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

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

English can be very confusing; for example, a house burns up as it burns down, a form is being filled in as it is being filled out, and an alarm goes off by going on. How about when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible?

As you examine the groups of words in this unit, you will find many examples of confusions; sometimes, just one or two letters in a word can change its meaning completely. There are also times when two different words get confused because their meanings apply to things that are very similar.

Efforts have been made to help you grasp the meanings of various words 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, [email protected], as the address in your e-mail heading.

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

a lot, allot
a lot (uh LAHT) (noun), always spelled with two words.
A significant or large amount of something or items: James had a lot of things to do before he could go on his vacation.
a lot (uh LAHT) (adverb)
To a great extent or degree: Mildred actually felt a lot better after the operation on her back.
allot (uh LAHT) (verb)
1. To divide and to distribute: In Jim's will, he indicated that he wanted to allot his property to his children.
2. To divide or to assign something for a purpose: Craig wanted to allot some money for the city park.

There was a lot more to be done before Sara could allot the various aspects of the project to the president of the company.

a tire, attire
a tire (uh TIGHR) (noun)
A rubber ring that usually contains air and which fits around the wheel of a car, a bicycle, a truck, etc: Jennifer had to get a tire repaired because it was leaking air.
attire (uh TIGHR) (noun)
Dressed or clothed in; especially, clothing worn on a specific occasion: The principal, Mr. Ryan, notified the students that they must wear proper attire to the prom or they would not be permitted to attend.

A very fashionably dressed young man asked, "Do you think this is the right attire for me to wear when I change a tire on my bicycle?"

a, eh
a (AY) (adjective)
One; any; some; each; expressing singleness, unity: Sam brought a book to class.
eh (AY) (interjection)
1. "What?" A slang term used as an interrogative or to express uncertainty or surprise: "Eh, what did you say?"
2. Used to ask someone to repeat something: Slim was only three feet tall!

"Eh? How's that again?"

3. Urging someone to agree: Let's have another drink, eh?

This use of eh occurs especially in British and Canadian English.

A Canadian was chatting with a friend who asked, “What I described makes a lot of sense, eh?"

abdication, addiction
abdication (ab" duh KAY shuhn) (noun)
A formal resignation and renunciation of powers; such as, a high office, a throne, or an authority; a resignation: The abdication by the king was expected and desired by the citizens of the country.
addiction (uh DIK shuhn) (noun)
A devotion to or an abnormally strong craving and dependence on something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming; such as, caffeine, nicotine, and, especially, alcohol or narcotic drugs: Our friend, Madeline, was still trying to recover from her drug addiction; as well as, her addiction to nicotine via smoking.

When Mildred decided to end her addiction to smoking, Maria and Melissa agreed to support her, including her abdication as organizer of the Friday night social meetings which usually took place in smoky clubs and restaurants.

Abel, able, -able
Abel (AY buhl) (noun)
In the Bible, the second son of Adam and Eve, murdered by his older brother Cain: "Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." Genesis 4:8.
able (AY buhl) (adjective)
1. Having enough power, skill, or means to do something; capable: Neil claimed that his cat was able to see in the dark.
2. Having more power or skill than usual; skillful: Joan Gilbert was an able teacher for more than 40 years.
-able (uh buhl; depending on the word to which it is attached) (a suffix that forms adjectives)
A suffix that forms adjectives from verbs and nouns: Crystal's family was very comfortable sitting around the fireplace and listening to the beautiful recorded music.

Do you think you are able to tell the Biblical story of Cain and Abel without becoming uncomfortable about the horror of death by violence?

ability, capacity
ability (uh BIL i tee) (noun)
The power, gift, or competence to do or to act physically, mentally, legally, financially, etc.: Clara was a young woman with a remarkable musical ability.
capacity (kuh PAS uh tee) (noun)
1. Amount of room or space inside something; the largest amount that is possible of being held by a container: A gallon can has a capacity of four quarts (3.78 liters).
2. Capable of learning or doing; power or fitness: Last year's class of graduates demonstrated a great capacity for learning.

The ability of Congressman Brad Arnold to fill the capacity of the peoples' attention in every town on the lecture circuit was considered an amazing achievement.

