To boot

The idiom to boot, meaning in addition or besides, has nothing to do with footwear. This sense of boot is left over from the Old English bt and Middle English bote, where the word meant an advantage or something included in a bargain, and the phrase to boot has been in common usage since the time of Old English. Examples For those of us who went to regular schools (in Malaysia, to boot), English boarding schools seemed (and still seem) exotic and glamorous. [The Places You Will Go] It … [Read more...]

Stalactite, stalagmite

Both stalactites and stalagmites are conical-shaped mineral deposits formed in caverns by the dripping of mineral-rich water. The difference is simple: stalactites hang from above, while stalagmites grow from the floor up. Both words can be either count nouns (e.g., there were stalactites in the cave) or mass nouns (e.g., there was stalactite in the cave). Examples And watching a 3D movie underground is a good way to crack your forehead on a stalactite. [Cinematical] All that has kept parts … [Read more...]

Normalcy vs. normality

Normality and normalcy are different forms of the same word. Normality is centuries older, though, and many English authorities consider it the superior form, for what that's worth. Nouns ending in -cy usually come from adjectives ending in -t---for example, pregnancy from pregnant, complacency from complacent, hesitancy from hesitant---while adjectives ending in -l usually take the -ity suffix. Normalcy is unique in flouting this convention. Normalcy was popularized in the early 20th century … [Read more...]

Wane, wax

Something that wanes (1) decreases in size, amount, number, intensity, or degree; (2) declines; or (3) approaches its end. Something that waxes does the opposite. It increases in size, amount, number, intensity, or degree. For example, the Earth's moon waxes for about two weeks after the new moon and wanes for about two weeks after the full moon. A separate verb definition of wax is to become. This sense of wax tends to appear in specific phrases, especially wax poetic and wax … [Read more...]

Phrasal verbs

A phrasal verb is a phrase (a group of two or more words working together) that functions as a verb.  For example, any of these phrases would mean something completely different if one of the words were removed: ask around blow up break down burn out calm down come forward deal with get away with hand down look up to put up with show up run away run into work out Most phrasal verbs have single-word synonyms---for example, exercise for work out, flee for run … [Read more...]

Longetivity vs. longevity

The standard form of the word meaning long life or duration of life is longevity. The centuries-old word comes from the archaic adjective longevous, which in turn derives from the Latin longaevus, meaning long-lived or ancient. In early use, it was sometimes longaevity, but that has been its only recognized variant. Longetivity is a rare form that appears on the web about once for every few thousand instances of the shorter form. It probably comes about by analogy with similarly ending words … [Read more...]

Indexes vs. indices

Indexes and indices are both accepted and widely used plurals of the noun index. Both appear throughout the English-speaking world, but indices prevails in varieties of English from outside North America, while indexes is more common in American and Canadian English. Meanwhile, indices is generally preferred in mathematical, financial, and technical contexts, while indexes is relatively common in general usage. Neither form is wrong. Both have been in English many centuries (and though … [Read more...]

Perspective vs. prospective

Prospective is an adjective meaning (1) likely to happen, or (2) likely to become. It has no other definitions. Perspective is almost always a noun. It refers to (1) a view, (2) the angle from which something is viewed, and (3) the proper appearance of objects in relation to each other. The words share no definitions. Examples Perspective From a fan's perspective, it was a great game to watch. [Yahoo! Sports] The fourth section gives a global and historical perspective, perhaps to … [Read more...]


An object is the part of a sentence---usually a noun, noun phrase, or pronoun---that is affected by a verb's action. Objects may be direct objects or indirect objects. Direct objects A direct object is directly acted upon by the verb. For example, each of the underlined terms below is directly acted upon by the immediately preceding verb. We built homepages. She popped the balloon. The cat clawed the rug. Indirect objects An indirect object is affected by the action, but not … [Read more...]

Cord vs. chord

A cord is (1) a string or rope, (2) an electrical cable, (3) a measure of wood equal to 128 cubic feet, (4) a ribbed fabric (short for corduroy) or pants made from the fabric, and (5) one of several types of cords found within the bodies of animals (e.g., the spinal cord and the umbilical cord). Chord is usually a musical term (though it is sometimes used metaphorically) denoting any combination of three or more pitches played at the same time, and it also has a few rare uses in geometry and … [Read more...]

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