List Of Confusing Words And Homonyms

Mar 8, 2008 | Grammar and Usage, Proofreading, Uncategorized

List Of Confusing Words And Homonyms

Updated August 2023

Below is a list of confusing words and homonyms compiled by Writer’s Relief’s expert proofreaders. Learn the differences between these commonly confused terms and phrases.

Ability OR Capacity
Ability refers to the power to do something
Capacity refers to the ability to hold or contain something

Acclamation OR Acclimation
Acclamation refers to an oral vote or praise of some kind
Acclimation refers to adapting to a new climate or environment

Adhere OR Cohere
Adhere means to stick fast, to be devoted, or to carry out a plan
Cohere means to hold together as part of the same thing

Adverse OR Averse
Adverse means difficult or unfavorable
Averse means opposed to

Bad OR Badly
Bad is an adjective describing nouns or pronouns (Joe had a bad feeling about leaving.)
Badly is an adverb (I think he paints very badly.)

Because of OR Due to
Because of refers to cause and effect
Due to should be used with a linking verb (are, was, is, etc.)

Callous OR Callus
Callous refers to having an unfeeling attitude
Callus refers to a thickening or hardening of the skin

Hoard OR Horde
Hoard refers to a hidden find or cache
Horde refers to a crowd or throng

Liable, Libel, Lible, OR Slander
Liable means legally responsible or likely
Libel is damaging someone’s reputation in print or other media
Lible is not a word
Slander is an oral statement that damages someone’s reputation

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List of commonly confused homonyms (words that are spelled similarly but have very different definitions):

ade:  fruit beverage
aid: to assist
aide: an assistant
altar: raised center of worship
alter: to change
arc: portion of a circle
ark: vessel
ascent: the climb
assent: to agree
boar: wild pig
boor: a person with rude, clumsy manners and little refinement
bore: not interesting
breach:  to break through
breech:  lower/rear portion
canvas:  rough cloth
canvass: to examine thoroughly
carat: unit of weight for precious stones
caret:  proofreader’s insertion mark
carrot: vegetable
karat: 1/24 part of otherwise pure gold
forego:  to precede
forgo: to abstain from
heroin:  narcotic
heroine:  female hero
lightening: removing weight or darkness
lightning: static electricity from the sky
palate: taste
pallet: a platform for transporting goods; bed
palette: a selection of paint
pincer: clawlike gripping action
pincher: one who pinches
pinscher: terrier
vain: worthless, conceited
vane: flat device that moves with the air
vein: blood vessel
vial: narrow glass container
vile: despicable
viol: stringed instrument
yoke:  oxen harness
yolk: yellow center of an egg

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