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,, as the address in your e-mail heading.

daffynition, fictionary, lexicomedy (s) (noun); daffynitions, fictionaries, lexicomedies (pl)
daffynition (daf" uh NISH uhn) (noun)
A combination of "daffy" and "definition" referring to funny definitions and word play: At the very minimum, a daffynition is a humorous way to consider the meanings of words.
  • questionable: what Cain did when he was curious about what his brother Abel was so upset about.
  • outlying: where your prevaricating son is now.
  • laplander: anyone who can't keep his, or her, balance in a crowded subway.
  • gruesome: how they got their fresh vegetables.
  • groan: a fully matured person.
  • aspen: a donkey coral.
  • abdication: giving up on stomach exercises.
  • dictionary: the only place where "divorce" comes before "marriage".
  • gossip: a news source from one person based on a series of contributers.
  • jury: a panel of twelve untrained in law who are asked to render their legal decisions.
fictionary (FIK chuhn airy) (noun)
A composition of fake, or make-believe, definitions from "fiction" and the last part of "dictionary": There are those who believe that "daffynition" and fictionary are synonymous.
  • glazing: sleeping with the eyes open, a popular pastime at conferences and early-morning meetings.
  • sarchasm: The gulf between the person being sarcastic and the person who doesn't understand what it means.
  • keystroke: when only one side of the computer keyboard is working.
  • legend (leg-end): the foot or where the foot is located.
  • information (in formation): how military aircraft fly.
lexicomedy (lex" i KOM uhdi) (noun)
A source of facetious or humorous definitions or a publication that is always changing the subject on every page: Another source of off-beat definitions can be found in lexicomedy, a presentation of word play definitions.
  • diet: a form of wishful shrinking.
  • dieting: corporal downsizing.
  • dieting: life in the fast [fasting] lane.

I bought a new dictionary which was really a fictionary although it pretended to be scholarly; I laughed when I read the definition of daffynition and then wrote to my sister about dieting while she was driving her sports car "in the fast (fasting) lane".

I included a P.S. in my letter to explain the lexicomedy reference.

dairy, diary
dairy (DAIR ee) (noun)
Milk or a milk-products-producing enterprise; a milk store: Tricia will walk to the local dairy to pick up some milk, cheese and ice cream.
diary (DIGH uh ree) (noun)
A daily record written about by someone about his or her life: For her birthday, Marilyn received a diary, a book in which she could write about the events of her life.

Elsa wrote regularly every day in her diary while she was traveling in Europe.

A diary is the confidant that doesn't talk [but it can be very revealing if it falls into another person's hands].

—Evan Esar

Darin wrote in his diary about the class trip to visit the dairy and what they learned about milk production.

dam, damn, damn
dam (DAM) (noun)
1. A construction of earth, concrete, etc. which is meant to control a body of water: The dam was built to control the flow of the river, but unfortunately it is also endangering many buildings on the nearby land.
2. A female parent which is a reference to a quadruped: The racing sheet explained that Daisy was the dam of the winning horse, Tulip.
damn (DAM) (verb)
1. To condemn to eternal punishment, to doom: Some people believe that morale misconduct by those who commit such acts will damn them for eternity.
2. To condemn as injurious, illegal, or immoral: The speaker continued to damn drugs, alcohol, and smoking as destructive to the well-being of society.
damn (DAM) (interjection)
Used to express anger, irritation, contempt, or disappointment: When Jack hit his finger with the hammer, he shouted, "damn!" and then painfully he went to get a bandage.

Dam is a word that means to "hold back", but it has the opposite meaning if the letter n is added.

—Evan Esar

When the dam broke and the water flooded the valley, the engineer who was riding the dam of a famous race horse, muttered, "Damn, I hope they don't damn the future reconstruction of a dam on this river"; and so, he started to plan to rebuild another dam.

dammed, damned
dammed (DAM'd) (verb)
Held or kept back; for example, by dirt or concrete banks: The river was dammed so the water could be kept in place for use by the people.
damned (DAM'd) (verb)
Condemned, criticized, or cursed: The preacher damned evil doers to Hell.

Our friend said that she dammed her anger when she heard the preacher say we were damned because we went dancing on Sunday.

damp, dank
damp (DAMP) (adjective)
1. Moisture in the air; humidity: It was hard to dry the laundry because the air was too damp.
2. Somewhat or slightly wet: As Gwen's forehead was damp with perspiration, she urged her son to help her wipe up the mess of broken eggs on the kitchen floor with a damp cloth.
dank (DANGK) (adjective)
Disagreeably damp or very moist: Whenever it is dank, we can be sure that it is a result of a rainy, humid, or foggy situation.

While the woman was cleaning the dank basement, her forehead became very damp with perspiration so she wiped it with a damp cloth.

After a while, the cloth became dank and she had to replace it with another dry cloth.

Dane, deign
Dane (DAYN) (noun)
An individual who lives in or is from Denmark, a country in Scandinavia: Hans Christian Anderson was a famous Dane who wrote fairy tales for children.
deign (DAYN) (verb)
To put aside the privileges of rank or position in a very condescending, superior manner; that is, to lower oneself to do something that one considers to be below his or her dignity: Despite his misgivings, the mayor did deign to speak to the crowd at the tavern.

