Around vs. round

Round works virtually anywhere around would work. The reverse is not true, as round has a number of definitions it doesn't share with around. For example, it wouldn't work to say that the edge of a circle is around, and I wouldn't invite you to play an around of golf. But even though round works as a breezier alternative to around, round tends to create a casual tone, so around is usually safer in serious or formal writing. British writers in particular are wont to use round in place of … [Read more...]

Jam vs. jamb

A jamb is a post that forms the side of a door or window. A jam is (1) a preserve made from boiled and sugared fruit, (2) a congestion, (3) a difficult situation, and (4) a song that one holds to be especially moving or meaningful. The word also works as a verb in several senses, including (1) to drive or wedge into a tight position, (2) to lock into an unworkable position, and (3) to cram. Examples Jamb Damages to the door and door jamb were estimated at $1,000. [Peabody … [Read more...]

Economics vs. finance

Both economics and finance involve money. The difference is that economics (conventionally treated as a singular noun despite resembling a plural) is large-scale or abstract, while finance is particular, usually involving the monetary matters of a person, company, government, or household. For instance, a profitable business has financial success, and a country full of profitable businesses has economic success. Examples In the First World, including the United States, Japan, and the Czech … [Read more...]

Heterogeneous vs. heterogenous

Definitions and usage Heterogeneous: consisting of dissimilar elements. Heterogenous: 1. not originating within the body; 2. of foreign origin; 3. heterogeneous. Heterogeneous, with that fourth e, is the opposite of homogeneous (which is different from homogenous). Most of us will never have use for heterogenous in its most strictly defined senses, where it is a term used almost exclusively in biology and medicine. In general usage, however, it is commonly used in place … [Read more...]

In the midst of

The wordy phrase in the midst of could almost always be shortened to amid, among, during, or in (or, for non-U.S. writers, amidst). In some cases, the phrase could be removed outright. There's nothing strictly incorrect about using in the midst of, though, so use it if you think it sounds better than the alternatives. Examples There are shorter alternatives to in the midst of in each of these cases: In the midst of [Amid?] the Great American Royal Wedding Frenzy, it's hard to remember that … [Read more...]

Ethnicity vs. race

People of the same race share genetically transmitted physical characteristics. People of the same ethnicity share cultural, linguistic, religious, and often racial characteristics. Ethnicity is broader and more useful. Racial classifications have often been imposed by outsiders, and many of the traditional classifications are now regarded as questionable from a scientific standpoint. As a result, race is more vague and less intellectually sound than ethnicity. Of course, in real-world usage, … [Read more...]

Undoubtably vs. undoubtedly

Undoubtably and undoubtedly are both well-formed words with clear, distinct meanings, yet the former is often used in place of the latter, giving rise to the mistaken belief that undoubtably is always wrong. It's not. The distinction between them can be subtle; something that is undoubted is not doubted, while something that is undoubtable is not capable of being doubted. The two meanings often overlap, which is why mixing up the two words is often not a serious error, yet the difference is … [Read more...]

Immunity vs. impunity

Impunity is the ability to act without negative consequences. The word differs from the broader immunity, which refers to (1) the ability to resist a disease, (2) exemption from obligation imposed by others, (3) legally granted freedom from prosecution, and (4) unresponsiveness to influence. Impunity is a type of immunity, and the two words come especially close together where immunity refers to freedom from prosecution, but immunity in this sense is generally a legal term and doesn't appear … [Read more...]


Gimme is a term in golf, where it refers to a short putt one doesn't have to take because it's too easy to miss. Outside sports, gimme is either a colloquial contraction of give me or a metaphorical extension of the golf term.  Examples For example, these writers use the golf term: Donald goes flag hunting on the par-3 16th, leaving him with a six-footer for birdie, which for Luke is in gimme range. [Wall Street Journal] Jo Hicks-Beach won the first four holes against Catherine Bell and … [Read more...]

Historic vs. historical

Definitions and usage Historic: 1. momentous; 2. historically significant. Historical: 1. of or relating to history; 2. of or relating to the past. The words were originally synonyms---with historic developing second as a shortened historical---but they began to diverge in meaning around the 18th century, and the difference has solidified over time. They are still occasionally mixed up, but the differentiation is now so well-established that using one in place of the other is likely to … [Read more...]

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