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

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

The day-to-day arena of spoken and written communication has always been a perilous place, fraught with endless possibilities for embarrassing blunders by even the most wary.

People may have a fine grasp of grammar, be proficient with spelling and syntax, and still occasionally find themselves in a quandary about which word to use. These days it seems that those of us who want to be precise are having a harder time than ever because there is so much which is working against us.

For one thing, there is the constant bombardment of sloppy English that we are subjected to from what we hear and read; and not just what's overheard on the bus or read on the walls of buildings.

We are also subjected to the many errors audible on TV or radio and published in every conceivable kind of printed matter; especially, in blogs and other presentations on some internet sites. These are strong influences, and if we hear and see a word misused often enough, it takes on a certain "correctness".

—Compiled from the "Introduction" of
Confusion Reigns by James S. Harrison;
St. Martin's Press; New York; 1987.

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


Once again, we want you to know that efforts have been made to help you grasp the meanings of the following and the other word groups 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.

definite, definitive
definite (DEF uh nit) (adjective)
Clear and unmistakable; precise: Lamar's statement was definite and left no room for any misunderstanding.
definitive (di FIN i tiv) (adjective)
Authoritative and exhaustive: This definitive life of Keats leaves nothing for future biographers; it is the final word on the subject.

The definitive biography of the author’s life was definite in its statement that she had lived in the Far North of Canada.

defuse, diffuse, diffuse
defuse (dee FYOOZ) (verb)
1. To remove the fuse from an explosive device: The special police had to defuse the bomb before they could enter the building.
2. To make less dangerous, tense, or hostile: The President made a diplomatic move that could defuse the crisis.
diffuse (di FYOOS; dee FYOOZ) (adjective)
Widely spread or scattered; not concentrated: The forest was filled with a soft, diffuse light.
diffuse (di FYOOS; dee FYOOZ) (verb)
To spread out and to move freely throughout a large area: The heat from the radiator seemed to diffuse throughout the room.

Before the basement could be safe again, a fan was used to help diffuse the fumes from the chemicals used for a bomb which the police had to defuse.

defused, diffused
defused (di FYOOZ'd) (verb)
To make something or a situation less harmful or tense: The leaders' speeches to the crowds defused the tense situation.
diffused (di FYOOS'd, di FYOOZ'd) (verb)
To cause to spread out or to scatter: The wind diffused the seeds of the dandelion.

The interview with the director as reported in the paper diffused the rumors and defused the tension in the theater.

delegate, delicate
deligate (DEL i kit) (noun)
A person who is authorized to act as a representative for another person; a deputy or an agent: Earl has been chosen as a delegate to the convention to represent his community.

As a delegate to the congressional meeting, Kendra intends to vote for tax saving measures.

delicate (DEL i kit) (adjective)
1. Relating to being pleasing to the senses; especially, in a subtle way: The delicate color of Mona's dress was very attractive.
2. Descriptive of being easily broken or damaged: This cup is very delicate and fragile; so please handle it carefully.
3. Referring to being disturbed or upset: Many people struggle to maintain the delicate balance between work and family matters.

Andrew's mother asked him to go to the store to purchase delicate china cups from which to drink the new tea that has such a delicate taste.

Timmy was very careful because his mother’s nerves were very delicate and he was happy to be her deligate; especially, since he knew that the owner of the china shop would give him the best quality available.

delegate, relegate
delegate (DEL i gayt") (verb)
1. To give control, responsibility, authority, etc. to someone: The manager will delegate authority to the best employees of this company so the project can succeed.
2. To give authority to another individual: The president will delegate the union leader as a delegate to the convention.
relegate (REL i gayt") (verb)
To assign an idea or a concept to a place of insignificance or to put something out of one’s mind: After the long argument, Brooke was determined to relegate the conflict out of her mind and to think of other things.

When the head librarian decided to delegate Krista to represent her library at the conference, she was concerned about the efforts of a minority to relegate the discussion of new books for the library to the bottom of the agenda.

deluded, diluted
deluded (di LOOD'd) (verb)
To trick or to mislead the mind: I was very sad to realize that the patient in hospital was deluded and thought he was the king.
diluted (digh LOOT'd) (verb)
To have reduced the strength of something or to have made it thin by adding a substance: The recipe stated that the sauce should be diluted with cream.

Chelsea was deluded into believing that the diluted sauce would taste as good as the original recipe.

denounce, renounce
denounce (di NOUNS) (verb)
To speak or to make threatening remarks against or about an individual or situation: The mob made angry comments seeking to denounce the landlord for the high rents.
renounce (ri NOUNS) (verb)
To give up or to refuse to follow or to cooperate: The king chose to renounce his throne rather than allow the evil wizard to take over.

