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.

milestone, millstone
milestone (MIGHL stohn") (noun)
1. A marker that shows distances in miles between specified places: The ancient Roman roads used to have a carved milestone to indicate a "mile", but all of them have disappeared because later generations used them as part of the construction in buildings.
2. Figuratively, a decisive moment or turning point in the lives of people, in careers, or in various periods in history, etc.: George planned a celebration to mark the most recent milestone in his career, being appointed CEO of the company.
millstone (MIL stohn") (noun)
1. One of two large stones used for grinding grain: In the past, much of the world's grains were ground into fine meals by having one millstone rub against another one.
2. Figuratively, a heavy burden, problem, or responsibility that does not go away and which makes it difficult or impossible to do or to achieve an objective or target: For some students, a college loan can quickly become a millstone making it very difficult, or impossible, for them to achieve their goals.

The scandal became a political millstone for the candidate who was running for office.

For Stanley, a millstone (serious problem) made it impossible for him to take advantage of the milestone that might have become available to him.

militate, mitigate
militate (MIL uh tayt") (verb)
1. To have an influence; especially, a negative one, on something; such as, to make something unlikely to happen or to prevent it from happening: Bill's inexperience will militate against him getting an early promotion.
2. To have weight or an effect, to serve as a strong influence: Danny's youthful appearance can only militate against him getting into a high position in the company; at least for now.
mitigate (MIT uh gayt") (verb)
1. To make an offense or crime less serious or more excusable: The lawyer tried to mitigate the circumstances of his client's crime so the punishment or penalty would be reduced, because evidence was produced that encouraged and enabled the judge to be less severe.
2. To make something less harsh, severe, or violent; to moderate in force or intensity: There's no way to mitigate the effect of that unfavorable report.

These two often-confused words have different, mutually exclusive meanings and they function in different ways.

Militate does not take a noun object, but is followed by a preposition, often "against", plus a noun. It means "to have an influence, especially a negative one, on something": "Trade sanctions militate [not mitigate] against international cooperation."

Mitigate needs a noun object and means "to lessen the impact or degree of seriousness of something undesirable"; for example, "A six-month suspended sentence unfairly mitigates the seriousness of a vehicular homicide. There were mitigating circumstances beyond his control."

millenary, millenary, millinery
millenary (MIL uh ner" ee, muh LEN uh ree) (noun)
Time or other concepts measured in thousand(s): There were celebrations planned for the new millenary.
millenary (MIL uh ner" ee, muh LEN uh ree) (adjective)
Descriptive of things that are counted in thousands; such as, the doctrine of the millennium; millenarian or millenarians: Luis was considered an expert about the millenary.
millinery (MIL uh ner" ee) (noun)
Articles, especially women's hats, sold by someone who deals with such products: In this millinery, people can buy fabulous hats that are one of a kind designs.

The sign in the window of the millinery shop proclaimed: "We have passed a millenary in terms of the number of hats sold."

mince, mince, mints, mints
mince (MINS) (noun)
Finely chopped bits of food: The mixed fruit mince makes a lovely pie.
mince (MINS) (verb)
1. To chop one's food finely: Because Jim's throat is sore and it is difficult to swallow, he must mince all his food for the next few days.
2. To speak or to walk in a prim and fastidious manner: When the children were playing make-believe, they liked to mince their words to sound like grownups.

Because of the ice, Sally had to mince her way across the street to avoid falling.

mints (MINS) (noun)
1. Plants of the Labiate plant family which have flavorful leaves used for flavoring and cooking: Mike has several different mints growing in his garden.
2. Candies or confections that have a strong, distinctive and refreshing flavor: Janine has chocolate mints for an after-dinner treat.
3. Locations where money or medals are coined: There are two mints located in our city; unfortunately they do not give away free samples.
mints (MINS) (verb)
To manufacture money or medals: The coin-making company in the city mints about 200 different coins each day.

The recipe said to mince the mints before adding them to the mixture. A woman was making a new delicacy to take on a picnic where she and her friends were going to listen to a speech about why the city needed two new mints to replace an older one; in addition, she took several refreshing mints to savor and to share with her friends.

mind, mind, mined
mind (MIGHND) (verb)
To pay attention to; to follow orders: Jane commented, "Mind your step as the sidewalk is slippery."

Tom's mother said, "When your teacher tells you to do something, you are expected to mind."

mind (MIGHND) (noun)
1. The human consciousness that originates in the brain and is manifested in thought, memory, perception, felling, will, and imagination: It's important to keep the mind active; especially, as people grow older.

