Confusing Words Clarified: Group C; Homonyms, Homophones, Homographs, Synonyms, Polysemes, etc.

(lists of "C" sections that are organized into what for some people are confusing groups of words)

Three words that every student of language should understand are homonyms, synonyms, and antonyms.

Homonyms are words that sound alike, but have different meanings. Synonyms are words that are related in meaning but do not sound alike (begin and commence, for example).

Antonyms are direct opposites in meaning, as hot and cold; white and black.

With homonyms, the following set of to, too, and two are all pronounced exactly alike, but by no means are they interchangeable in writing. To be sure that you choose the correct spelling for any on these, you must know the meanings of all three so you will not make wrong choices with a feeling of vagueness and uncertainty.


Efforts have been made to help you grasp the meanings of these and other words that may be confusing so you can utilize them with greater accuracy in your communication.

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome by writing to: E-mail Contact (just click it for an e-mail form) or by typing, words@wordinfo.info, as the address in your e-mail heading.

If you have any problems understanding the pronunciation symbols, go to this Pronunciation Chart for clarifications.

coal, cole, kohl
coal (KOHL) (noun)
A dark solid burnable substance formed by the decomposition of vegetable matter subject to airlessness, moisture, and increased pressure and heat: The miners worked in the mine, bringing up several truck loads of coal every day.
cole (KOHL) (noun)
Plants of the Brassica genis including broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower: The doctor told Delia to eat at least one cole every day as part of her diet.
kohl (KOHL) (noun)
A cosmetic preparation used to darken the eyelids: The actress used kohl to emphasize her beautiful eyes.

Using an old-fashioned stove to burn coal, the exotic dancer whose eyes were outlined with kohl, prepared a fantastic dish of cole, using sesame seeds and oil.

coarse, course
coarse (KORS, KOHRS) (adjective)
Inferior quality, rough textured; crude: The language the mob used was coarse and angry.

The carpenter used a coarse grade of sandpaper when he started the project.

course (KORS, KOHRS) (noun)
1. A path or direction of movement: The bird watchers tracked the course of the swans when they returned for the summer.
2. Typical or normal action: In the normal course of events, the students would start their summer vacation in July.
3. One of several parts of a meal: The host served a delicious soup as the first course at the banquet.
4. A topic relating to the study of a particular subject: Grant intends to take a course in archeology at the university the following year.

While taking the course in school, we often had to endure coarse conversation from one guy who was loud in taste, manner, and mouth.

The rough track caused the athletes to complain about the coarse course.

coax, cokes
coax (KOHKS) (verb)
To persuade or to try to persuade by flattery or persistent pleading: The host tried to coax the author to make a speech after dinner.
cokes (KOHKS) (noun)
Distillations of coals which are used as fuel and in making steel: The steel factory burned large quantities of various cokes in order to produce rails for the railroads.

The factories were often trying to coax the cokes to heat the metals more efficiently.

collaborate, corroborate
collaborate (kuh LAB uh rayt") (verb)
1. To work together, typically in an intellectual undertaking: The scientists agreed to collaborate in their research.
2. To assist or to work with an organization of which an individual may not be a member: The spies agreed to collaborate with the enemy which was planning to invade the islands.
corroborate (kuh ROB uh rayt") (verb)
To confirm or to provide supporting evidence or information: The independent research from the two scientists appeared to corroborate the cause of the disease.

The committee continued to collaborate on their research; in fact, their most recent findings seemed to corroborate their earlier conclusions.

collaboration, cooperation
collaboration (kuh LAB uh ray" shuhn) (noun)
1. Working together toward a common objective; especially, in a joint intellectual effort: The writers worked in collaboration to produce the book.
2. An act of providing help to an enemy who has invaded someone's country during a war: Joel was suspected of collaboration with the military forces that were trying to conquer his country.
cooperation (koh ahp" uh RAY shuhn) (noun)
1. A situation or condition in which individuals or organizations work together for a common end: The report cited a lack of cooperation between state and local officials.

The fair was organized with the cooperation of local businesses.

2. The actions of someone who is being helpful by doing what is wanted or asked for: Thank you for your cooperation in adding new words to this project.

The collaboration of the students on their production of Gilbert and Sullivan was a great example of cooperation in their school.

collage, college
collage (koh LAZH, kuh LAZH) (noun)
An art work created from the use of diverse materials; such as, paper, cloth, etc.: The children worked on the winter collage as a class project.
college (KOL ij) (noun)
A school for higher education beyond preparatory or high school which offers degrees in specialized courses: After high school, Rachel had to decide to which college she would apply so she could become a teacher.

Melissa went to art college where she studied with a famous artist, re-known for her collage style which incorporated parts of machines, wheels, etc.

colonel, kernel
colonel (KUR n'l) (noun)
A highly ranking member of the military or similar organization; such as, the Salvation Army: After her many years of service, Lorena was proud to have achieved the rank of colonel.
kernel (KUR n'l) (noun)
1. The soft core of a seed: For a special treat, they popped corn which was made of kernels of dried corn.
2. The essence or central aspect of a thought or an idea: There was a kernel of truth to the story that was being told by the children.

