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

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

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

material, material, materiel, matériel
material (muh TIR ee uhl) (adjective)
Having real significance or consequence: The material facts of the investigation were presented to the judge.
material (muh TIR ee uhl) (noun)
1. Tangible or physically present: The material of Dina's new dress is dark green.

The food bank provided the material that was needed to help support a hungry community.

2. That which can be refined into a more finished form: Shanna's research provided new material for the biography of the painter which she was writing.
3. Information which is the object of study: The course outline for Tony's class indicated the material that would be covered each week.
materiel (muh tir" ee EL) (noun)
Equipment used by a group or organization: Nell and Luis will try out the camping materiel on the weekend.
matériel (muh tir" ee EL) (noun)
French version for equipment or hardware: Matériel is an alternate spelling for "materiel".

The material for Billy's research project was to compare the response of the purchasing public to reading about a new material for camping equipment versus reading about a new matériel. He wanted to determine if the foreign sounding word affected the choice of the customers.

maybe, may be
maybe (MAY bee) (adverb)
1. Questionable, possible, perhaps: Maybe it will rain tonight.
2. An expression indicating uncertainty: Maybe Victor is being too optimistic, but he really thinks he can get this project completed.
3. Used to give a response that is neither yes nor no: Jane asked, "So do you want to come with us or not?" And Jack answered, "Well, maybe."
4. Used to introduce advice or suggestions: Larry said, "Maybe you should ask Latonya what she means before you jump to conclusions."
5. Indicates an approximate estimation; such as, of frequency or a number: The forests in this region are no more than 60, maybe 70, years old.
may be (may" BEE) (verb)
A phrase used to express the possibility of something: Stanley's answer may be correct, after all.

Eugenia may be wrong, but she thinks the store is closed by now.

It may be that the weather report is right and maybe there will actually be sunshine tomorrow.

meal, zeal
meal (MEEL) (noun)
1. Food eaten to satisfy a person's hunger: Christa and Charles had a nutritious and delicious meal.
2. The milled or ground seeds of certain grass plants: Aaron took the wheat to the mill to be ground into meal.
zeal (ZEEL) (noun)
Eager, enthusiastic pursuit of something: Laurel had a special zeal for studying butterflies.

With great zeal, Monroe ate his first meal after a long fast.

mean, mean, mien
mean (MEEN) (adjective)
1. Humble, possibly shabby: Patricia's mean accommodations were small and clean.
2. Repellent, selfish, petty; bad-tempered, vicious, unmanageable: Dale's mean arrogance resulted in his brother leaving without saying a word.
3. Middle position, halfway between extremes: Sean noticed that he was in the mean position in the lineup to buy tickets for the movie.
mean (MEEN) (verb)
To have a purpose or an intention: Luisa said, "I mean to go to New York City sometime."
mien (MEEN) (noun)
The impression a person presents to others as to behavior or looks; especially, when it seems to reveal an inner state of mind: Fay's outward mien was calm and focused despite all of the pressures to complete her assignment.

Ingrid's mien was very elegant despite her rather mean beginnings. At times, she felt as if she were in the mean between two cultures.

Dena once said, "I mean to go to the big city to live with other educated and refined people."

meat, meet, mete
meat (MEET) (noun)
The flesh of an animal used as food which often refers specifically to the flesh of mammals or birds, instead of the flesh of fish: The soup can be made with meat, chicken, or fish.
meet (MEET) (verb)
1. To see and to speak to someone for the first time: Norman and Jillian wanted to meet each other in the linguistics class at their university.
2. To come together in order to talk about or to discuss something: Fay wants to meet Ingrid downtown tomorrow to talk about a better way to sell their products.
mete (MEET) (verb)
To give something to the people who are considered worthy of receiving it; to allot, distribute, or apportion: The legal authorities are trying to be fair as they decide to mete out punishments for the crooked politicians.

The families deserved to have the restaurant mete out a lunch where the meat would meet the taste buds of the eaters.

