Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Similar Words

We had a lot of fun compiling this list of commonly misunderstood, misused, and misspelled English words. You may find some that are interesting, some surprising, and hopefully, some that are educational. Enjoy!

– a –

abjure                       To renounce
adjure                       To command, as under oath

accept                       To receive with consent
except                       To exclude; to object (take exception to)

acclamation            Loud expression of approval, praise, or assent
acclimation             Acclimatization, especially under controlled (as laboratory) conditions

adherence               Act of adhering
adherents                Followers

affect                         To have an influence on
effect                         To make; to bring about

aid                              Help
aide                            Assistant

all ready                   Set to go
already                     Previously

all ways                    Total number of methods
always                      At all times; invariably

amend                      To set right; to make emendations in
emend                      To correct

ante-                          (Prefix) Before
anti-                           (Prefix) Against

anyone                      Anybody
any one                     One of two or more (Any one of you would help anyone in trouble.)

anyway                     Nevertheless
any way                    No matter what means or method

– b –

baited                        Nagged or teased; set a trap
bated                          Restrained, reduced (bated breath)

bare                            To uncover or reveal
bear                            To carry or support; endure

bridal                         Pertaining to a bride
bridle                         Headgear for a horse

– c –

Calvary                     Hill near Jerusalem
cavalry                      Horsemen; mounted troops

cannon                      Artillery piece
canon                         Regulation; rule; dogma

canvas                       Firmly woven cloth; a sail
canvass                     Detailed examination, survey

capital                       Goods; an important city
capitol                       Building; usually found in a state or a national capital

carat                          Unit of weight (also spelled karat)
caret                          Wedge-shaped mark

censor                       To inspect conduct, morals, documents
censure                    To find fault with

complement           Something that completes
compliment            Expression of esteem; flattering remark

confidant                 One to whom secrets are entrusted (male)
confidante               One to whom secrets are entrusted (female)
confident                 Full of conviction or assurance

conscience              Consciousness of right or wrong
conscious                Perceiving or noticing; awake

– d –

disburse                   To pay out
disperse                   To break up; to spread

discreet                    Prudent; using good judgment
discrete                    Individually distinct; noncontinuous

dissidence               Dissent; disagreement
dissidents                Those who differ or disagree

– e –

ensure                       To make certain; to insure
insure                        To give, take, or procure insurance on; to take necessary measures

everyone                   Everybody
every one                  Each one

exalt                           To raise high; to glorify
exult                           To rejoice

exceptionable         Objectionable
exceptional              Rare; better than average

explicit                      Free from ambiguity
implicit                     Implied

explode                     To burst (out) violently
implode                    To burst inward

– f –

farther                      At or to a greater distance or more advanced point
further                      In addition; moreover

fay                               Fairy; elf
fey                               Crazy; touched

flammable               Inflammable
inflammable           Able to be set on fire

flaunt                         To display in a gaudy manner
flout                            To scorn; to mock (He flouts convention.)

forbear                      To abstain; to forego
forebear                    Ancestor

fortuitous                 Happening by chance; accidental
fortunate                  Lucky

– g –

gaff                             Sharp hook for spearing fish
gaffe                           Social blunder

gibe                            To utter taunting words
jibe                             To be in accord; (nautical) to shift suddenly

gorilla                        Ape
guerrilla                    One who engages in irregular warfare

graffiti                       Plural of graffito
graffito                      Words or drawing scratched or scribbled on a wall

– h –

hail                             To welcome

hangar                      Shelter for an airplane
hanger                      One who hangs; loop or device for hanging

homogeneous        Of the same or a similar kind of nature
homogenous          Relating to mating like with like

hyper-                       (Prefix) Above or beyond (hypertension: high blood pressure)
hypo-                         (Prefix) Less than or below normal

hypercritical           Excessively critical
hypocritical             Characterized by hypocrisy

– i –

indeterminable      Impossible to discover or decide
indeterminate         Not fixed in extent or character; vague

indiscreet                 Imprudent
indiscrete                 Not separated into parts

inequity                     Injustice; unfairness
iniquity                      Wickedness

its                               Possessive pronoun (Note: It never takes an apostrophe!)
it’s                              Contraction of it is

– j –

jam                            Crush; difficult spot; jelly
jamb                          Side of a door or window

judicial                      Pertaining to courts of law
judicious                  Wise; discreet
juridical                    Of or relating to the administration of justice

– k –

knave                         Dishonest or unscrupulous man
Main part of church interior

– l –

lade                             To load
laid                             Past tense of lay (He laid it down.)
[layed]                       No such word!

leach                         To subject to the action of percolating liquid (leaching field)
leech                         Sucking worm

legislator                 One who legislates
legislature              Body of persons having power to make laws

lets                            Allows
let’s                           Contraction of let us

loath                          Unwilling; reluctant
loathe                        To detest

– m –

mantel                       Shelf above a fireplace
mantle                       Cloak

marshal                    Officer in charge of prisoners; leader of parade
Marshall                   Common surname

material                    Matter; goods
matériel                    Equipment and supplies used by an organization

mean                         A middle point between extremes
mien                          Bearing; demeanor

misogamy                Hatred of marriage
misogyny                 Hatred of women

moral                        Significance or lesson to be drawn from a story
morale                      Individual’s mental and emotional condition

mucous                    (Adjective) Secreting or containing mucus
mucus                       (Noun) Viscid bodily secretion

– n –

nauseated              Affected with nausea
nauseous                 Causing nausea

neither                      Not either
nether                       Situated down or below