Professor Cory apparently was able to demonstrate that his students have an insatiable capacity for obtaining information by using their computers.

ablution, absolution
ablution (ab LYOO shuhn) (noun)
1. A washing of one’s body; washing, bathing, cleaning, bath, lavation: Because of the heat, Pete, a long distance runner, felt the need for more than just one daily ablution.
2. A washing or cleansing as a religious ceremony of purification; ceremonial washing, ritualistic washing: After his ablution in the river, the holy man continued on his journey.
absolution (ab" suh LOO shuhn) (noun)
A freeing from sin, guilt, or blame; or a declaration that frees a person from guilt or punishment for sin: The priest gave absolution to church members which always makes the parishioners feel a great deal better.

There were many visitors to the religious shrine earlier and the water was obviously murky; so, some of the people decided not to take part in the ablution; however, they did participate in the absolution by the religious leader.

abridged, unabridged
abridged (uh BRIJD) (verb)
1. Shortened; to decrease, to condense, or to digest: The book was abridged to a more readable length.
2. Restrict, limit, curtail, diminish, deprive a person of, take away: No country should be allowed to have citizens who have been abridged of their legal rights.
unabridged (un" uh BRIJD) (adjective)
Entire, in full, not shortened, complete: There is an unabridged dictionary on the library table; as well as, an unabridged book about etymologies.

After the famous author submitted an unabridged version of his epic poem to an editor, he abridged the original version for publication in the magazine.

abrogate, arrogate, derogate, delegate, delegate, delicate
abrogate (AB ruh gayt") (verb)
1. To abolish or to annul by authority; to nullify, to cancel: Henry associated himself with those who believe that Congress should abrogate the current tax law.
2. Not doing that which is required of a person or a group of people: The banking officials were accused of trying to abrogate their duties.
arrogate (AIR uh gayt") (verb)
1. To claim, to take, to appropriate, or to assume for oneself without right; as when a person will determine certain privileges for himself: Monroe did indeed arrogate to himself the powers of a general.

Some U.S. Presidents have decided to arrogate the power of congress to declare war.

2. To assign or to attribute to another person without justification: Neil accused the woman next door of wanting to arrogate to herself the power to punish people.
derogate (DER uh gayt") (verb)
1. To take away or to detract: Senator Johnson was warned that such a statement will derogate his reputation.
2. To say or to suggest that someone, or something, is not worthy of respect or is not important: There were times when the man's wife would derogate him for not achieving better pay from his company.
delegate (DEL i git) (noun)
Someone who is authorized or sent to speak and act for others; representative, as at a convention: Every state will send a delegate to the convention.
delegate (DEL i gayt") (verb)
To entrust (authority, power, etc.) to a person acting as one's agent or representative; entrust, assign, give over, charge, commit to the care of: Cheryl wants to delegate her power of attorney to her nephew.

A delegate is someone who is sent with authority to represent another or others; to delegate work or authority is to transfer or to send it to another person.

delicate (DEL i kit) (adjective)
1. Pleasing in its lightness, mildness, subtlety, etc. (a delicate flavor, odor, color, etc.); fine, dainty, exquisite, elegant: Queen Anne wore a long gown of delicate silk.
2. Easily damaged, spoiled, fragile, frail, perishable; dainty: The plate was so delicate that Sarah was afraid to wash it for fear of breaking it.
3. Frail, feeble, debilitated, weakened; infirm, unwell, sickly, ailing: Marie and Jamie were concerned about their little girl's delicate condition.
4. Palatable, savory, delicious, appetizing, luscious: Debra, the hostess, presented a tray of delicate food to her guests.
5. Soft, muted, subdued: Ted and Cheryl had the walls of their apartment painted with a delicate blue color.
6. Exquisite, minute, detailed: Clyde and Donna admired the delicate workmanship on the bronze doors.
7. Tactful, tasteful, diplomatic, careful, sensitive, refined: Jessie Brown, the public relations manager, handled the situation in a delicate manner.

The female senator decided to leave her senatorial seat after she abrogated a decision that would arrogate her right to become a delegate of a congressional committee when a political opponent felt the need to derogate her because of her delicate physical condition.

abs, adds, ads; adz, adze
abs (ABZ) (noun)
An abbreviation for "abdominal muscles": The gym participants are doing sit-up exercises and other related activities so they can develop their abs.
adds (ADZ) (verb)
1. An increase; mathematical summation; totals: Ted, the accountant, usually adds most of the figures in his head.
2. Includes; joins: Cindy adds special greetings whenever she meets her friends.
ads (ADZ) (noun)
A shorter term for "advertisements": Joe was always complaining that he was constantly getting ads, also known as "spam", in his e-mails.
adz or adze (ADZ) (noun)
A cutting tool for shaping heavy timbers, similar to an ax but with a blade set across the end of the handle and curving inward: Ben, the woodsman, used an adze to take the bark off the tree that he had just cut down.

