Slough vs slough

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


    Slough (sluff) means to shed skin or any other item. Slough is used literally, as in a snake sloughs his skin, or it may be used figuratively, as in a man sloughs off his bad reputation. Slough is occasionally used as a noun; related words are sloughs, sloughed, sloughing. The word slough is derived from the Middle English word slough, which meant the skin shed by a snake.


    Slough (slew) is an American term which means an inlet that is only sometimes filled with water or a low place on the prairie which sometimes fills with water. Slough may also mean a swamp. The word slough is derived from the Old English word sloh, which means a muddy place.


    This often causes the bank to undercut and slough off. (The North Platte Telegraph)

    “There was something about horror—that thrill and anxiety when you’re watching something on a screen that isn’t real—that I believe was therapeutic to her, and helped her slough off some of that fear and anger.” (Vanity Fair Magazine)

    The cabin was up river about a mile from Lock 8 on the Ouachita River, and about a half mile from the mouth of Bangs Slough. (The El Dorado News-Times)

    Green, a 24-year-old Woodland resident, is charged with one count of murder in the death of her infant son, Justice Rees, who had died earlier that day after succumbing to cold-weather exposure down in the Ridge Cut Slough, his body found about 500 feet from where Villasenor encountered Green. (The Davis Enterprise)

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