Tamika's friend told Nell that she couldn't concentrate because her mind was always wandering and she couldn't keep it focused on anything.

2. A collective or group which reflects public attitudes, etc.: The public mind is not supportive of building the new bridge.
mined (MIGHND) (verb)
1. To have placed explosives in a position so as to destroy or disrupt something: The engineers mined the mountain for iron ore using dynamite.

The road was mined with explosives making it dangerous to use.
2. To dig for valuable metals or ore: The men mined for gold in the abandoned mine in the mountain.

The difference between a railway conductor and a school teacher is that the conductor minds the train and the teacher trains the mind.

miner, minor, minor
miner (MIGH nuhr) (noun)
An individual who digs for precious metals or other underground resources: Greg's neighbor is the fourth generation in his family to be a coal miner.
minor (MIGH nuhr) (adjective)
1. Relatively unimportant: Philip was a minor poet who has published two books during his career.
2. Not involving serious risk to one’s life: Laurel has a minor illness that requires her to stay in bed for just a few days.
minor (MIGH nuhr) (noun)
1. Someone who has not achieved the age of majority and therefore not yet able to assume civic responsibilities: Janine will be a minor until her next birthday, which is in three months; then, she will be classified as an adult.
2. In music it refers to an interval between the keys on a piano which gives the finished composition a sad or depressed tone, in comparison to major intervals which make the music very happy and joyful: Listening to the song, which was written in key minor, Karin became very thoughtful and sad.

The company employed a young coal digger who was the first minor miner to be hired in several years.

minuet; minute, minutes; minute
minuet (min" yoo ET) (noun)
A slow dance of the 17th century characterized by bowing, forward balancing and toe pointing or the music to accompany such a dance: The composer wrote a new minuet for the dancers to perform for the royal court.

Shanna and Carolina were listening to the delightful minuet played by the string quartet.

minute, minutes (MIN it, MIN its) (noun)
1. A unit of time equal to 60 seconds or one 60th of an hour: Jack called out, "Jim, it is now one minute after midnight!"
2. The written record kept about the proceedings of meetings: The secretary printed the minutes from the morning's meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, the secretary read the minutes of the previous meeting.

3. Quickly, a short space or passage of time: Mr. Smith said, "Dale, Fern will be with you in a minute."
minute (migh NOOT, migh NYOOT) (adjective)
1. Of little importance, trifling: There appeared to be a minute flaw in the new paint job on Norman's car.
2. Very complete and precise: Jillian told Boris what happened at the meeting in minute details.

Shareen, will you dance the minute minuet with me? It requires minute care lest I tread on your toes.

missal, missile
missal (MIS uhl) (noun)
A Roman Catholic book containing all of the prayers and responses for the celebration of the Mass: Alisa's new missal contained all of the prayers and other aspects of the Church services that she would need.
missile (MIS uhl, mis IGHL) (noun)
1. An object which is thrown with the intention of striking something: The boys used a water filled balloon as a missile when they were playing in the park.
2. A rocket which can be projected or fired towards a target; an unmanned weapon propelled by its own power; such as, a rocket: The missile was launched from the research station.

Silly Billy tore a page out of the missal and folded it into a missile which he was throwing around in his backyard.

missed, mist, mist
missed (MIST) (verb)
1. To fail to make contact with someone or to fail to hit something aimed at: When Jeremy telephoned, he was told that he just missed the person with whom he wanted to talk.

Eugenia missed hitting the fly with the swatter.

2. To avoid something: Todd just missed being hit by the bicycle in the intersection.
3. To notice or to feel the absence of someone or something: When Goldie reread her essay, she realized she had missed several key points.
4. Failure to participate in or to attend something: Randy missed several lectures this year due to illness.
mist (MIST) (noun)
A large mass of vapor at or just above the earth's surface, like fog but less dense: There was a fine mist in the valley that obscured Ingrid's view from the hillside.
mist (MIST) (verb)
To dim, to cloud, or to obscure: Time has a tendency to mist our memories.

The cloud of very fine drops of water didn't get Carlos wet because the mist missed his area.

moan, moan, mown
moan (MOHN) (noun)
A prolonged lamentation; sound of grief; a low, drawn out, mournful sound, usually indicating sorrow or pain: At the news of the king's death, a loud moan rose from the crowd.
moan (MOHN) (verb)
To make a sound of lamentation or an expression of grief or a similar sound made by something: Jillian was heard to moan in sorrow when her favorite pet was injured.

