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.

brews, bruise
brews (BROOZ) (verb)
1. To create a beverage by steeping or soaking (tea) or by fermentation (beer): Cindy always brews her tea for exactly ten minutes.

The company brews several different types of beer for the consumer.

2. To bring about or to plot, to contrive: Trouble brews when the union members are unhappy with their contract.
bruise (BROOZ) (noun)
Discoloration on the skin caused by the breaking of blood vessels as the result of an injury: After the boxer won the round, he had a big bruise over his right eye.

Dan's black eye and the bruise on his arm are the result of the trouble that brews between the union workers on strike and the non-union workers; both of which sometimes get physical about the issues.

bridal, bridle, bridle
bridal (BRIGHD'l) (adjective)
Referring to a bride or a wedding: She changed her bridal gown right after the marriage ceremony.
bridle (BRIGHD'l) (noun)
The head harness, including bit and reins, used to guide or to restrain a horse: The woman had trouble putting the bridle on her restless horse.
bridle (BRIGHD'l) (verb)
To show resentment by pulling back one's head and neck during a conversation or a confrontation: Kim's sister would bridle whenever her boyfriend talked to another woman.

Bridal, a harness for a man.

—J. Bailey

A bridle path is associated with grooms, not brides, and with halters, not altars.

—Evan Esar

The bridle on the horse was decorated with the same colors of flowers as those which the members of the bridal group carried during the marriage ceremony.

brief, short, short
brief (BREEF) (noun)
A concise statement or letter: The lawyer prepared a brief in preparation for the trial.
short (SHORT) (adjective)
1. Being of limited duration, abrupt, passing quickly: There was a short pause in the speech before the senator continued.
2. Containing or cooked with a grease based ingredient: The pie crust was very short, flaky and delicious.
short (SHORT) (adverb)
Insufficient: The supplies in the store room were short several boxes.

The lawyer prepared a brief that was submitted to the courts; however, the judge said it was too short and so he requested the lawyer to prepare a more comprehensive brief.

bring, take
bring (BRING) (verb)
1. To come with something or someone to a place: Rita said that she would bring the money when she comes to Edna's house.
2. To move or carry to a place where some action is to occur: The students were asked to bring the books from the storeroom to the library to be put on shelves.
take (TAYK) (verb)
To get something into one’s possession or command: In a moment of passion, James attempted to take the young lady’s hand in his.

When Calvin comes to your house, he will bring a box of cookies which you and he can take to the party tonight.

brink, drink, drink
brink (BRINGK) (noun)
The edge at the top of a steep cliff; usually, used figuratively to refer to a point that is very close to the occurrence of something very bad or very good: The tree grew on the brink of the cliff.

Derrick nearly lost everything because of his excessive drinking, but his friends were successful in pulling him back from the brink of disaster.

Medical scientists may be on the brink of finding a cure for the mental disease.

drink (DRINGK) (verb)
1. To put a liquid in one’s mouth in order to swallow it: Greg held the flask to his mouth to drink the cool water.
2. To absorb or to receive avidly: The students appeared to drink in all that the professor said in class.
drink (DRINGK) (noun)
A beverage, non-alcoholic or alcoholic: The students went to the cafe for a drink when they finished their examinations.

In the early hours of the morning, Tommy stood on the brink of the Grand Canyon to drink his coffee. The view, the aroma, and the taste of the coffee were exhilarating.

brochure, leaflet, pamphlet
brochure (broh SHOOR) (noun)
A small book or publication containing descriptive or advertising information: The realtor put a brochure about the new house in the mailbox.
leaflet (LEE flit) (noun)
1. Botanical, a small, young foliage: In the spring, the students examined the leaflet on the branch of the tree.
2. A printed publication usually for distribution free of charge, typically one page in length: Gordon's first job was to distribute the leaflet put out by the grocery store to advertise the store sales.
pamphlet (PAM flit) (noun)
A printed publication that is unbound or with a soft, paper cover: The members of the Student Union distributed a pamphlet outlining their concerns to the school administration.

