Gall vs Gaul

  • Gall and Gaul are two 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. 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 words to, too and two, or horse and hoarse, are indistinguishable from each other 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. We will examine the different meanings of the homophonic words gall and Gaul, the word origin of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.


    Gall is a word with several different definitions. First, gall may mean bold, cocky and impudent behavior. In this case, one is said to have the gall to do something. For example: “She had the gall to tell me that I was a bad mother.” This meaning may also be used as a verb to convey that one is annoyed or irritated by another’s actions. Related words are galls, galled, galling. The second definition of the word gall is the gallbladder of an animal or the bile contained in any gallbladder. Another definition of gall is a growth on a tree or plant caused by fungi or insect larva. Gall is also used figuratively to mean bitter or cruel. Finally, gall may refer to a sore caused by chafing, especially on a horse. Gall is derived from the Old English words galla and gealla.


    Gaul is an ancient region or person from that region that roughly corresponded to France, Belgium, Switzerland and parts of Germany. Gauls were a collection of Celtic tribes and were finally conquered by Julius Caesar. They remained under Roman rule for five centuries. The word Gaul is derived from the Latin word Gallia. Note that Gaul is capitalized because it is a proper noun.


    The austerity they embraced so enthusiastically led many voters in the north and the Midlands to vote leave in the 2016 referendum and yet they have the gall to pose as the main supporters of remain. (The Guardian)

    Wages have been stagnant since the 1970s, and billionaires like Gates have the gall to oppose inconsequential tax hikes which would hardly affect their elite status but massively help the working class. (The Indiana Daily Student)

    The station’s lunchtime talk show host Laurence Reed has been off air since August after he contracted sepsis following an operation to remove a gall stone. (The Mirror)

    “What really galled me is that he blamed Scott Morrison and the government for the loss of those lives,” he said. (The New Daily)

    A standard oak is burdened with knopper galls, deformed shiny walnut kernels supplanting smooth acorns. (The Guardian)

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