The mayor, who was a Dane by ancestry, announced that he would deign the offer to run for another term of office.

dangle, tangle, tangle
dangle (DANG guhl) (verb)
To hang about in an uncertain manner; to hang something in a manner that allows it to swing freely: The dog's owner attempted to dangle a bone in front of the dog to make him do tricks.

Lorena tried to dangle her feet in the water as she sat on the edge of the swimming pool.

tangle (TANG guhl) (verb)
To become involved in a confusing or bewildering situation: Darren was about to tangle himself up in legal problems.
tangle (TANG guhl) (noun)
A scrambled mess of something: The string was all in a tangle and could not be undone.

Oh, what a tangle of confusion we create when we try to do too many things at once; like, trying to dangle our feet in the water of our swimming pool while playing with our dog whose leash was in a tangle because he was chasing the bone which Josh tried to dangle in front of him.

days, daze
days (DAYZ) (noun)
The periods of light between sunrises and sunsets: For some reason, summer days are more desired than winter days.
daze (DAYZ) (noun)
A stunned or bewildered condition: Percy left the science class in a daze more than he had anticipated.

For some people, too often school days result in school daze.

deadly, deathly
deadly (DED lee) (adjective)
1. Relating to something which causes or is able to cause death: Some of the people had a more deadly form of the disease that was spreading throughout the world.
2. Extremely accurate and effective: Bradford made a deadly aim with his bow and arrow.
3. Extreme or complete: A deadly silence followed Merle's question to the audience.
deathly (DETH lee) (adjective)
1. Suggestive of the cessation of life: Gwen's face had a deathly pallor as the result of having thought she had seen a ghost.
2. In a way that is close to death or dying: Orville became deathly ill.

Freda's face became deathly pale when she listened to the reports of the deadly effect of the avalanche on the mountain village.

dear, deer
dear (DEER) (adjective)
1. Expensive, loved, or precious: The jewelry which Lorena inherited from her grandmother was very dear to her.
2. With love and respect: Karin lost her family, her home; everything that she held dear.
3. Used when writing to address someone; such as, in a letter: Dear Sir, Dear Jane, etc.
deer (DEER) (noun)
A cud-chewing, herbivorous, hoofed quadruped: The hikers saw a herd of deer in the meadow.

When Santa Claus wanted to remind his flying reindeer to get ready to pull his sleigh and to help him deliver Christmas gifts, he sent a common message to his team starting with "Dear deer".

A beloved buck, or doe, is a dear deer.

dearth, death
dearth (DURTH) (noun)
A scarce supply; a lack of, not having enough of something: The dearth of uncensored, firsthand information about the war is a concern of many leaders.

There is a dearth of food in many parts of the world.

death (DETH) (noun)
The act of dying; the termination of life: Conrad's sudden death at such a young age was very disturbing to his parents.

Elsa worked for the newspaper until her death at the age of 75.

When Percy worked for a newspaper, he often noticed a dearth of death notices on certain days of the week.

debar, disbar
debar (dee BAHR) (verb)
To exclude or to prevent something from from happening: Being born in a foreign country would debar the candidate from running for President of the U.S.
disbar (dis BAHR) (verb)
To remove the status and privileges and obligations of someone who was a legal practitioner: Not paying his traffic fines served to disbar the lawyer so he could no longer practice law.

Whitney's unethical practices were sufficient reasons to disbar her as a lawyer.

The fact that Muriel was born in a foreign country served to debar her from applying for the government position; however, it did not disbar her from practicing medicine.

decadence, decadents
decadence (DEK uh duhns, di KAYD ns) (noun)
1. Behavior that shows low morals and an excessive love of worldly pleasure, money, fame, etc.: The book that Karen had condemns the decadence of modern society, which puts more emphasis on how to acquire money without working for it.
2. The characteristic of being artificial or lacking in quality: The court dandy demonstrated decadence in his dress and manner.
decadents (DEK uh duhns, di KAYD ns) (adjective)
To describe those who exhibit low morals and who are only interested in physical or worldly pleasures: The publication condemns some of society's wealthiest members as decadent fools.

In the latest movie about the Revolution, the decadence of the aristocratic decadents was portrayed realistically.

decease, disease
decease (di SEES) (noun)
Without life; death: The newspaper carried an article clarifying the decease of the popular doctor.
disease (di ZEEZ) (noun)
A condition that impairs the full and healthy functioning of an animal or plant: The crops in the field appeared to be dying of a disease which was turning the leaves brown.

The decease of the popular musician was caused by a very unusual disease.

deceased, diseased
deceased (di SEES't, di SEEST) (adjective)
Dead; no longer living: The minister asked that everyone spend a quiet moment thinking of their deceased friend.

Susan asked, "Is your grandfather alive or deceased?"

diseased (di ZEEZ'd, di ZEEZD) (adjective)
Ill, sick; a condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally: The doctor diagnosed his diseased patient as having a skin ailment as determined by the spots that appeared on his chest.

The doctor reported that the deceased had been diseased for several years before his death.

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.

Pointing back to Confusing Words Quizzes Confusing Words: Vocabulary Quizzes Listed.