The emblem on the pamphlet resembled a leaflet. The pamphlet was distributed to subscribers who also received a small leaflet which described the brochure which would be published in spring.

brook, brook
brook (BROOK) (verb)
To put up with; to tolerate: Troy's parents said they would brook no further discussion with him.
brook (BROOK) (noun)
A small stream, often a shallow or intermittent tributary to a river: The brook was flowing near Rita's backyard out in the country.

The farmer decided that he could brook the small brook that crossed his fields even though the brook usually flooded his fields every spring.

broom, groom, groom
broom (BROOM) (noun)
An implement used for sweeping, usually consisting of a bunch of twigs, straw, or bristles bound together and attached to a stick or handle: He used a broom to sweep off the sidewalk in front of his house.
groom (GROOM) (noun)
1. A person who is employed to take care of horses or a stable for horses: He will be the groom for the horses that will be used in the coming competition.
2. A man who has just married or is about to be married: The bride and the groom have just completed the necessary vows for marriage.
groom (GROOM) (verb)
1. To remove dirt and parasites from the skin, fur, or feathers of an animal or for another animal: The cat can groom itself, but sometimes animals groom others; such as, one monkey has been seen to groom another one by looking for and eating fleas, etc. from the fur.
2. To prepare someone for a particular job or position: Someone will groom a new person with the right skills to take over as the head of this department.

Constable or "officer of the stable", the chief groom

In medieval France, the head groom of a stable was called, in Late Latin, comes stabuli, "officer of the stable".

During those times, horses were extremely valuable for their uses in transportation and in war. Being in charge of the horses was an important job; therefore, comes stabuli came to refer to a high officer of a royal or noble household, or to a higher military officer.

The present form of constable now refers to any of various public officers of the peace. In England, a policeman is known as a "constable".

—Based on information from
Webster's Word Histories; Merriam-Webster, Inc., Publishers;
Springfield, Massachusetts; 1989; page 118.

Early in the morning, the groom used a broom to groom the gravel walk leading to the church.

Mario chuckled, thinking that this was a great way to groom himself to be not only a well trained groom, but also a helpful husband.

brows, browse
brows (BROUZ) (noun)
The superciliary ridge over the eyes, the eyebrows: The prominent brows on Bernard's face accentuated his deep brown eyes.
browse (BROUZ) (verb)
1. To inspect leisurely and casually; to read by skimming: Sitting on a bench in the park, Alfred liked to browse through the books he carried there with him.
2. To nibble on vegetation; such as, leaves or young shoots: Everyday the sheep would browse on the grass in the meadow while the shepherd and his dog took care of them.

Grace's brows wrinkled as she tried to browse the shelves in the store looking for a particular book.

She knew the title started with: "They browse the fields" ... but she couldn't remember the rest of it.

brunt, burnt
brunt (BRUNT) (noun)
The principle force or stress: The dam on the river bore the brunt of the flood waters thus protecting the villages in the valley.
burnt (BURNT) (verb)
Having been injured or damaged by severe rubbing against a rough surface which has resulted in painful heat to someone's skin: When Jill fell, the little girl's knees were burnt because they were scraped on the rocky path.

When Sylvia's aunt slipped, she bore the brunt of her weight on the palms of her hands which were burnt by the sidewalk when she fell.

buccal, buckle, buckle
buccal (BUK'l) (adjective)
The cheek or a reference to the mouth: The buccal nerve on Derek's right cheek was irritated by the infected tooth.
buckle (BUK'l) (noun)
1. A clasp used to fasten the ends of a belt, strap, etc.: Zachary's belt buckle was very fancy, depicting a rider and a horse.
2. A metal ornament for a shoe: When the king dressed for special occasions, he demanded a gold buckle to be on each of his shoes.
buckle (BUK'l) (verb)
1. To fasten: Jack said, "Be sure to buckle your seat belt when driving in a car."
2. To bend, to bulge, or to wrinkle: Heat applied to a sheet of plastic will cause it to buckle, distorting its shape.

The buccal nerve on the right side of Paula's face was injured when the buckle on her seat belt slipped out of her hands and hit her.

