Sty vs. Stye

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Sty and stye are two words that are often confused. They are pronounced in the same fashion but are spelled differently and have two different meanings, making them homophones. We will examine the difference between the definitions of sty and stye, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

A sty is a pen for a pig. Though pigs are basically clean creatures, their inability to cool themselves necessitates the need to roll in mud. This tendency gives the sty a reputation as a dirty place. For this reason, the word sty is also used figuratively to indicate any place that is messy, dirty or filthy. The word sty is derived from the Old English words sti and stig, meaning a hall or a pen. The plural of sty is sties.

A stye is an infected sebaceous gland on an eyelid, it may also be spelled as sty. However, the spelling stye is never properly used to mean a pen for a pig or a dirty place.  The word stye is derived from the Middle English word styany, which means riser and eye. The plural form of stye is styes.


If it looks like a sty, it sounds like a sty and it oinks like a sty, then I’m sorry but it’s a sty. (The Sunday Times)

Many a mother has chastised a son or daughter for having a cluttered room by saying, “this place looks like a pig sty.” (The Hartsville Vidette)

And we know the visible distortion that the Walkie Talkie imposes on our capital – like a sty surgically implanted in the eye of every Londoner – is nothing compared to the invisible distortions it represents. (The Guardian)

STYES are small, painful lumps on the eye which can cause irritation, puffiness and swelling – but the condition can be easily treated with a natural remedy. (The Express)

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