In Germany, a van used by a small business for preparing meals for parties, etc. was seen with the words: "Meating Point" painted on its sides.

medal, meddle
medal (MED'l) (noun)
A piece of metal similar to a coin which is issued to commemorate special events: Rosario won a gold medal in the swimming competition because he was the best of all.
meddle (MED'l) (verb)
To interfere, to get involved in something that is not one's personal concern; to take part in other people's affairs without being asked or needed; to interfere with: Please do not meddle in this discussion. Added opinions are not wished for.

Consuelo had a tendency to meddle in her sister's family affairs and caused many arguments.

In spite of the efforts of the jury to meddle with the judge's decision, Fay decided to award the medal of achievement to the best student.

A medal of honor is the best thing to induce chest expansion.

—Evan Esar
media, median, median, medium, medium
media (MEE dee uh) (noun)
The plural form of "medium", often with reference to advertisement or news dissemination: The news media covered the politician's speech and legislative experiences.
median (MEE dee uhn) (noun)
Characterized by being in the middle position: The median on the highway was planted with flowers.
median (MEE dee uhn) (adjective)
Having a value that is in the middle of a series of values arranged from the smallest to the largest: What is the median price of homes in this area?
medium (MEE dee uhm) (adjective)
Occupying the middle position relative to others: Bruce was of medium height compared to the other players on the team.
medium (MEE dee uhm) (noun)
1. A substance by which something is conveyed: The metal in electricity cables is a medium for conveying electricity.
2. An individual through whom messages are passed to and from the dead to those living and the other way, too: Clarence's aunt was believed by many to be a medium through whom they could pass messages to their dead loved ones.
3. A liquid used by painters in which color pigmentation is mixed: Some artists use egg yolk as the medium for their paintings.

The media talked much about the artist and the new medium which she used for her paintings; however, the art critic assessed the sale value of her works in the medium range.

mediate, meditate
mediate (MEE dee ayt") (verb)
1. To intervene between two or more disputants in order to bring about an agreement, a settlement, or a compromise: Clarence has been appointed by the government to mediate in the dispute between the auto company and the striking workers.
2. To settle or to reconcile differences between people: Negotiations are going on to mediate a cease-fire between the two belligerents.
meditate (MED i tayt") (verb)
1. To think or to mentally reflect; especially, in a calm and deliberate manner; to contemplate: Marion's friend will take time every day to meditate for an hour during the morning.
2. To engage in devotional contemplation, especially prayer: Martin wants to meditate about the importance of God in his life.

Sue's doctor tried to mediate her emotional concerns by suggesting that she meditate some more and consider what the consequences would be if she doesn't see a psyciatrist.

mediation, medication, meditation
mediation (mee" dee AY shuhn) (noun)
An attempt to bring about a peaceful settlement or compromise between disputants through the objective intervention of a neutral party: The dispute between the landlord, Mr. Smithson, and the tenant, Mrs. Swanson, was settled by mediation.
medication (med" i KAY shuhn) (noun)
The administration or process of treating with a prescriptive drug: Sharon is taking a medication in an effort to reduce her high blood pressure.
meditation (med" i TAY shuhn) (noun)
The act or process of spending time in quiet thought: Daily meditation helps clear Bill's mind of negative thoughts.

Daily meditation, in some cases, may help certain people avoid the need for medication.

meliorative, pejorative
meliorative (MEEL yuhr uh tiv; MEE lee uh ray" tiv; MEEL yuh ray" tiv) (noun)
That which is made more tolerable; something that has been softened: Instead of returning a critical comment from a colleague, Melinda chose to be more meliorative and it resulted in a more desirable conclusion to their discussion.
pejorative (pi JOR uh tiv) (noun)
Tending to make worse; derisive, derisory, demeaning, disparaging, derogatory; uncomplimentary: When Alisa used the pejorative "you're an idiot" with the young man, and although James was tempted to send stronger pejoratives back to her, much to his credit, he resisted the temptation.

