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

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

Contraction Reaction

I hope I do not live to see
The death of the apostrophe.
For readers all will suffer fits
In disentangling its from it’s,
And they may also rave and rant,
Unable to tell cant from can’t;
Not to mention how they feel
When they mix up well and we’ll.
—Majorie Loper

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

fish, fish, fishes, phish
fish (FISH) (noun)
Aquatic vertebrates (Pisces) characterized by cold blood, fins, gills, and an elongated body: When people talk about one fish or one species of fish, both the singular and plural forms are fish.
fish (FISH) (verb)
1. To catch or to try to catch certain aquatic species: We love to fish, but not for sharks!
2. To search for something by feeling; such as, using the hand in an effort to find something: Marilyn had to fish around in her purse for her keys.
fishes (FISH iz) (noun)
Any of various cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates usually with scales and breathing through their gills: When the men went to catch fish in the ocean, they usually came back with several kinds of fishes.
phish (FISH) (noun)
An internet system that is used by a scammer to get a person to provide financial information and password data: People need to be aware of an e-mail that claims to be a legitimate business may be trying to phish for important personal information which can be used to steal from the individual.

A Fishy Tale

They always say the fish they caught
Last year was twice the size,
And make a big production of
Their rods and lures and flies.
They tell the tallest tales, it seems,
Straight-faced and without blinking;
It's not exactly lies, you know,
But rather fishful thinking.
—Harriet Cooper

This winter I plan to relax and fish for fishes or fish on the frozen lake.  I need the break because I was very stressed after receiving a phish on the internet.

fisher, fissure, phisher
fisher (FISH ur) (noun)
Someone who, for business or pleasure, catches specific aquatic creatures: Cara's father used to be a fisher and caught lots of trout in the rivers.
fissure (FISH ur) (noun)
1. A narrow crack or cleft; as in, a rock face: The fissure in the tile walkway outside the house provided growing space for the weeds.
2. A separation or division; a schism or split: The fissure of the castes resulted in countless subcastes.
phisher (FISH ur) (noun)
Someone who uses unlawful ways of gaining secured credit card numbers, bank account information, brokerage information, and generally anything that could provide a financial gain in line with fraudulent operations: A phisher is anyone who tries to illegally procure money from people on the internet by using their pecuniary data.

Years ago I heard the story about a fisher who was wading in the lake and caught his foot in a fissure on the lake bottom.

fishing, phishing
fishing (FISH ing) (verb)
Catching or trying to catch numerous cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates that characteristically have fins, gills, and streamlined bodies: Susan and Toby were fishing for trout on Friday, but not on Saturday.
phishing (FISH ing) (verb)
Creating a replica of an existing web page to fool a user into submitting personal, financial, or password data: Phishing is the term coined by hackers who imitate legitimate companies in e-mails in order to entice people to share their passwords or credit-card numbers.

The phisher was phishing a web page for information about fishing while, at the same time, he was trying to get the credit card numbers of visitors to the site.

flammable, inflammable, nonflammable
flammable (FLAM uh buhl) (adjective)
Pertaining to something which is capable of being set on fire and of burning quickly: Gasoline is a very flammable liquid.
inflammable (in FLAM uh buhl) (adjective)
Easily excited, aroused, or angered: "Roy had an inflammable temper when he felt he was being wronged" is a proper usage, but it should no longer be used with reference to something that will not burn.

The word inflammable actually means "able to burn"; while "nonflammable" means "unable or unlikely to burn".

The prefix "in-", used with inflammable is an intensifier not a "negative" as with such words as "inhospitable", "inhuman", "insensible", "indecent", "inadequate", etc. It has been a mistake believed by many people that inflammable meant "not flammable" and some serious injuries resulted over the years because of this misunderstanding.

As a consequence, many English-speaking countries passed laws that have required manufacturers of materials and substances that burn easily to use the word "flammable" in place of inflammable, which is considered less ambiguous or confusing.

So remember that inflammable comes from "inflame", which, in this case, means "to set on fire" and not from "in-", "not" + "flammable", "combustible".

nonflammable (nahn FLAM uh buhl) (adjective)
Descriptive of something that is not readily ignited and so it does not burn easily: It is much more realistic that people use nonflammable or non-flammable instead of inflammable when they mean that something cannot burn or is very difficult to burn.

