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.

motif, motive
motif (moh TEEF) (noun)
A recurring detail or idea in a work of art: The flower motif in the panel over the fireplace was beautifully painted.
motive (MOH tiv) (noun)
1. An idea or feeling which inspires an individual to act or to take action: The police were trying to figure out what the motive was for the break-in at the bank because nothing was missing.
2. A reason for doing something: The motive for the kids in running away was to avoid being punished for breaking the window with the football.

The posted reward was a strong motive that inspired Emily to design the signature motif for the entrance to the new library.

mottle, motto
mottle (MAHT 'l) (adjective)
Descriptive of a spotted or blotched surface: The sunshine created a mottle effect on the sidewalk as it shone through the leaves of the trees.
motto (MAHT oh) (noun)
A sentence, phrase, or short expression of the guiding principles for something: The motto for our school is carved into the stone over the main entrance.

The Boy Scout motto is "Be prepared".

The motto for the school, which was carved over the door, was gradually being hidden from view as the lichen, growing on the stone, created a mottle effect that disguised the motif.

mucous, mucus
mucous (MYOO kuhs) (adjective)
1. Slimy or covered with thick slippery substance: There was a mucous like substance on the steps leading down to the river.
2. Pertaining to, consisting of, or resembling a thick, slippery protective substance: The mucous membrane is a thin, wet layer of skin that is inside some part of the body; such as, the nose and throat, which produces mucus.
mucus (MYOO kuhs) (noun)
A thick, slippery substance produced by certain membranes in the body, the purpose of which is to moisten and to protect: When Jeremy sneezed, mucus was visible and he needed a handkerchief to wipe his nose.

In Fay's favorite science fiction book, the victim was covered with mucous, which was disgusting because it reminded her of the mucus secreted by the slugs in her garden.

mulched, mulcted
mulched (MULCH 'd) (verb)
To have covered something with sawdust, compost, etc. to keep weeds down, protect from temperatures, etc.: In the spring, Trudy mulched the garden to keep the weeds from growing.
mulcted (MULKT id) (verb)
1. Punished or fined for some offense, tort, or misdemeanor; penalized: The court mulcted the man for having lied about his car being stolen.
2. To have swindled someone or to have taken something by fraud, trickery, or deception: Bernard L. Madoff mulcted his victims of considerable amounts of money.

Ponzi schemes, named after Charles Ponzi, refers to situations where potential investors were mulcted by being wooed with promises of unusually large monetary returns that were usually attributed to the investment manager's superior skills or some secret knowledge.

Charles Ponzi was a fast-talking immigrant and college dropout, and his scheme, according to Mitchell Zuckoff, Ponzi’s biographer, rested on the eagerness of ordinary working people to benefit from the wealth they saw being generated around them as the economy recovered from World War I, which made it easier for them to be mulcted.

Mulct comes from French mulcter, "to fine, to punish" from Latin mulctare, altered from multare "to punish, to fine" from multa, "penalty, fine". The sense of "to defraud" is first recorded 1748.

Sometimes the lies that were told in court were perceived as having mulched the truth. When the judge realized that the accused had mulcted the public investors, she was determined that he should be mulcted, including being sent to prison.

murmur, murmur
murmur (MUR muhr) (noun)
1. A low sound made when many people are talking, as in an auditorium: It was easy to hear the murmur of voices of the audience during the intermission in the theater.
2. A relatively quiet expression of an opinion or feeling: The conclusion of the speech by the senator brought a murmur of agreement.
3. A low, quiet, and continuous sound: While on the coast at night when Nathan went to bed, he could hear the murmur of the waves along the shore.
4. In medicine, an unusual heart sound that may indicate a problem with the heart's function or structure: Vincent's doctor detected a heart murmur during a routine physical examination.
murmur (MUR muhr) (verb)
1. To say something in a quiet and soft voice: Tony could hear his friend murmur something about having to get home.
2. To make a low, continuous sound: The breeze will murmur again tonight just as it has been murmuring for the last several nights.