– o –

obsequies                 Funeral rites; a funeral
obsequious              Excessively or sickeningly respectful

odious                       Hateful; detestable
odorous                    Smelly

omnipotent              Having unlimited power or very great power
omniscient               Knowing everything

ordinance                 Authoritative decree or direction
ordnance                  Military supplies, weapons, ammunition, and so forth                                           

– p –

palate                       Roof of the mouth
palette                      Thin board on which a painter mixes pigments
pallet                        Small temporary bed; portable platform

palpate                     To examine by touch
palpitate                  To beat rapidly; to throb

parlay                       To increase or otherwise transform into something of much greater value
parley                       To confer; to discuss terms with an enemy

peal                           To ring (as a bell)
peel                           To strip off an outer layer

pedal                         (Noun) Foot lever; (verb) to ride a bicycle
peddle                       To sell or offer to sell from place to place
petal                          Portion of a flower

pediatrist                 Specialist in children’s diseases
podiatrist                 One who takes care of feet

pendant                    Something suspended, as an ornament
pendent                    Supported from above, suspended

penitence                 Feeling of remorse for wrongdoing
penitents                  Persons who show remorse for wrongdoing

precedence              Fact of preceding in time; priority (Sometimes pronounced with long “e” in second syllable.)
precedents               (Legal) Adjudged cases or decisions considered as authority for later similar case

premise                    Something taken for granted
premises                  Tract of land with buildings thereon; house or other building

prescribe                  To lay down as a guide, direction, or rule of action; to order the use of as remedy
proscribe                  To condemn or forbid as harmful; prohibit (These two words have almost exactly opposite meanings.)

presumptive            Giving grounds for presumption
presumptuous        Behaving with impudent boldness

primer                       (Long “i”) Substance used to prepare a surface for painting; a detonator for explosives
primer                       (Short “I”) Elementary textbook
primmer                   More prim

principal                   Person who has controlling authority; leading performer
principle                   Rule or code of contact                                                          

prophecy                  Prediction
prophesy                  To foretell

– r –

rein                            To check or stop
reign                          To rule

rack                            To cause to suffer torture; to stretch violently
wrack                        To ruin utterly; to destroy (You rack your brains; wracking would destroy them.)

rational                     Having reason or understanding
rationale                   Underlying reason; basis

remuneration         Payment for services rendered
[renumeration]      No such word!

resume                      To get, take, or occupy again
résumé                      Summary

retch                          To try to vomit
wretch                       Miserable and unhappy person; a vile person

To sound (as a bell); to reverberate; to encircle
wring                         To squeeze or twist, especially so as to make dry

– s –

saccharin                Sugar substitute
saccharine              Intensely and unpleasantly sweet

seasonable              Suitable for the season
seasonal                   Of a season or seasons

secretively               Carried out with secrecy
secretly                    Kept from knowledge or view

sensual                     Physical; gratifying to the body
sensuous                 Swelling, rolling, or sweeping forward, like waves of the ocean

shear                         To cut (as hair or wool)
sheer                         To deviate from a course; swerve

sleight                       Stratagem; dexterity (sleight of hand)
slight                         Slim; frail; meager

stanch                       To restrain the flow (as of blood)
staunch                    Firm in attitude, opinion, or loyalty

stationary                Immobile; fixed
stationery                Writing paper

straight                     Direct; uninterrupted; upright
strait                          (Adjective) Narrow, constricted; (noun) an isthmus (Strait of Gibraltar, straightjacket)

systematic               Relating to or consisting of a system
systemic                   Relating to or common to a system; affective the body generally

their                          Possessive pronoun
there                         In that place
they’re                      Contraction of they are

tort                             Wrongful act
torte                           Kind of rich, round layer cake

tortuous                    Winding; circuitous; tricky or crooked
torturous                  Causing torture; cruelly painful

turbid                        Obscure; muddy
turgid                        Swollen; pompous

– u –

[unequivocably]     No such word!
unequivocally          Leaving no doubt; unambiguous

unwanted                  Not wanted
unwonted                  Rare; unusual

urban                         Of, relating to, or constituting a city
urbane                       Suave; sophisticated

– v –

vain                           Conceited
Device showing wind direction
vein                           Narrow channel; lode; blood vessel

valance                     Short curtain
valence                     Capacity of an atom to combine with another or others

variance                   Dispute; deviation
variants                    Persons or things exhibiting usually slight differences

veracious                Truthful
voracious                Ravenously hungry

vertex                       Highest point of something
vortex                       Whirling mass of fluid; something resembling a whirlpool

vice                            Moral fault or failing
vise                            Tool with tight-holding jaws

– w –

wail                            Mournful cry
wale                           Rib in fabric; ridge
whale                         Sea mammal

wait                            Delay
weight                       Heaviness

waive                         To relinquish voluntarily
waiver                       Voluntary relinquishment of a right or privilege
waver                        To vacillate

warrantee                Person to whom a warranty is made (Note:  Never is properly used as a verb.)
warranty                   A guarantee (Note:  This is a noun only; the verb is warrant.)

way                            Thoroughfare
weigh                        To ascertain the heaviness of
whey                          Thin part of milk

weak                          Lacking strength
week                          Seven days

weather                    State of atmosphere as to heat, cold, and so forth
whether                    If it be the case that

whither                     To which place
wither                        To dry up

whose                        Of or relating to whom or which, especially as possessor or possessors
who’s                         Contraction of who is or who has

– y –

y’all                            You-all
yawl                           Kind of sailboat
yowl                           Long, loud, mournful wail or howl

yore                            Time long past
your                            Personal pronoun
you’re                          Contraction of you are

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