In the confusion at the store, which was caused by a customer's inflammable temper, Joseph was unable to read the sign to see if the can of solvent was flammable or non-flammable.

flare, flair, flayer
flare (FLAIR) (verb)
1. To blaze up with a sudden, bright light: Sparklers flare up in the dark night.
2. To burst out suddenly in anger, violence, etc.: Many people flare up when a child's abuse is revealed.
flair (FLAIR) (noun)
A natural talent or ability, an aptitude, a knack: Mike's daughter had a flair for math because she was excellent at it.
flayer (FLAY uhr) (noun)
1. A person who strips off the skin or surface of something: The skin of the deer was stripped off by the flayer.
2. The taking of a person's possessions by the use of force or an authority: The new government taxes seemed to be like a flayer of the peoples' earnings.
3. The act of harshly blaming or severely criticizing: The husband received a flayer from his wife when she found out where he had been that night.

Reginald, the newspaper writer, had a flair for words when he was writing about corrupt government officials.

He appeared to be a flayer of the reputations of politicians and, as a result, the response of his targeted victims was to flare up in angry indignation.

flea, flee
flea (FLEE) (noun)
Any of various small, wingless, bloodsucking insects that have legs adapted for jumping and are parasitic on warm-blooded animals: There is no such thing as a dog having just one flea.
flee (FLEE) (verb)
To escape or to run away from danger, pursuit, or unpleasantness: Many people were trying to flee from the hurricane that was coming to their area.

A dog could be thinking, as it scratches the itching caused by an insect, flee off me flea or sometimes the canine simply flees from the fleas whenever it is possible.

A fly and a flea in a flue
Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
Said the fly, "Let us flee!"
"Let us fly!" said the flea.
So, they flew through a flaw in the flue.
Little Book of Word Tricks;
Peter Pauper Press; Mount Vernon,
New York; 1958; page 24.

If Deana puts flea powder on her dog, each flea will certainly flee, or die.

flecks, flex
flecks (FLEKS) (noun)
1. Tiny spots or marks: There were flecks, or dots, of mica in the stones.
2. Small bits or flakes: Luis could see flecks of dandruff on the collar of his jacket.
flex (FLEKS) (verb)
1. To bend a joint repeatedly: The patient had to flex his fingers many times for the doctor.
2. To bend something pliant or elastic: This material has the ability to flex which is good for doing Leann's exercises.

Ruthie loves this strip of plastic because whenever she wants to flex it, the flecks of silver sparkle in the sunshine.

fleece, fleece
fleece (FLEES) (noun)
1. The woolly coat of a sheep or other similar animals: The fleece of sheep needs to be trimmed, shorn, or clipped off with shears or clippers so it can be used for useful products.
2. A soft cloth that is used to make warm clothes: Lucile went to the women's apparel store to see if she could buy a warm jacket or coat made of fleece.
fleece (FLEES) (verb)
1. To deceive, to defraud, or to take money or property from someone; to cheat or to swindle: Jack said, "Vincent, don't let that guy fleece you by overcharging you for that used car."
2. To shear or to clip the wool from sheep: They had to spend a lot of time trying to fleece all of their sheep before the truck came to pick up the clipped fleece.

The rancher decided to fleece the fleece from the sheep and he was determined to sell the fleece for a fair price and not to let the unscrupulous middle men fleece him.

flesh, flesh, flush
flesh (FLESH) (verb)
To provide more information about something or to make more complete by adding details: Mary had to flesh out her story with more descriptions of the characters.
flesh (FLESH) (noun)
The physical nature of a person rather than the mind or spirit: Some people pay much more attention to the pleasures of the flesh than they do to mental and spiritual considerations.
flush (FLUSH) (verb)
1. To cause a strong flow of water or some other liquid to clean something: Gary's mother told him to remember that he should flush the toilet right after he uses it.

The doctor wanted to flush Haley's eyes with a special solution.

2. To become red in the face because of heat, emotion, anger, etc.: Selma always used to flush when her new boyfriend's name was mentioned.
3. To even or level with another surface: Willie told the carpenter that the bookshelves and the wall should flush with each other.

The article in the paper provided information to flesh out the details of the engineering project to raise the level of the road to be flush with the sidewalk.

The details of the article made the engineer flush with anger because the plans were supposed to be secret.

fleshly, fleshy
fleshly (FLESH lee) (adjective)
Descriptive of something that is plump or fat: The doctor noticed a brown spot on the fleshly part of Ed's arm.
fleshy (FLESH ee) (adjective)
1. Descriptive of a person having a large amount of portly tissue: The big man had a very fleshy face.
2. Soft and thick: This succulent plant has very fleshy leaves.

