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

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

A classic story tells how Plato had defined man as a featherless two-tooted animal, and his students agreed. The next day, Diogenes pulled the feathers off a cock and took it to Plato.

"Here's Plato's man," he said.

It was an embarrassing moment for Plato. Thereafter he corrected the definition to "a featherless two-footed animal with flat nails".

Ever since Plato's description, man has never ceased to define man, and has constantly sought a more meaningful self-definition. Voltaire altered the Platonic version, in Candide, to "man is a featherless biped with a soul".

Another unknown author created, "Man is the only animal that eats when he is not hungry, and drinks when he is not thirsty."

—Compiled from the "Foreword" of
Esar's Comic Dictionary by Evan Esar;
Doubleday & Company, Inc.; Garden City, New York; 1983.

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.

bell, belle
bell (BEL) (noun)
1. A hollow metallic instrument, usually cup-shaped, which gives forth a musical tone when struck: The large sonorous bell was hanging in the church tower.
2. Something that rings: The fire bell woke the people up in the middle of the night.
belle (BEL) (noun)
A pretty woman or a beautiful girl: That gown will make Susanne the belle of the ball.

Maude's cousin was the belle of the ball when she wore a silver bell around her neck that chimed softly when she danced.

bellow, bellows, billow, billow
bellow (BEL oh) (verb)
1. To make a loud, bawling noise: The cow started to bellow when the farmer was late to milk her.
2. To shout in a deep voice: Kirby was heard to bellow orders to one of his employees.
bellows (BEL ohz) (noun)
A device that produces a strong current of air when its sides are pressed together: Emery used a bellows to help him start the fire.
billow (BIL oh) (noun)
A surge or swell of water, a rolling mass of something; such as, smoke which resembles the movement of water: The billow of smoke on the horizon worried the fire watch.
billow (BIL oh) (verb)
1. To swell out or to balloon through the action of the wind: The sails on the ship will billow when the wind comes up.
2. To move as a large cloud or mass: Clouds of smoke were seen to billow up from the chimney.

The billow of smoke caused by the blacksmith's bellows caused the cattle in the barn to bellow loudly because the fumes hurt their eyes and throats.

benediction, malediction
benediction (ben" i DIK shuhn) (noun)
1. An invocation of divine blessing, usually at the end of a church service: The minister concluded the church meeting with a prayer of benediction.
2. An expression of good wishes; something that encourages goodness or well-being: At the conclusion of the meeting of the members of the committee, the chairperson spoke a brief benediction, wishing everyone a safe summer holiday.
malediction (mal" i DIK shuhn) (noun)
A curse or an expression of slander: The old patriarch uttered a malediction against the rival clan.

The pastor of the church was aware of the malediction which had been uttered against one of the parishioners.

In order to assure the congregation, the minister said a benediction each day at the end of the service and spoke a personal benediction to each person leaving the church.

beneficent, beneficial
beneficent (buh NEF i suhnt) (adjective)
Characterized by or performing acts of kindness or charity: Many organizations that give aid to the poor have grown out of the beneficent activities of the wives of wealthy manufacturers.
beneficial (ben" uh FISH uhl) (adjective)
1. Producing or promoting a favorable result; advantageous: A beneficial plan for health care is advantageous for everyone.

Exercise is beneficial to good health.

2. Receiving or having the right to receive proceeds or other advantages: A good trade agreement can be a beneficial program for all of the countries involved.

The beneficent organization helped the community in many beneficial ways; such as, drilling for clean water and building new sewers.

benevolence, malevolence
benevolence (buh NEV uh luhns) (noun)
An inclination to perform kind, charitable acts: The queen's benevolence, or kindness and generosity, was known throughout the kingdom.
malevolence (muh LEV uh luhns) (noun)
Having or exhibiting ill will; wishing harm to others; malicious: Dante Maxwell's reputation was damaged by the malevolence of those who wanted to destroy his political career.

