Du jour

The French loan phrase du jour, meaning literally of the day, came to English in the 1960s when restaurants started using it to highlight their daily specials (their plats du jour). More recently, it has expanded from its original sense, and it now sometimes means recent, current, or trendy. But unlike its adjectival synonyms, du jour follows the French grammar by coming after the noun it modifies. For example, you might call a trendy hat the hat du jour, not the du jour hat. Because du … [Read more...]


In its traditional sense, endear means to make dear, with its direct object making itself dear to its indirect object. For example, I might endear myself (direct object) to you (indirect object) with this post if you find it useful, or you might endear yourself (direct object) to me (indirect object) by posting a comment expressing your thanks. If we give most credence to the standard dictionary definition---which isn't always the best approach, but we'll do so here for the sake of … [Read more...]

Eminent vs. immanent vs. imminent

Someone or something that is eminent is of high rank, noteworthy, distinguished, or prominent. An accomplished world leader and a respected intellectual, for instance, are eminent. Something that is imminent is (1) very near or (2) impending. For example, when the weather forecast calls for a 100% chance of thunderstorms, we might say that storms are imminent.  Something that is immanent exists within or is inherent to something else. The word is often used in reference to spiritual or … [Read more...]


The conjunction ergo is similar in meaning to therefore and hence. Although it is widely regarded as archaic, it is not as rare as some archaisms. It appears especially often in recent sportswriting, a trend we can't explain. Examples Here are two examples of ergo in older texts: This priest-book par excellence opens, as is fitting, with the great inner difficulty of the priest: he faces only one great danger; ergo, "God" faces only one great danger. [H.L. Mencken, translation (1923) of The … [Read more...]

While away vs. wile away

The phrase meaning to pass time idly is while away. It is older and more logical than wile away. But because the second phrase occurs so frequently, it is now included in many dictionaries and is rarely considered incorrect. The OED has instances of while away going back to the early 18th century. The phrase employs a now archaic sense of while---namely, to fill up the time. Today, while is used only as a noun or conjunction (except in while away), and because 21st-century English speakers … [Read more...]

Stationary vs. stationery

Stationary, with an a, is an adjective only. It means not moving or not capable of being moved. Stationery, with an e, is a noun only. It refers to writing paper and envelopes. In North America, it's usually used in reference to paper and materials for writing letters. Outside North America, it's used more broadly. Though stationary and stationery are spelled almost alike, they have different origins. Stationary comes from the Latin stationarius, meaning belonging to a military station, while … [Read more...]

Entomology vs. etymology

Etymology is the study of the origins and development of words. By extension, it's sometimes used to refer to the origins of a word. Entomology is the study of insects. If it helps, think of the word as antomology, but with an e instead of an a. Examples "Indian summer" is of American etymology and best describes the US climate. [Irish Times] Baylor has entomology classes for studying insects. [Baylor Lariat] The etymology of the Glaswegian word "bevvy" is not difficult to unravel. [The … [Read more...]

Elegy vs. eulogy

An elegy is a poem, song, or other work of art composed as a lament for someone who has died. A eulogy is a speech or written tribute praising someone who had died, especially one composed for that person's funeral. Unlike elegy, which is often used figuratively or to describe a work of art with a mournful tone (and it gives rise to the adjective elegiac, meaning mournful), eulogy is almost always used literally. Examples Occasionally, as with Laura Fraser's beautiful, clear-eyed recent elegy … [Read more...]

Drier vs. dryer

Drier is a comparative adjective meaning more dry. A dryer is one of many types of electrical appliances used to dry things. The words were once interchangeable. The distinction crept into the language through the 20th century and has only recently solidified. Some dictionaries still list the words as variants of each other, but the words are almost always kept separate in 21st-century publications. Examples The two words are often (understandably) mixed up---for example: As Sherrod sat … [Read more...]


A dilemma is a choice between two unfavorable or mutually exclusive alternatives. (The prefix di- is Greek for two, which is central to the word's definition.) That's its traditional definition, anyway, and careful writers tend to confine the word to that sense. The word is also commonly used to refer to any difficult situation, even one that doesn't involve two mutually exclusive alternatives. Dilemma in the traditional sense is useful because English has few words denoting choices between two … [Read more...]

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