Basal, basil, or Basel

Basal, basil, and Basel are commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings, which makes them homophones. Homophones are a group of words with different spellings, the same pronunciations, and different meanings. Homophones exist because of our ever-changing English language and are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. It can be difficult to learn how to spell different words that sound the same, and homophones are commonly misused words. Said aloud, the difference is less important, because the words are pronounced the same. The way the spelling and definitions differ can be confusing even to native English speakers when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly. Proper pronunciation of spoken English may help the listener distinguish between homophones and understand the correct spelling; the words affect-effect are a good example, but the word pairs to, too and two, bridle and bridal, creek and creak, hoard and horde, toed and towed, or horse and hoarse, are indistinguishable from each other and are easily confused and are commonly misused. Pronunciation is usually more ambiguous, as English pronunciation may vary according to dialect, and English spelling is constantly evolving. Pronunciation may change even though the spelling doesn’t, producing two words that are pronounced in the same manner but have different meanings such as night and knight. Phonological spelling and spelling rules do not always work, and most people avoid misspelling 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 threw is derived from the Old English word thrawan, and the word through came from the Old English word thurh. Homophones are confusing words and are commonly misspelled words because of the confusion that arises from words that are pronounced alike but have very different usage and etymology. 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. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a homophone in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Homophones are often used in wordplay like puns. We will examine the different meanings of the homophonic words basal, basil and Basel, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

Basal is an adjective that describes something that belongs to the base of something; for instance, basal cell carcinoma refers to cancer in the base layer of skin cells. The word basal is derived from the Latin word, basis, which means foundation.

Basil is an aromatic herb that is used in cooking. Basil belongs to the mint family and is commonly used in Mediterranean cooking. The word basil is derived from the Greek word, basilikon, which means royal. Basil was purported to have been used in perfume for Greek kings. When capitalized, Basil is a male name.

Basel is the third most populated city in Switzerland; it has been an important cultural center for over 600 years. Note that the name Basel is capitalized, because it is a proper name.


Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer and is typically treated with surgical excision, explained Sarin. (Science Daily)

Researchers writing in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolismreport that basal ganglia calcification of the brain in patients with chronic hypoparathyroidism, may determine the severity of disease in patients with chronic hypoparathyroidism. (Endocrinology Advisor)

For people within the Taiwanese diaspora in the United States, the scent of Thai basil is a reminder of the pungent and spicy basil you’ll find everywhere in Taiwan. (Bon Appetit)

“Basil will make your dog’s dish taste amazing, and it’ll even provide some health benefits because it contains natural antioxidants, which can help with digestion, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the immune system,” said Teresa Milne in “Is Basil Safe For Dogs?” in the Dog Friendly Scene website. (Manila Standard)

The Casa del Habano cigar shop in Basel, Switzerland is now part of Dominique London, a newly formed retail group that controls nearly 20 cigar shops including other La Casa del Habano franchise locations throughout the U.K. and Belgium. (Cigar Aficianado)

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