She cried out and muttered, "That is what happens when you are being conscientious and trying to buckle your seat belt"; unfortunately, for several months, the injured buccal nerve caused her face to buckle slightly, but she is fully recovered now.

bug, bug
bug (BUHG) (noun)
1. An insect or similar organism; such as, a centipede or an earwig; usually a small insect: There's a bug in Ian's soup.

John said, "Please close the door, you're letting another bug in."

2. A defect in a computer code or with the routine operation of a program: Dwight and Alicia found a bug in the word-processing program which made it impossible to do anything.

Hazel said she would be trying to work the bug, or bugs, out of the program system as soon as she could find the cause of the bug.

3. An electronic listening device; such as, a hidden microphone or wiretap, used to secretly listen to and to record the conversations of a person or people: The authorities planted a bug in the suspect's room.

The secret service put a bug in the man's apartment in case he tried to contact other suspected terrorists.

bug (BUHG) (verb)
1. To bother or to annoy someone: Janet said, "Please don't bug me about closing the door."

Madeline told Willis not to bug her and to leave her alone.

2. Putting a hidden microphone in a room in order to secretly hear what people are saying: The police received the judge's authorization to bug the guy's apartment.

Everyone should be forewarned that certain governments are continually trying to bug their phones, and their computers are constantly being bugged; as well as, other areas of their living and working areas.

It's amazing how easy it is for a bug to bug us.

The agents decided to bug their suspect by planting a bug in the vase on the table.

The bug was disguised as a bug on the leaf of the flowers; however, there was a bug in their bug device and they could not bug their suspect; so, they gave up and went home.

buggy, buggy
buggy (BUHG ee) (noun)
1. A light carriage that is usually pulled by one horse: Ralph commented, "The last time I heard, tourists can still find a horse and buggy for a short ride in New York City."
2. A small vehicle in which to transport a baby: The proud parents pushed their daughter in her new baby buggy through the city park.
buggy (BUHG ee) (adjective)
1. Full of or having many insects: Jane commented, "It's too buggy out here, let's go inside."
2. A computer program, system, etc. that has many problems or errors that prevent the proper operation of the computer: George said, "This buggy software is driving me crazy because I can't do anything with my computer!"

We drove our horse drawn buggy through the buggy swamp on our way to town to consult with a technician because our computer program was all buggy and needed repairing.

bull, bull, bull, bull, bull
bull (BUHL) (noun)
1. An adult male bovine mammal of the ox and cow family: Among cows in the pasture, there is usually at least one bull.
2. The male of certain other large animals, such as the alligator, elephant, whale, or moose: The bull elephant is also a protector of the younger elephants.
bull (BUHL) (noun)
An optimist, especially regarding business conditions, who buys commodities or securities in anticipation of a rise in prices or who tries by speculative purchases to effect such a rise: The bright young stockbroker was a bull when it came to making speculative purchases.
bull (BUHL) (noun)
An official document issued by the pope and sealed with a "bulla" (a round seal affixed to a papal bull): The bull is an official command or statement written by the Roman Catholic Pope.
bull, Bull (BUHL) (noun)
A constellation in the Northern Hemisphere near Orion and Aries known as "Taurus": Byron was born under the sign of Taurus and he had the characteristics of being large, strong, and forceful; just like a bull.
bull (BUHL) (noun)
A slang term for a police officer or a detective: A German cartoon showed a policeman talking with a cow and she told him that her husband was also a bull.

The optimistic bull issued by the church created a ban on shooting a bull in the pasture which was enforced by a bull from the local police department who happened to be born under the astrological sign of the Bull.

These were all in response to the bull market in livestock trading.

bump, thump
bump (BUMP) (verb)
To strike against something with force: If that truck does not slow down, it will bump over the STOP sign.
thump (THUMP) (verb)
To hit or to knock with something heavy: The guests were frightened when they heard the resident ghost thump on the stairs going up to the attic.

When the maid dropped the bundle of laundry, we could hear it bump and thump down the stairs.

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