Pistol vs. Pistil

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Pistol and pistil are two words that are pronounced in the same manner but are spelled differently and have different meanings, which means they are homophones. We will examine the definitions of the words pistol and pistil, where the two terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

A pistol is a small gun made to be held in one hand and fired with one hand. A pistol may be easily concealed in a purse, satchel or pocket, whereas a rifle or shotgun is harder to conceal. The pistol dates back to the 1500s, as does the word pistol. It is derived from the French word pistole which means a short firearm, which in turn may have been derived from the Czech word pis’tala, which originally meant whistle and probably referred to the sound the early pistol made, or it may come from the German word pistole or the Russian word pischal which means shepherd’s pipe. Pistol is also used in the United States as a slang term, referring to someone who is energetic and full of initiative.

A pistil is the female reproductive part of a flower. A pistil is made up of the ovary which contains the seeds, the style which is a stalk that rises from the ovary, and the stigma which is where pollen is received. The word pistil is derived from the Latin word pistillum, meaning pestle.


A man with a history of mental illness accused of firing approximately 30 rounds from a pistol in downtown Concord this summer is not fit to stand trial, a judge ruled Thursday. (The Concord Monitor)

Asked to describe Brendan’s personality, Green smiles and says, “he’s a pistol.” (The Oregonian)

When pollen lands on the pistil of the flower, it must be recognized, and if it is compatible, the pollen will germinate and grow down the style to the ovary. (The Greensburg Daily News)

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