The malevolence of the mill owners seemed to poison the whole town; however, the town council had an attitude of benevolence towards the mill workers and made efforts to improve their living conditions.

berg, burg
berg (BURG) (noun)
A great mass of ice; short for iceberg: The news is shocking, but people may find out that the stories they've heard so far are just the tip of the berg.
burg (BURG) (noun)
Slang for a small town: There are no more opportunities for Irwin in this burg.

During the summer, it is not unusual for a large berg to float down the coast of Newfoundland, providing a spectacular drama for those who live in the berg along the coast.

berry, bury
berry (BER ee) (noun)
A small succulent fruit containing few, or many, seeds: such as tomato, grape, gooseberry, strawberry, raspberry, etc.: Berry jam may be made of a single fruit; for example, blueberry jam, or a mixture of fruits.
bury (BER ee) (verb)
1. To cover over and to conceal: When playing on the beach, the children tried to bury their father in the sand.
2. To place in a tomb, grave, etc.: The funeral procession walked slowly to the cemetery to bury the popular mayor of the city.
3. To hide something in the ground: Jonathan could see the dog in the backyard trying to bury a bone.
4. To hide something so it cannot be seen or is difficult to see: Janine has learned to bury her feelings.

The newspaper covered the story, but they tried to bury it in the back of section C.

Rosetta is fond of berry preserves; however, she has learned to bury her enthusiasm for them because her kid sister will try to eat all of the berry preserves if she has the chance.

Rosetta has also tried to bury the jar of berry preserves in the back of the cupboard, but her sister always finds it.

berth, birth
berth (BURTH) (noun)
1. A bunk or bed in a vessel, sleeping car, camper etc.: Linwood found his berth on the train and fell asleep almost immediately.
2. Any place in which a vessel may lie at anchor or at a dock: The ship tied up at the appointed berth.
birth (BURTH) (noun)
1. The fact or act of being born: Scott's wife was about to give birth to their first child.
2. The bringing forth of an offspring: As a new father, Karl was happy to announce the birth of his first son whom he named Karlson.

Once a woman wrote to a travel agent about a cruise she was planning to go on asking that he make sure that she would have a comfortable birth because she was susceptible to seasickness.

The travel agent responded with a note saying, "We can get you a comfortable berth, but as for the birth part, I'm afraid that is beyond our capabilities."

beseech, besiege
beseech (bi SEECH) (verb)
To beg or request in an urgent and anxious manner: Falling to her knees, the princess cried, "Please, kind knight, I beseech you to let me go."

Phillip could hear Cleo beseech the vet not to put her poor dog to "sleep".

besiege (bi SEEJ) (verb)
1. To worry, harass, distress, or to present a request: The city counselors sought to besiege the mayor to repair the roads before winter.

Reporters would besiege the winner of the contest for interviews until he could stand it no longer and so he finally gave in.

2. In warfare, to surround with hostile armed forces: The king’s army sought to besiege the castle before nightfall.

Vincent wrote a letter to beseech the new mayor not to besiege the taxpayers with new taxes on his first day in office.

beside, besides
beside (bi SIGHD) (preposition)
At the side of, next to, near: Todd was seen sitting beside the road.
besides (bi SIGHDZ) (adverb)
Furthermore, moreover, or in addition to: Jane asked, "What would you like to do besides going to the park after lunch, Martin?"

While sitting beside the fast running creek, it made Latonia feel thirsty besides feeling hungry after her hike.

better, bettor
better (BET uhr) (adjective)
The comparative for of "good"; good, better, best: Debora played the piano better today than she did last week.
bettor (BET uhr) (noun)
Someone who places a wager on the outcome of some action: The bettor made a bet that his political choice of candidates would win the election.

As a more skillful wager, or gambler; Norman, was known as a better bettor among his friends.

bewilder, perplex, puzzle, puzzle
bewilder (bi WIL duhr) (verb)
To confuse, to perplex, or to lose one's bearings: The many choices of activities in the city served only to bewilder the traveler.
perplex (puhr PLEKS) (verb)
To be unable to think logically or clearly about something; to make intricate or involved: The situation served only to perplex and to confuse the two sisters.
puzzle (PUZ uhl) (noun)
1. A question or problem that requires thought, skill, or cleverness to be answered or solved: Researchers are close to finding a solution, but they haven't found the final pieces of the puzzle.
2. A problem or situation that is difficult to solve: On Saturday afternoon, the family worked on the crossword puzzle that was in the newspaper.