The politician seemed to be a bit fleshy because his hands were large and soft; his fingers were so fleshy that they reminded Janice of the thick water-storing leaves on her plants at home.

flew, flu, flue
flew (FLOO) (verb)
The past tense of the verb "to fly", which means to have traveled through the air: The aircraft flew low over the town.
flu (FLOO) (noun)
A shortened term for "influenza", which is an intestinal or respiratory infection caused by a virus: For awhile, the subject of swine flu was a big concern throughout the world.
flue (FLOO) (noun)
1. A pipe, tube, or channel for conveying hot air, gas, steam, or fumes, as from a furnace to a chimney: The flue in Matilda's fireplace was out of order so a lot of smoke filled the room when she started a fire that evening.
2. An organ pipe sounded by means of a current of air striking a lip in the side of the pipe and causing the air within to vibrate: The flue of the organ had to be repaired first before the organist could play.

Flu is both affirmative and negative; sometimes the eyes have it and sometimes the nose.

—Evan Esar

A chimney cleaner was telling a customer that he and his partner clean chimneys with a big blast of air called a flue shot.

Benjamin caught the flu the same evening as the flue of the chimney was blocked and the room had become smoky. He had to go to bed and from the window he watched how the airplanes flew over the trees on their way to the airport.

flight, plight
flight (FLIGHT) (noun)
1. A journey on an airplane: The flight from Canada to Germany was quite smooth.
2. A series of stairs going from one level or floor to another: He broke his arm when he fell down a flight of stairs.
plight (PLIGHT) (noun)
A difficult or dangerous situation; especially, a sad or desperate predicament: The plight of the unemployed might cause major economic problems for the future.

The plight of the passengers on the flight from overseas was not known.

flip, flip-flop, flip-flop, flippant
flip (FLIP) (verb)
1. To throw or to toss with a light brisk motion; to flick, to spin: Sybil tried to flip me the ball while she flipped her hair out of her eyes.
2. To toss in the air, imparting a spin; to turn over: You could see him flip through the pages of the phone book looking for Betty's number.
flip-flop (FLIP flahp") (noun)
1. A backless foam-rubber sandal with a V-shaped strap secured between the toes and at the sides of the foot: Marjorie wore a flip-flop on each of her feet when she went into the shower.
2. A backward flip of the body: Everyone saw Jeremy do a flip-flop in the air after he made the winning goal.
3. An electronic circuit or mechanical device that has two stable states and can be switched between the two: An early computer used a flip-flop as its memory storage unit.
flip-flop (FLIP flahp") (verb)
To abruptly change one's opinion about a policy to a contrary point of view; as is often done by certain politicians: The presidential candidate was accused of trying to flip-flop about her political position regarding the educational system.
flippant (FLIP puhnt) (adjective)
Regarding a lack of seriousness that is thought to be inappropriate; impudent, brash, impertinent, and insolent: Travis shocked everyone by making flippant remarks while his father's will was being read.

During an interview, the flippant politician was heard to make a flip-flop on the issue of the city ordinance regarding unleashed dogs in the park. At the end of the interview, he tossed his head to flip his hair off his face.

floe, flow, flux
floe (FLOH) (noun)
A flat mass of floating ice: A floe was making the ship's progress quite difficult.
flow (FLOW) (verb)
To move smoothly, as in a stream: Jaclyn turned on the bathtub faucet and the water started to flow.
flux (FLUKS) (noun)
1. Constant change and instability: Greg's political views are in a state of flux.
2. A state of uncertainty about what should be done, usually following some important event, preceding the establishment of a new direction of action: The flux following the death of the king caused much concern among the politicians.

The frequent flux in the weather patterns often causes an ice floe to flow down the river towards the sea.

FLOPS, flops
FLOPS (FLOPS) (noun)
In computing, FLOPS is an acronym meaning FLeating point Operations Per Second: The FLOPS is a measure of a computer's performance, especially in fields of scientific calculations that make heavy use of floating point calculations, similar to instructions per second.
flops (FLOPS) (verb)
1. To sit down or to lie down in a relaxed way and letting the body fall: Angelia just flops onto the couch whenever she finishes her exercises.
2. To fail completely; to founder: If Carl's new play flops one more time, he says he is going to find a new career.

When David flops down in the chair in front of his computer, he wants to check the FLOPS to make sure the calculations are performing properly.

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

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