Working out by chopping wood with an adz (adze) really adds to Jim's abs. In fact, he is looking so great, he has been asked to pose for ads in the local fitness-studio publication.

abstain, abstemious
abstain (ab STAYN, uhb STAYN) (verb)
1. To refrain from something by one's own choice: Congressman Adrian Tyler promised to abstain from traditional political rhetoric.
2. To refrain from voting: Forty-five senators voted in favor of the new health bill, forty-five voted against it, and twenty-five decided to abstain.
abstemious (ab STEE mee uhs, uhb STEE mee uhs) (adjective)
Marked by restraint especially in the consumption of food or alcohol: Emily's mother was known as an abstemious eater and drinker who always had healthy meals for her family.

Diana's midlife heart attack made her realize the importance of taking care of her body and so it turned her towards a more abstemious and healthful lifestyle.

The terms abstain and abstemious seem to have similar formats and both have meanings involving "self-restraint" or "self-denial".

Although they may appear to come from the same root and both of them start with the Latin prefix abs-, meaning "from" or "away"; abstain is traced back to abs- plus the Latin verb tenēre, "to hold"; while abstemious gets its -temious from a suffix related to the Latin noun temetum, "intoxicating drink".

abundant, redundant
abundant (uh BUN duhnt) (adjective)
Plentiful, present in great quantities: Some parts of the world are abundant in natural resources.
redundant (ri DUN duhnt) (adjective)
1. Exceeding what is necessary or natural; superfluous: Rachel Crystal edited the report and removed any redundant information or statements.
2. Needlessly wordy or repetitive in expression: Too often student papers are filled with redundant phrases.
3. In Britain, dismissed, laid off, or fired from a job because someone is no longer needed: More than 500 of the company's employees have already been made redundant and it is likely that more will also be declared as being redundant.

Too often a politician's speeches are abundant with redundant statements; in fact, the mayor of of the town became redundant because people were fed up with his abundant unfulfilled promises.

abuse, abuse, misuse, misuse
abuse (uh BYOOZ) (verb)
To commit corrupt practices or activities; to make unfair use: Too many politicians tend to abuse their positions with dishonest practices.
abuse (uh BYOOS) (noun)
Mistreatment, unfair use, improper use: The abuse of public funds is an outrage at anytime and especially so during this economic depression.
misuse (mis YOOZ) (noun)
Improper or incorrect use; misapplication, waste: Writing copies for ads was Vivian's creative talent, although she noticed a misuse of the word "who" in her writing.
misuse (mis YOOS) (verb)
To mistreat or to treat unfairly; to harm or to take advantage of: An arrogant man will generally misuse his friends.

A politician should be careful not to abuse the rights and responsibilities of his or her elected office. Audits of governmental departments often unearth information suggesting that some officials misuse their privileges.

accede, exceed
accede (ahk SEED) (verb)
To comply with; consent to, approve; yield to; to agree with, surrender to: The mayor will accede to the citizens’ demands.
exceed (iks SEED) (verb)
1. To surpass, to go beyond normal requirements or beyond the limit of: The police will give you a ticket if you exceed the speed limit.
2. To excel, predominate, surpass, be superior: Georgia actually did exceed all of the other contestants in the singing contest.

When he appeared before the judge, the miscreant stated he would accede to the court order that he no longer exceed the speed limits on the city streets.

accelerate, exhilarate
accelerate, verb (AK SEL uh rayt") (verb)
1. To cause anything in motion or process to go or move faster; to speed up: To avoid being hit by the truck, Harvey had to accelerate his car.
2. To cause to happen sooner; to hasten: Resting will often accelerate a person’s recovery from an illness.
exhilarate, verb (ig ZIL uh rayt") (verb)
To cause someone to feel very happy and excited: Knowing that their daughter, Bernice, has passed her exam will certainly exhilarate the parents.

When Darren will accelerate his car on the highway, the rush of air through the window will serve to exhilarate him; however, he needs to remember that excessive speed can also accelerate the process of getting a speeding ticket.

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