The cause of the accident was a real puzzle for the investigators to resolve.

puzzle (PUZ uhl) (verb)
To confuse people or to be difficult for anyone to understand: The crime continued to puzzle the police.

This word puzzle in the newspaper is going to perplex Clarence for a long time. There are several possible right answers and it will continue to bewilder him until he asks for help so he can finish the puzzle.

bi-, buy, by, bye, bye, bye, bye-bye, bye-bye
bi- (BIGH) (adjective)
A prefix meaning "two": Humans are considered to be bipeds; that is, having two feet.

The festival was scheduled to be a biannual affair.

buy (BIGH) (verb)
To acquire the ownership of something, for money or other equivalent; to purchase: Trudy and Chris went to the bank for a loan so they could buy a house.
by (BIGH) (preposition)
Next to; near; beside: Please, put the chair by the table.
bye (BIGH) (interjection)
An informal way of saying "goodbye" or an expression of farewell: Jack said, "Bye! I'll see you tomorrow."

Standing next to the car, the children waved bye to the visitors.

bye (BIGH) (adjective)
A secondary matter, a side issue: Grace made a bye remark that changed Jim's opinions completely regarding buying a new house.
bye (BIGH) (noun)
The position of someone who draws no opponent for a round in a tournament and so advances to the next round: She got a bye into the second round of the tennis tournament.
bye-bye (BIGH-BIGH) (interjection)
A farewell often used by children or when speaking to children: Mother said, "Let's go, Trudy. Say goodbye to grandma and grandpa." Trudy responded by saying, "bye-bye"!
bye-bye (BIGH-BIGH) (adverb)
In the United States, a very informal meaning, to go away, which is used in imitation of children's speech: When the company went bankrupt, investors watched their money go bye-bye.

Vincent went into town to buy a bicycle. He didn't realize it was the bicentennial celebration in town; so, he stood by the monument to watch. Then he saw Stanley, a friend. They chatted and then they waved bye to each other as Stanley was carrying his little son, who smiled and waved bye-bye to Vincent.

bi-, semi-
bi- (BIGH), prefix = (noun)
1. Two times: Jeff and Lorna came to visit us bimonthly each year.
2. Coming or happening two times: Something which can occur on a biannual basis or that is happening twice a year.
semi- (SEM igh, SEM ee), prefix = (noun)
1. Half of: The teacher was clever and could draw a perfect semicircle free hand.
2. Occurring halfway through a designated period of time: Vincent's semiannual visit to his cousin took place twice a year.

The festival was held on a semiannual basis.

3. Partial or incomplete: Dale wanted to visit the semitropical area on his next vacation.

After the accident, the patient was only semiconscious.

The biannual celebrations in the town coincided with the semiannual spelling bee at the local school.

biannual, biennial, perennial
biannual (bigh AN yoo uhl) (adjective)
Occurring twice a year; semiannual: The family got together on a biannual basis to celebrate birthdays.
biennial (bigh EN ee uhl) (adjective)
Occurring every two years: Electing senators occurs on a biennial basis.
perennial (puh REN ee uhl) (adjective)
Persistent over a period of several years; continuing without interruption: The flowers in the border around the garden were of a perennial nature, ensuring bright colors year after year.

Edna's country cousins come to visit on a biannual basis; however, her cousins who live across the ocean come here on biennial trips. It is always great fun to garden together; Jane and Carmen like to plant perennial flowers which will be in bloom whenever their cousins come to visit them.

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

Pointing back to Confusing Words Quizzes, Part AConfusing Words: Units, Groups A to Z.

Pointing back to Confusing Words Quizzes, Part A Confusing Words: Vocabulary Quizzes Listed.