An elderly man, with a slight hearing problem, went to get a medical examination and a few days afterward, his doctor saw him walking along the sidewalk with his arm around the waist of a beautiful young woman.

Five days later, the man had another appointment to see the doctor, at which time the doctor commented that his patient seemed to be doing very well.

The man replied by saying, "Yes, I feel great doctor. I did what you told me to do, get a hot mama and be cheerful."

The doctor corrected the man, "I didn't tell you that! I told you that you have a heart murmur and to be careful!"

Later, another patient heard the doctor murmur to the nurse, "That guy certainly has a very unusual heart murmur."

muscle, mussel, muzzle, muzzle
muscle (MUHS uhl) (noun)
Tissue in the body that contracts when stimulated thus causing movement: The muscle in Phil's leg is killing him because he was running too fast and too long.
mussel (MUHS uhl) (noun)
A marine bivalve mollusk common to both the sea and fresh water: The interior of the shell of a mussel is pearly and smooth.
muzzle (MUZ uhl) (noun)
1. The forward, projecting part of the head of certain animals; such as, dogs, including the mouth, nose, and jaws; the snout: Helena pet the muzzle of the cute little puppy.
2. A leather or wire restraining appliance that, when fitted over an animal's snout, prevents biting and eating: The by-law in the city required that every dog wear a muzzle to prevent it from hurting people and other dogs.
3. The forward, discharging end of the barrel of a firearm: Martin pointed the muzzle of the gun at the target and pulled the trigger.
muzzel (MUHS uhl) (verb)
To keep individuals or groups from expressing their thoughts or opinions: The city bosses attempted to muzzle the press to prevent a corruption scandal.

Obviously we cannot muzzle a mussel in order to see its muscle.

musical, musicale
musical (MYOO zi kuhl) (adjective)
1. Relating to a tuneful or harmonious sound; relating to talent to produce such a sound: Trudy showed a keen musical interest as a child and grew up to play the piano very well.
2. A theatrical production characterized by both song and spoken word: Gilbert and Sullivan wrote Todd's favorite musical, The Pirates of Penzance.
musicale (myoo zi KAL) (noun)
A social get-together during which song and instrumental compositions are performed: Clarence and Deanna attended the musicale at the home of Jillian's aunt so they could listen to the string quartet.

One of Rosette's favorite musical pieces is from a famous rendition that her music instructor played at the musicale gatherings at her home.

mustard, mustered
mustard (MUHS tuhrd) (noun)
1. A thick and spicy yellow or brownish-yellow sauce that is usually eaten with meat: Lorna likes yellow mustard on her grilled meat.
2. A plant with yellow flowers, leaves that can be used for food, and seeds that are used in making the sauce to flavor certain kinds of edibles: When the field of mustard is in bloom, it is a beautiful sea of yellow.

mustered (MUHS tuhrd) (verb)
1. Called forth, enrolled, come together: The police mustered the village people to help look for the missing child.
2. Having worked hard to find or to get courage, support, etc.: The men mustered all the strength they could gather together to push the car out of the mud.

The restaurant employees gathered their yellow condiment together to make sure there was an adequate supply; or, in other words, they mustered all of their mustard to make sure they had enough for the next busy days.

mysterious, mythical, mystical
mysterious (mi STIR e uhs) (adjective)
Eliciting wonder and curiosity, but baffling attempts to understand: The scientists were trying to understand the mysterious green light in the sky.
mythical (MITH i kuhl) (adjective)
Legendary or occurring only in the imagination: Ancient stories are filled with mythical characters and creatures.
mystical (MIS ti kuhl) (adjective)
Characterized as having spiritual meaning that is neither obvious to the senses nor to the intellect: All of the people felt that there was a mystical presence in the cathedral.

It is a very mysterious experience to see a mythical story adapted for a stage presentation. The audience may understand the superficial aspects of the drama, but not necessarily the mystical renditions of the narrations.

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