Whenever the military commander wanted a very short snack, he would eat popcorn, which we referred to as "the colonel's kernels".

coma, comma
coma (KOH muh) (noun)
A state of deep unconsciousness typically caused by an accident or an illness: Lorene was found in a coma after the skiing accident.

A traumatic brain injury is the most frequent cause of a coma.

The doctors induced a coma in the patient to allow his body to recover from the severe accident.

comma (KAHM uh) (noun)
A punctuation mark in a sentence typically used to separate parts of a sentence or a list within a sentence: The editor suggested the use of a comma to highlight the list of words, for example: cat, dog, bird, and fish.

The famous author almost fell into a coma when she discovered that her editor inserted a comma in her essay without asking her permission, thus changing the entire meaning of the piece.

comb, comb, come
comb (KOHM) (noun)
1. An instrument with a row of long thin teeth used for straightening or organizing one’s hair or fibers: Darla had to comb her hair after she woke up.
2. The fleshy crown of male birds; such as, the common rooster: The comb of the rooster became even redder when he was excited by the noise.
comb (KOHM) (verb)
To go through carefully: The archaeologist decided to comb the desert, searching for the gold comb used by the ancient king.
come (KUM) (verb)
To journey or to move towards something or towards a specific destination: The map indicated that they would come to an oasis in the desert if they continued going in a straight line.

A rooster's unruffled, abroad or at home, because he always carries a comb.

—Ennis Rees, Pun Fun

Before Pete could come home, his wife called him by phone and asked him to go to the store to purchase a new comb to be used on the horse. She reminded him that it is called a curry comb.

comity, committee
comity (KOM i tee) (noun)
A social, friendly atmosphere or relationship promoting harmony: The comity among the villagers promoted a peaceful lifestyle which appealed to those seeking a restful holiday.
committee (kuh MIT ee) (noun)
A group of individuals acting together for a designated purpose; such as, to investigate a situation: The committee of lawyers worked together to draft new legislation to settle the land claims.

The committee acted in comity when they met making it a pleasant committee on which to serve.

command, command, commend
command (kuh MAND) (verb)
To exercise authority or domination of a situation: The colonel will command the campaign to bring fresh supplies to the area.
command (kuh MAND) (noun)
An order, typically issued officially by a responsible individual; an instruction: A precise command was issued to the hikers to bring their rain gear for the walk in the rain forest.
commend (kuh MEND) (verb)
To praise someone or something in a serious and often public way: Evan commended the finder of the wallet and its contents for her honesty in returning everything.

The king issued a command that the parliament should commend the head of the university for his superior leadership in educational changes.

commence, comments, comments
commence (kuh MENS) (verb)
To start or to begin an undertaking: In September Kerry will commence his college education.
comments (KAHM ents) (verb)
To make a statement about someone or something: The professor comments that the scandal involving a staff member was overblown.
comments (KAHM ents) (noun)
A remark or note to explain or to criticize something: The art critic’s comments were important to the artist because they included an approach that could improve Marta's artistic efforts.

Kate will commence her speech this afternoon with a few comments about the weather.

common, vulgar
common (KAHM uhn) (adjective)
1. That which is familiar or known by the general population: It was common knowledge in the village that if there were no clouds in the sky, it obviously would not rain.
2. Falling below generally accepted standards, second rate: Tasha's manners appeared to be common, suggesting that she had not lived in the city for very long.
vulgar (VUL guhr) (adjective)
1. Crude, undeveloped, lacking in generally accepted good taste: Roderick's speech was peppered with vulgar expressions which offended the audience.
2. Relating to the common people or the speech of common people: The word vulgar comes from Latin vulgus, "the common people, the multitude, a crowd, the throng" which is why it was placed here as a comparison with the other word in this group.

It is common knowledge that it is considered vulgar to use profane language while yammering on the radio and TV.

communication, computation
communication (kuh myoo" ni KAY shuhn) (noun)
Information provided in a verbal, written, or behavioral manner: Preston studied the intern’s skills of communication by reviewing written memos, noting Mindy's posture, and the use of her voice.
computation (kahm" pyoo TAY shuhn) (noun)
The act of determining, by mathematical means, the solution to a numerical problem: Sonja's skills in computation were exceptional, earning her praise from her mathematics instructor.

During the quiz show, the challenge was to complete the computation of a complicated formula which the contestant did.

The excitement shown on Elsa's face was better than any other form of communication to express her feelings.

commute, commute, compute
commute (kuh MYOOT) (verb)
1. To travel to and from a place in a regular fashion: Trevor had to commute from his home to the office every day.
2. To change a decision or penalty to something less severe: The court decided to commute the convicted criminal's sentence from the death penalty to 25 years in prison for his crimes.
commute (kuh MYOOT) (noun)
A journey typically occurring on a regular basis: Blake's daily commute from home to office takes about one hour each way.
compute (kuhm PYOOT) (verb)
To work out an answer by mathematical means: The accountant used an adding machine to compute her tax rebate.

During Wilbur's daily commute to the office, he uses his computer to compute the answers to specific budget questions.

Pointing to explanation of homonyms, homophones, and homographs, etc. Confusing Words: Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs; explained and demonstrated.

Pointing to explanation of "Standard English and Nonstandard English" article with a poem of confusing English words.

Pointing back to Confusing Words Quizzes, Part AConfusing Words: Units, Groups A to Z.