Deign vs. Dane

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Deign and Dane are two commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way when spoken aloud but are spelled differently and have different meanings, which makes them homophones. Homophones exist because of our ever-changing English language, and are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. The way the spelling and definitions differ can be confusing when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly. Proper pronunciation of spoken English may help the listener distinguish between homophones; the words affect-effect are a good example, but the words to, too and two are indistinguishable from each other. 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. 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, 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. We will examine the definitions of the two words deign and Dane, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Deign means to condescend to do something. When you deign to perform an action, you perceive the action to be beneath your dignity, but you reluctantly do it anyway. For example, a person used to fine dining might deign to eat fast food when nothing else is available, or a usually dignified man might dress in a silly costume to please his children on Halloween. In conventional usage, deign is always followed by to. Deign is an intransitive verb, which is a verb that does not take an object. Related words are deigns, deigned, deigning. The word deign is derived from the Latin word dignare which means to deem as worthy.

A Dane is someone who lives in Denmark, is from Denmark, or is of Danish descent. The word Dane is derived from the Old English word Dene. Note that Dane is properly rendered with an uppercase letter.


Is there no way for the Justice Department to deign to share with the persons who elected Mr. Trump and gave him a Republican Congress (and pay the Justice Department’s salaries) at least some inkling of where they are headed? (The New York Sun)

While he’s thinking about it, I hope he considers sending one to Justice Thomas, for what Thomas courageously described as “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas,” and “a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you.​”  (The National Review)

Tonight, 37 years later, Hjalte Froholdt became just the second Dane ever drafted to the NFL as he was selected by the reigning Super Bowl champs New England Patriots in the fourth round as the 118th overall pick. (The Copenhagen Post)

Having been Julian Alaphilippe’s sparring partner this season, the Dane was superior to the Frenchman in La Doyenne, the fourth Monument of 2019.  (Canadian Cycling Magazine)

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