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Commonly misused words

mheredgemheredge WordsmithHere and therePosts: 23,402 mod
There are many words that are spelled or pronounced the same but have different meanings. Sometimes even the most highly educated English speakers get tripped up.

Harvard University Steve Pinker, a linguist and cognitive scientist has compiled a list of the 58 most commonly misused words.!YupQ$W:LaSXr@H_/

Adverse: Unfavorable or harmful; commonly confused with "averse," which means disinclined.

Appraise: To evaluate the value of something; commonly confused with "apprise," which means "to inform."

As far as: The same; commonly confused with the phrase "as for," which means "with regard to."

Begs the question: Implies a conclusion that isn't supported by evidence; commonly confused with "raises the question."

Bemused: Bewildered; commonly confused with "amused," which means entertained.

Cliché: A noun; commonly misused as an adjective.

Credible: Believable; commonly confused with "gullible."

Criteria: A plural word; commonly misused as a singular word. The singular is "criterion."

Data: A plural word; commonly used as a singular noun.

Depreciate: To decrease in value; commonly confused with "deprecate," which means to disapprove of.

Dichotomy: A division between two things; commonly confused with "a difference."

Disinterested: Unbiased; commonly confused with "uninterested."

Enervate: To cause someone to feel drained; commonly misused to mean "to energize."

Enormity: Extremely bad or morally wrong; commonly confused with "enormous."

Flaunt: To show off; commonly confused with "flout," which means "to openly disregard."

Flounder: To struggle helplessly; commonly confused with "founder," which means to fill with water and

Fortuitous: To happen by chance; commonly confused with "fortunate."

Fulsome: Excessively flattering; commonly misused to mean "full or copious."

Homogeneous: Pronounced "home-genius." The word is commonly misspelled as "homogenous."

Hone: Sharpen or refine; commonly misused in the phrase "home in on," which means to move toward a goal or target.

Hot button: An emotionally or politically charged issue; commonly confused with "hot topic."

Hung: Suspended; commonly misused to mean "suspended from the neck until dead."

Intern (verb): To detain or imprison; commonly confused with "inter," which means to bury a body.

Ironic: To happen in a way that's opposite to expectations; commonly misused to mean "unfortunate."

Irregardless: Not a word, but commonly confused with "regardless."

Literally: A fact; commonly confused with "figuratively," or metaphorically.

Luxuriant: Rich or lush; commonly confused with "luxurious."

Meretricious: To appear attractive but lack value or sincerity; commonly confused with "meritorious," which means to deserve praise.

Mitigate: Alleviate; commonly confused with "militate," which means to be "a powerful or conclusive factor in preventing."

New Age: Spiritualistic and holistic; commonly misused to mean modern or futuristic.

Noisome: Smelly; commonly misused to mean noisy."

Nonplussed: Surprised or confused; commonly misused to mean bored.

Opportunism: Exploiting opportunities; commonly misused to mean creating opportunities.

Parameter: A variable; commonly misused to mean a condition or limit.

Phenomena: A plural noun; commonly misused as a mass noun.

Politically correct: Inoffensive or appropriate; commonly misused to mean fashionable.

Practicable: To be able to put together successfully; commonly confused with "practical."

Proscribe: To condemn; commonly confused with "prescribe," which means to recommend.

Protagonist: An active or lead character; commonly confused with "proponent."

Refute: To prove something false; commonly misused to mean "to allege to be false."

Reticent: Restrained, or shy; commonly confused with "reluctant."

Shrunk, sprung, stunk, and sunk: All of these words are used in the past participle and are commonly misused in the past tense.

Simplistic: Overly simple; commonly misused to mean "pleasantly simple."

Staunch: Loyal; commonly confused with "stanch," which means to stop the flow.

Tortuous: Twisting; commonly confused with "torturous."

Unexceptionable: Not open to objection; commonly confused with "unexceptional," which means ordinary.

Untenable: Not sustainable; commonly misused to mean painful or unbearable.

Urban legend: A false and widely circulated story; commonly misused to mean "someone who is legendary in a city."

Verbal: In linguistic form; commonly confused with "spoken."

An effect: An influence. To effect: To put something into effect. To affect: To influence or fake.

To lie (as in "lies, lay, has lain"): To recline. To lay (as in "lays, laid, has laid"): To set down. To lie (as in "lies, lied, has lied"): To fib.

One reason why English can be difficult is because so many of its words are derived from other languages such as French, Latin, and Greek. Then unlike these other languages, the rules of English also been evolving over time, resulting in spelling mutations and sometimes confusing grammatical guidelines.

"Unless you’ve been brought up speaking English, how can you possibly begin to learn all these oddities? It’s little wonder that people trying to learn English end up feeling confused."


  • takafromtokyotakafromtokyo Posts: 1,009 ✭✭✭
    I think I misuse a lot of words and phrases. The problem is, I don't realize that I did it unless someone corrects me. I'd appreciate it if you'd do that for me when it's not causing you too much trouble.
  • mheredgemheredge Wordsmith Here and therePosts: 23,402 mod
    You don't do this often @takafromtokyo. I will try to look out for little mistakes.

    The problem is, I don't realize that I've done it did unless someone corrects me.
  • takafromtokyotakafromtokyo Posts: 1,009 ✭✭✭
    edited January 12

    Thanks, Marriane, for your correction. The tenses are always confusing. Even though I've been studying English for more than thirty years now, I still don't really have confidence.

    If I say "I don't realize that I did it", what does the sentence really mean? How does it sound to you? The problem I have here is I don't understand correctly the difference between "I made a mistake" and "I've made a mistake".

    Do they really sound different to native English speakers like you?
  • anjalianjali Posts: 3
    Thnku ...
  • mheredgemheredge Wordsmith Here and therePosts: 23,402 mod
    edited 1:08AM
    Don't is in the present tense so that means that now, I do not realise that I did whatever in the past.

    If you are talking about the past, you could say I didn't realise that I had done something....
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