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.

born, borne
born (BORN) (verb)
To bring into existence: Shelby's daughter was born yesterday at the hospital.
borne (BORN) (verb)
To carry, support, or to hold up: Duane has borne a gift for the family from Africa.

When the king’s first child was born, he decided she would be borne to the church for the christening.

borough, burro, borrow, burrow, burrow
borough (BUR oh) (noun)
A village or a political division of a city or an incorporated town or municipality, that is smaller than a city which may be perceived as part of a larger metropolitan area: In the metropolis of New York, Queens is a borough where many people live.
burro (BUR oh) (noun)
A small donkey often used as a pack animal: The miners used a burro to carry their mining equipment over the mountains.
borrow (BOR oh) (verb)
1. To take for one's use: Carol went to the library to borrow a few books.
2. To use an idea, saying, etc. that was thought up by someone else: The speaker decided to borrow several phrases in his presentation that came from Winston Churchill.
burrow (BUR oh) (noun)
A small hole made in the ground as by a rabbit for habitation and refuge: Beatrice Potter’s story book character of Peter Rabbit and his family lived in a comfortable burrow.
burrow (BUR oh) (verb)
To tunnel by digging either by hand or with machinery: The engineers used a large bore to burrow through the hillside while building the railroad.

When Raul went to the borough, the miner rode a burro to the bank to borrow some money because he wanted to buy a piece of land so he could dig a burrow where he could bury his valuable mining products.

bough, bow, bow
bough (BOU) (noun)
A branch of a tree, often the largest or main branch: The tree surgeon noted the bough of the walnut tree was very old and needed to be removed.
bow (BOU) (noun)
1. A bending forward: The man made a bow to the king.
2. The front part of a vessel: The bow of the ship was crushing through the winter ice.
bow (BOU) (verb)
To bend in greeting or to submit one's self: Lenora had to bow to the queen's wishes.

The mast head on the bow of the ship was carved like a bough in which was seated a sea nymph.

bouillon, bullion
bouillon (BOOL yahn, BOOL yuhn) (noun)
A thin, clear soup; usually of beef: At the dinner party, the host served bouillon as the first course.
bullion (BOOL yuhn) (noun)
Gold or silver in bars or plates, but not in coin formats: The mules hauled the miners' bullion over the mountains in a special wagon.

The very rich and very foolish man decided to have his bullion melted into grand bowls in which to serve bouillon to his guests.

bourgeois, proletariat
bourgeois (boor ZHWA, BOOR zhwa") (noun)
An individual or group that is perceived socially and economically as the middle class; a tendency towards material interests and respectability: By living in town, the farmer attempted to be a bourgeois in his lifestyle.
proletariat (pro" li TAR ee it) (noun)
Of or pertaining to the lower social or economic class in a community, such as industrial workers or laborers: The proletariat attempted to form a union at the linen mill in an effort to improve their living standards."

In the very class conscious society of the last century, there were clear distinctions between the bourgeois, who lived in grand houses, and the proletariat, who lived in small and crowded huts.

boy, buoy, buoy
boy (BOI) (noun)
A young male child: They brought their boy to the concert, too.
buoy (BOO ee, BOI) (noun)
1. A warning float moored on a dangerous rock or shoal or at the edge of a channel: The buoy in the harbor was painted red and white and had a bell on the top of its head which rang to attract the attention of the sailors.
2. A cork belt or jacket to keep a person from sinking: All ships and boats should carry one buoy or life jacket for each passenger and crew member.
buoy (BOO ee, BOI) (verb)
To hold up; to encourage: The good news will buoy up our hopes for the results of the elections.

Edgar has never heard that there is such a thing as a "female float" or girl buoy, but isn't it possible to say that there is such a thing as a "male float" called a boy buoy?

One thing is certain, a girl can either buoy up the self confidence of a boy or she can mutilate his ego.

When a sea gull swooped and lit on a buoy that bobbed in the bay, he said, "As here I sit, buoy meets gull. Hey, hey."

braid, braid, brayed
braid (BRAYD) (verb)
To create a hairstyle or a decorative band by the interweaving of three strands of hair, narrow ribbon, etc.: Tracy's hairdo was very simple and she decided to braid it with a colored ribbon.
braid (BRAYD) (noun)
Decorative ribbons worn on clothing or indicating a military rank or achievement: The officer had braid on his uniform to indicate that he had been enlisted in the military service for several years.
brayed (BRAYD) (verb)
Past tense of the verb bray; the loud, harsh call or noise uttered by a donkey: At day break, as the farmer went out to feed his horses, the donkey brayed for attention in the pasture.

Brent's donkey brayed very loudly when he tried to braid its tail.

braise, brays, brays, braze
braise (BRAYZ) (verb)
To cook meat, or other food, by searing it until it is brown, then simmering it in a covered pan: The hostess said she would braise the short ribs before putting them in the oven.
brays (BRAYZ) (noun)
1. The loud harsh cries of a donkey: The farmer could hear the brays of the donkeys which were in the pasture.
2. Sounds that are uttered loudly and harshly: Karl's voice was very disagreeable and reminded Josie of the brays of a donkey.
brays (BRAYZ) (verb)
To make a loud unpleasant cry: The mule brays apparently when it is hungry.
braze (BRAYZ) (verb)
To solder with a hard brass-like metal with a low melting temperature used to hold pieces of metal together: The blacksmith attempted to braze the decorative piece for the saddle which had been broken.

