5 oft-misspelled idioms

We’ve heard them spoken frequently, and we guess at their pronunciations. All too often, we’re flat-out wrong.

Some idioms are confused in the speaking; others just in the spelling. The following idioms are usually pronounced correctly, but they are often misspelled in writing.

1. waiting with bated breath

The word bated in this expression is often misspelled “baited.” For example, “We’re waiting with baited breath to hear if Rosie O’Donnell is officially coming back to daytime screens.”

The word bated is from a shortening of the verb abate. “To bate” means “to reduce, to lessen in intensity.” The expression “bated breath” is the only survival of the word in modern English. Read more here.

2. lo and behold

People use this to mean something like “and then see what happened.” The idiom is frequently misspelled as “low and behold.” Lo is an old form of “look.” Read more here.

3. pore over

Not to be confused with the noun pore (an opening in the skin), the verb pore means, “to study or examine carefully.” In expressions like “pore over a book” and “pore over my taxes,” the word is often misspelled as pour (to transfer liquid). Read more here.

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4. toe the line

This expression derives from the practice of lining up with one’s toe touching a line that has been drawn on the ground. Competitors line up to begin a race or some other competition. When everyone “toes the line” in this way, conformity has been achieved. In modern use, the expression occurs almost always in a political context with the meaning of “to conform to a political party’s platform.” It is often miswritten as “tow the line.” Read more here.

5. pique one’s interest/curiosity

The French borrowing pique means “to stimulate.” The word is sometimes misspelled as peek and peak. Here are some examples, one of them from a site that offers marketing advice:

“It was that statement that peeked my interest in acting,” says Loretta.

Lingerie styles, construction, and cultures have always peeked my curiosity.

Udemy has really peaked my interest.

Headlines That Will Have Peaked My Curiosity

A version of this article first appeared on DailyWritingTips.com.


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