If people are incapable of being meliorative with their bosses and choose to tell their employers that their ideas are "stupid", such actions would no doubt be considered pejorative and the result would very likely be unemployment for them.

metal, mettle
metal (MET'l) (noun)
A substance; such as, gold, tin, or copper, that usually has a shiny appearance, is a good conductor of electricity and heat, can be melted, and is usually capable of being shaped: Scraps and sheets of metal from piles of discarded metal products are being reprocessed.

mettle (MET'l) (noun)
Character, spirit, ardor, courage, stamina; the ability to continue something despite difficulties: This sporting event will test her mettle as a competitor in this winter event.

Under such stress, Marjory revealed an unexpected mettle.

Is it metal or mettle that is needed in stressful situations?

Did the Norsemen have mettle, or metal, craftiness, and good ships?

The most common error is to use metal in the sense of showing or trying one's physical and mental hardiness; so, remember that to show your mettle, you should be in sound physical condition.

mewl, mule
mewl (MYOOL) (noun)
A weak cry or whimper: Fay could hear the mewl of the kitten before she could find it.
mule (MYOOL) (noun)
1. A mammal which is the result of the crossbreeding a horse and a donkey: The mule was harnessed to the wagon so the farmer could take his crops to the market.
2. A slipper typically without a back piece around the heel: The missing mule with the fluffy fur around it was found under the bed.
3. A person whose personality can be considered stubborn: When Victor's mind is made up, he is as stubborn as a mule.
4. A machine used in the manufacture of yarn that pulls and twists the fibre simultaneously: Debora's summer job was in the yarn factory, specifically monitoring the function of the mule.

A donkey whimper is also known as a mule mewl.

mews, muse, muse
mews (MYOOZ) (noun)
1. A common gull of European origin: The flock of mews circled over the fishing boats hoping for a handout.
2. The sound made by a gull or a cat: Manfred could hear the mews of the kittens which were crying for their mother to nurse them.
3. Primarily British: Stables for animals in an enclosed space which are frequently converted into attractive housing: Sean was so lucky that he was able to find housing in the local mews which used to belong to the estate of the gentry.
4. A back alley or lane: Frankie walked down the mews to the mews where her horse was stabled.
muse (MYOOZ) (verb)
To daydream or to reflect upon something: Latonya will muse upon the suggestion while she is having her morning coffee.
muse (MYOOZ) (noun)
1. A source of inspiration: Randy's mother was the muse for his interest in music.
2. One of several goddesses in Greek mythology responsible for arts and sciences: Did the Muse of Poetry play a lyre when she was singing?

When Fern was a poor and unknown author, she used to muse about the day when she could afford to live in the mews near the sea where she could hear the mews of the gulls flying over the harbor and the mews of the cats of St. Ives.

might, might, mite, mite
might (MIGHT) (noun)
1. Power, authority, or bodily strength: The mayor could use the might of his office to approve the budget for the parade.

The might of the bull was such that he could pull the heavily loaded wagon with ease.

might (MIGHT) (verb)
1. Used to express probability or permission: The supervisor might report the malfunctioning machine to the head office.
2. Considered an alternative expression for "should", "could", and "may": Greg said, "Sam, you might consider making a different choice."
mite (MIGHT) (noun)
Any of a number of very small spider-like bugs which are often parasitic, can invade or infest foods, plants, or animals and may be disease carrying: That bite from a mite on Karen's foot itches a lot.
mite (MIGHT) (adjective)
1. Something very small; such as, a coin: Susana carries a mite coin in her pocket for good luck.
2. To a small degree, somewhat, or slightly: The box could stand to be a mite size bigger.

Linda said, "This is a mite embarrassment, but Jeff needs to tell you something."

The might of the mite should not be underestimated.

milch, zilch (German words)
milch (MILCH) (adjective)
1. A reference to an animal that produces milk: The family had just one milch cow so they could get genuine fresh milk every day.
2. Descriptive of female animals that are capable of processing milk for their young: Milch goats and milch camels are just a couple of additional milk producers besides cows.
zilch (ZILCH) (noun)
1. Zero; nothing: Luis knows zilch about the subject.
2. Amounting to nothing; nil: Sandy has done zilch to help me with this project.

Because she had not been fed nor given any water all day, the milch cow gave zilch milk when the farmer tried to milk her.

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