After working very hard trying to braze a sword for his friend, the blacksmith’s throat was so dry his voice sounded like the brays of the burro.

Tyler was very hungry so he went home and decided to braise a steak for his dinner.

brake, break
brake (BRAYK) (noun)
1. A device for slowing or stopping a vehicle or wheel; especially, by friction: The hand brake failed to stop the car.
2. An instrument for separating the fiber of flax, hemp, etc. by bruising or crushing it: The museum had a fine example of a brake for flax in the weaving house.
break (BRAYK) (verb)
1. To separate into parts or fragments; to shatter: Such a strong vibration will break the wine glasses that are on the shelf.
2. To crack without separating something into parts: The glass used for drinking will break with a crack, or cracks, if it is knocked over.

When Sam was driving in the winter, he had to suddenly brake the car; as a result, he hit the telephone pole and it caused the windshield to break. He was very relieved that he didn't break any of his bones.

braking, breaking, breaking
braking (BRAY king) (verb)
Using a device for slowing or stopping something; such as, a vehicle: The vehicle in front of Jim was braking suddenly because a cat ran across the street in front of it.
breaking (BRAY king) (verb)
Separating something into parts or pieces often in a sudden and forceful or violent way: Samantha was so upset that she was throwing and breaking dishes on the floor out of frustration.
breaking (BRAY king) (noun)
Something unexpected that is news known publicly for the first time: The television station often presents Breaking News; sometimes excessively.

Peter was afraid of braking the car too swiftly and accidentally breaking the windshield; because in his small town, that would be considered BREAKING news!

breach, breach, breech
breach (BREECH) (noun)
1. An opening made by breaking down something solid; such as, a gap made in a wall or fortification: There was a breach in several places of the wall so the soldiers could get into the fortress.
2. A breaking or the neglect of a law, a trust, etc.; an infraction or infringement: For the guard to leave now would be a breach of duty.
3. A breaking of friendly relations; a quarrel: A misunderstanding caused a breach between me and my friend.
breach (BREECH) (verb)
To create a hole or gap in a wall, to break through: From the ship Milton watched the whale breach the surface of the glassy sea.

The medieval warriors used a battering ram to breach the wall and to complete the invasion of the town.

breech (BREECH) (noun)
1. The lower rear portion of the human trunk; the behind, posterior; hind part: A breech is an old-fashioned word for the "backside" of the body.
2. The part of a firearm (gun) to the rear of the bore: Flame flew out of the breech of the gun because of the defective bullets he was using.

After the gun discharged, the hunter used the breech to make a breach in the wall of the cabin.

This was a breach of the trespassing law and resulted in a breach in the relationship between the hunter and the owner of the cabin.

bread, bred
bread (BRED) (noun)
A baked food made of flour or meal: Cheri just took a loaf of pumpernickel bread from the oven.
bred (BRED) (verb)
1. To bring forth offspring or babies: The horticulturalist, Jewel, bred a new strain of flowers in her garden and took them to the fair.
2. Having caused to reproduce; especially, by controlled mating and selection: The farmer took his cow to his neighbor's bull where she was bred in hopes that a new calf would be born in the spring.
3. To train or to inspire good manners: The teacher worked hard and her students indicated that they had been properly bred by using good manners when they went to the concert.

The farmer worked with the genetics department of the university and bred a new strain of wheat which was excellent for making bread.

breadth, breath, breathe
breadth (BREDTH) (noun)
Width: The breadth of the prairies is incredible.
breath (BRETH) (noun)
Air which is inhaled and exhaled during breathing: The loss of breath can be a dangerous symptom.
breathe (BREETH) (verb)
To draw in and to expel air out of the lungs: Barry rose quickly to the surface of the water from the bottom of the swimming pool so he could breathe again.

Lloyd tried to breathe deeply, inhaling a fresh breath of air. He hoped this exercise would increase the breadth of his chest.

Breton, Britain, Briton
Breton (BRET'n) (adjective)
Relating to Brittany or its people, language (Celtic), or culture: Leo emphasized that he was a Breton from Brittany, not a Briton from Great Britain.
Britain (BRIT'n) (noun)
Great Britain: England, Scotland, and Wales. It is separated from the mainland of Europe by the English Channel and from Ireland by the Irish Sea: Oscar and Emily had a very interesting trip to Great Britain last summer.
Briton (BRIT'n) (noun)
A native or inhabitant of Great Britain: Winston Churchill is considered to have been a noble Briton.

Tracy's uncle described himself as a Breton whose ancestors long ago immigrated to Britain; after that, her relatives were considered to be from Briton.

brewed, brood
brewed (BROOD) (verb)
1. To have made ale or beer from malt and hops: Warren went to the place where they brewed the beer for his store.
2. To instigate or to incite: Greg brewed discontent and trouble with the audience.
brood (BROOD) (noun)
1. The young of certain animals; especially, a group of young birds or fowl hatched at one time and cared for together: The mother hen had a colorful brood of chicks.
2. The children of a family: The new neighbor has quite a brood of five children.

Edith's brood of six children often brewed trouble in the quiet neighborhood.

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

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