Pith and pit are two words that are extremely close in spelling and pronunciation, but mean two different things. We will examine the difference between the definitions for pith and pit, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.
Pith is the name for the spongy and stringy matter that lines the skin of citrus fruits such as oranges or lemons. Pith is also means the soft, spongy core of things such as bones, plant stems or feathers. Sometimes, pith is used figuratively to mean the core or essential part of something, such as an idea or argument. Pith may be used as a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object, or mean to remove the pith of something. Related words are piths, pithed and pithing. The word pith is derived from the Old English word piþa which means the essential core of a plant.
Pit has many meanings. The definition that causes confusion with the word pith has to do with fruit. The pit of a fruit is the seed or stone of a fruit. Pit may be used as a noun or a transitive verb, to mean to remove the pit of a fruit. Related words are pits, pitted, pitting. The word pit as used on this sense is derived from the Dutch word pit, which means marrow or seed.
When you’ve removed most of the pith, hold the orange in your hand and slice off any patches that remain, then slice the fruit into rounds about ¼ inch thick. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Proof of the essentialist core of a Deford piece rests in the pith of the headlines that editors would run over them, whether the story was about tennis star Jimmy Connors (“Raised By Women To Conquer Men”) or NFL owner George Halas (“I Don’t Date Any Woman Under 48”). (Sports Illustrated Magazine)
If you haven’t already guessed — yes, people are injuring themselves trying to hack pits out of avocados. (The Toronto Star)