Prize, prise or pries

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Prize, prise and pries are three commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way when spoken aloud but are spelled differently and mean different things, 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 even to native English speakers 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, or horse and hoarse, 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 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 prize, prise and pries, the word origin of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

A prize is a reward that someone may win in a game of chance, or that someone my earn by winning a competition or by accomplishing a great achievement. A prize is something that is coveted or has great value, such as monetary value or prestige. Prize is used as a noun, adjective or verb. Related words are prizes, prized, prizing. The word prize is derived from the Old French word pris which means value or reward.

Prise means to force something open or to pry something apart from something else. Prise is a verb, related words are prises, prised, prising. The word prise is derived from the Old French word prise which means to seize.

Pries is the present tense of the word pry, which means to force something apart. Pries may also mean to meddle in someone else’s life, to concern oneself with others’ private business. Related words are pry, pried, prying. The word pries is derived from the Middle English word prien.


Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello recently traveled to Chautauqua Marina to go fishing with the two grand prize winners of the Chautauqua County Sports Fishery Advisory Board’s 27th Annual Fishing Essay Contest. (The Observer)

Breen, of course, remains the man to beat but, in a nod to his new connections to the Korean manufacturer, he switches to an R5 Hyundai i20, a car he has never rallied before, and that might prise open the door slightly for the chasing pack. (The Belfast Telegraph)

The man who was fined Rs 1,000 for allegedly trying to prise open closing door flaps of a Metro train on Thursday was not trying to board the rake but talking to a friend who had got on it, an official said. (The Telegraph India)

Florida man pries open alligator’s jaws to save his dog’s life (The New York Post)

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