Van stood up to denounce the crowd that was calling for the king to renounce his throne.

dense, dents
dense (DENS) (adjective)
Concentrated, compact, requiring great concentration: The poetry was very dense and powerful, requiring careful study by the students.
dents (DENTS) (noun)
Small hollows resulting from blows or hits by something harder: Sohia took her car to the body shop to repair the dents on the hood after the accident.

The dents on the bumper of Grady's car were caused when he was driving through dense fog and bumped into the guard rail paralleling the road.

dependence, dependents
dependence (di PEN duhns) (noun)
Reliance, trust: Nadine showed great dependence on the reports that were given in the newspaper.
dependents (di PEN duhnts) (noun)
People who rely on others for support: The tax forms ask the individual to list all the dependents under the age of 16.

The insurance provides coverage for workers and their dependents.

Those who are dependents of the social system for their daily life show considerable dependence on the bureaucracy that administers the system.

deposition, disposal, disposition
deposition (dep" uh ZISH uhn) (noun)
The written testimony of a witness made under oath: The law clerk helped the witness prepare the deposition to submit to the court, telling her side of the story.
disposal (di SPOH zuhl) (noun)
1. The authority or inclination to determine the use of something: Mr. Simmons said, "As the office manager, it is at my disposal whether the visitors may use the telephone and fax machine."
2. An instrument for the orderly and systematic destruction of something: When they renovated their kitchen, they installed a top-of-the-line disposal for the elimination of the household kitchen garbage.
disposition (dis" puh ZISH uhn) (noun)
1. A plan for the orderly management of property, money, etc.: In his last will, the factory owner was careful to make a statement of the disposition of the bank account to the family lawyer.
2. The act of getting rid of something: Kari arranged for the disposition of the old tires by sending them to the recycling center.
3. A typical attitude, temperament, or mood: Rosalie had a sunny disposition which enhanced her teaching skills.

Leticia's strong public disposition motivated her to write a deposition to the city disposal agency to complain about the inadequate disposal of garbage in her neighborhood.

depravation, deprivation
depravation (dep" ruh VAY shuhn) (noun)
The corruption of or making something or someone evil: A consequence of living on the streets was a depravation of the character of the young man.
deprivation (dep" ruh VAY shuhn) (noun)
Not having basic or perceived basic requirements for living; lacking desired or necessary items or things: Elvira eventually overcame the deprivation of her childhood.

It is a political truth that the deprivation of a group of people may easily lead to their depravation and result in violence against a government that has deprived them of literacy and social justice.

depraved, deprived, deprived
depraved (di PRAYV'd) (adjective)
A reference to having been made morally bad, corrupted, perverted, or morally debased: Burton, the evil character in the book, was morally depraved and violent.
deprived (di PRIGHV'd) (adjective)
Underprivileged: The film told the story of a deprived youth and how he succeeded in life.
deprived (di PRIGHV'd) (verb)
To have denied someone the ownership or usage of something: Whenever Delia is deprived of chocolate, she becomes very upset and is difficult to live with.

The joke in Bennie's family is that if he is deprived of chocolate, he tends to become depraved as if he were starving.

descendant, descendent
descendant (di SEN duhnt) (noun)
Someone who is related to a person or group of people who lived in the past: Jake was a descendant of German immigrants.
descendent (di SEN duhnt) (adjective)
Referring to a downward movement; such as, an incline or a slope: The skiers were not aware of the steep descendent hill until it was too late.

When her friend studied genealogy, Marta was particularly interested in one descendant of her mother who had at one time been very wealthy; however, that relative experienced a descendent slide into poverty because of the bad investments that were made in the stock market.

desert, desert, deserts, dessert
desert (di ZURT) (verb)
To leave, to forsake, or to abandon; AWOL (Absent Without Leave): A person can desert from the military service during war just once and that would be the final act.

If their nest is disturbed, birds will often desert it.

desert (DEZ urt) (noun)
A dry, barren region: A person can go walking out into the desert without water just once because he or she probably would not survive or do it again.
deserts (di ZURTS) (noun)
That which is deserved or a punishment that someone deserves: The people in the community all wanted to see the criminal receive his just deserts.
dessert (di ZURT) (noun)
Sweet food served at the end of a meal: Elvira and Lorene had ice cream and apple pie for their dessert.

While Marta was having her dessert in the restaurant, she was wishing that she could desert her broken down car right there in the desert.

desirable, desirable, desirous
desirable (di ZIGHR uh b'l) (noun)
Referring to something which a person wants: Irving would find it desirable right now to have a drink of water.
desirable (di ZIGHR uh b'l) (adjective)
Something which is pleasing or valuable: Diamonds are considered a desirable investment.
desirous (di ZIGHR uhs) (adjective)
Characterized by a wish to have something: Jana was desirous of making a good impression during the job interview.

Wendy is desirous of acquiring that desirable piece of property down by the river.

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

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

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