25 frequently jumbled homonyms

If you’re ‘chomping’ at the bit to avoid collateral damage from explosive editorial ‘ordinance’ fired by misaligned content ‘canons,’ read on.


English is rife with nearly identical verbal twins.

Dozens of homonyms—words that sound like other words but are spelled differently—are sometimes confused for their near doppelgängers. This post lists and defines 25 frequently confused word pairs, in which the first word is usually used mistakenly in place of the second one. (Definitions for words are simplified and not comprehensive.)

1.
add: increase
ad: abbreviation for advertisement

2.
aid: help
aide: one who helps

3.
block: area bounded by streets, or an obstacle or a solid object
bloc: group with ideas or ideology in common

4.
cannon: piece of artillery
canon: collection of works, or regulation, or standards or rules or a collection of them

5.
canvas: durable, heavy protective material
canvass ]: debate, examine, or go out in search of responses

6.
chomp: bite down
champ: bite down (same meaning, but idiom is “champ at the bit”)

7.
compliment: praise
complement: complete or enhance

8.
conscious: aware
conscience: adherence to or regard for fairness or moral strength

9.
council: deliberative or legislative body
counsel: legal adviser

10.
discrete: separate
discreet: modest, prudent, unobtrusive

11.
fair: event for entertainment, exhibition and trade
fare: specific type of food

12.
phase: carry out or introduce a stage, or adjust for synchronicity
faze: disturb

13.
flare: signal fire or light
flair: style, or talent or tendency

14.
forward: ahead
foreword: brief introductory section of a book

15.
hardy: audacious, brave, durable
hearty: healthy, vigorous, enthusiastic, or unrestrained, or full of appetite

16.
isle: truncated form of island
aisle: passage between groups of seats

17.
ordinance: law or rule
ordnance: ammunition and explosives

18.
premier: best, or a political leader
premiere: first performance or showing of a form of entertainment

19.
principal: leader of a school, or a leading person in an organization
principle: code, idea or law

20.
roll: list or other document, or material held as or in a roll
role: function, or character or part played

21.
tact: diplomacy or discretion
tack: approach or course

22.
team: group organized to achieve a goal or to compete
teem: be filled to overflowing or present in large quantities

23.
tenant: renter
tenet: something generally held to be true

24.
troop: unit of military personnel
troupe: group of performers

25.
wreck: destroy
wreak: cause, inflict

A version of this post first appeared on Daily Writing Tips.

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