Polly could hear the wind moan in the trees on the windy night.

mown (MOHN) (verb)
1. The process of cutting down plants; for example, grass with a specifically designed machine: The lawn was neatly mown using the new lawn mower.
2. With a violent connotation; such as, to have cut down or to have eliminated people by using a gun or similar equipment; to destroy a great number of people, as in battle: The victims were mown down by the gangsters who used a machine gun.

After Marla had mown (or mowed) her lawn, she collapsed onto the grass with a long moan because she was so hot and tired.

moat, molt, mote
moat (MOHT) (noun)
A wide, deep ditch, usually filled with water, around a medieval town, fortress, or castle for protection against attacks; part of the defense system of any fortified place: The hero swam the moat in order to reach the castle and rescue the captive princess.
molt (MOHLT) (verb)
To shed or to cast off a covering of hair, feathers, skin, etc. which is then replaced with new growth in the same place: The new chicks will molt their fluffy yellow feathers which will then be replaced by darker adult feathers.

Snakes molt as they grow, shedding the old skin and growing a larger new skin.

mote (MOHT) (noun)
A tiny speck or particle of dust, dirt, etc.: Philip likes to watch the mote dance in the sunbeam coming through his window.

Against the sunlight, Brian could see the dust mote settling onto the water of the moat. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched the ducks, that were swimming on the moat, molt their winter feathers.

mob, mob
mob (MAHB) (noun)
1. A large crowd or group of people who are upset about something or who are out of control: The violent mob smashed store windows, car windows, and were generally destructive.
2. A large number of people: The winning team was greeted and surrounded by a mob of excited fans.
mob (MAHB) (verb)
1. To move close to someone, or a group, in an excited way: The actor's fans would mob him whenever he and his wife appeared in public.
2. To come together in a place when there are crowds of other people: The shoppers were expected to mob the stores when they started to reduce the prices; indeed, the stores were mobbed with people who were trying to get things at much lower costs.

The mob in the parking lot was highly excited by the mob of players swarming out of the stadium. They all agreed to mob at the local pub for fish and chips before heading home.

mobile, mobile, movable
mobile (MOH buhl, MOH beel", MOH bighl") (noun)
An artistic creation assembled to balance and move in the wind: The mobile of paper birds moved gently in the breeze outside on the veranda.
mobile (MOH buhl, MOH beel", MOH bighl") (adjective)
1. Characteristic of the mixture of social groups or people: James and Jane were an upwardly mobile couple and soon moved to a new neighborhood.
2. Changeable, versatile: Kevin's mobile facial features were an asset for his acting career.
3. Capable of being moved or of moving: Shelby had a mobile telephone in her purse which she used often.
movable (MOOH vuh buhl) (adjective)
Not fixed, not permanent, able to be transferred to a different location: During Lucinda's summer vacations, she lived in a movable home which was located on the shores of a nearby lake.

The local artist was commissioned to create a large mobile to hang in the central hall of the bank. This mobile was made of lightweight materials which made it easily movable from the studio for installation.

mode, mode, mowed
mode (MOHD) (noun)
Common fashion or style: Effie liked to dress in the current mode.

As a teacher, Ryan sometimes used the latest mode of hip vocabulary when talking with his students.

mode (MOHD) (adjective)
The most frequently occurring value in a set of data: The mode number in the list the teacher put on the blackboard was three.
mowed (MOHD) (verb)
To have cut down something; for example, grass: Douglas mowed the lawn yesterday morning while it was still cool.

In the mode of the day, the landscape artist mowed the lawn into artistic patterns which were very impressive.

mogul, mongrel
mogul (MOH guhl) (noun)
1. An important, powerful, or prominent person: Joshua was the most important mogul in the manufacturing industry.
2. An individual who is a descendant from several groups of Mongol, Persians, or Turkish people who invaded India: The prince was a Mogul and was proud of his ancestry which he investigated when he was visiting in South Asia.
3. A mound of hard compacted snow formed as an obstacle on a ski slope: When skiing down the hill, Tracie was careful to watch for the mogul near the bottom of the hill.
mongrel (MUHNG gruhl, MAHNG gruhl) (noun)
A dog with parents of different or mixed breeds: This friendly mongrel wandered into Henry's backyard today.

The mogul at the movie studio was an avid skier and knew how to handle the mogul on the slopes; in an interview, he said he would like to adopt a mongrel for a pet instead of a dog with a pedigree.

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