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...]

Forego vs. forgo

The original definition of forego is to go before. This definition is easy to remember because both forego and before have the syllable fore, with an e. To forgo, meanwhile, is to do without (something) or to pass up voluntarily. But forgo has so completely encroached on forego's territory that the latter's older sense is now essentially lost (outside legal contexts and the phrase foregone conclusion---see below), and forgo now bears the secondary definition to go before. The past-tense forms … [Read more...]

Destroy vs. destruct

Destruct is a mostly unnecessary variant of the verb destroy. Derived in the 17th century by backformation from destruction (destroy's corresponding noun), destruct had mostly faded from the language by the mid-1900s, when it was revived in rocketry and in the phrases self-destruct and auto-destruct. Outside these uses, destruct can usually give way to destroy. Examples In rocket science, to destruct means to destroy (a craft) intentionally after launch, usually due to defective … [Read more...]

Portend vs. portent

Portend is a verb. It means (1) to serve as an omen or a warning of, or (2) to forecast. Portent is a noun. It has two main definitions: (1) an indication of something calamitous about to occur, and (2) a prophetic or threatening quality. The two words are closely related---both derived from the Latin portendere, meaning to indicate---but they have different functions and share no common ground in today's English. Their corresponding adjective is portentous, which does not have an … [Read more...]

Enquire vs. inquire

Enquire and inquire are often just different spellings of the same word. Where the two are used for the same purposes, inquire is the more common form. This extends to derivative words (inquiry, inquirer, etc.), and it is the case throughout the English speaking-world. There is one qualification to this. Some Britons make the distinction that enquire and its derivatives apply to informal queries, and inquire and its derivatives to formal investigations. While this distinction appears widely … [Read more...]

Liter vs. litre

There's no difference in meaning between liter and litre. Liter is the preferred spelling in American English, and litre is preferred in all other main varieties of English. The word is much less common in American English than elsewhere because Americans generally use U.S. customary units rather than the metric system, which other English-speaking countries use. In American English, liter comes up mostly in reference to beverages (for some reason) and foreign cars. Examples Outside the … [Read more...]

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