Times of Israel)

    Attention, all troops peeved with your platoon sergeant, bored with your field rations, or who just want a little private time: It’s okay to desert your post in a combat zone. (The New York Post)

    “Have we come to the point where a governor can desert his wife and children, and persuade a young woman to abandon her four children and husband?” thundered the former senator Prescott Bush (founder of a political dynasty of which Nelson Rockefeller could only dream). (The Independent)


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