Packs vs pax

Packs and pax 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, 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 packs and pax, the word origin of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

Packs is the plural form of the noun pack. A pack is a small container that contains items such as cigarettes or playing cards, an amount of documents or foodstuffs packaged together, a group of animals that lives and hunts together, or a carrying container like a backpack or bag. The noun pack is derived from the thirteenth century words pak and pake, meaning a bundle of cloth or goods. Packs is also the third person singular form of the verb pack, which means to carry something, to place things in a suitcase or bag for travel, to store something away, to cram filling or stuffing around something. The verb packs is derived from the fourteenth century word pakken, which means to bundle something up. Related words are pack, packed, packing.

A pax is a tablet decorated with sacred symbols that is kissed during the Catholic Mass. Pax is also the name of the Kiss of Peace performed during a Catholic Mass. Finally, pax is often used to mean a period of peace imposed by a civilization, such as the Pax Romana. The word pax is a Latin word and means peace.


A thief had rummaged through the vehicle after 6 p.m. Tuesday and took eight packs of cigarettes valued at $3.96 each. (The Fergus Falls Daily Journal)

But when the National Park Service last year began an effort to relocate new wolves to Isle Royale to restore predator packs in the face of a fast-rising moose population, some scientists knew those wolves’ days could be numbered. (The Duluth News Tribune)

Later, Carla accidentally lets the secret slip to a devastated Nina who packs her bags and rushes out of the flat. (The Sun)

Historically, it was the beginning of Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome, which lasted 270 years. (The Leader & Times)

The Pax Americana is ending as power shifts to China and other rising states and the US grows ever more reluctant to assume global leadership. (The Financial Times)

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