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

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

Three words that every student of language should understand are homonyms, synonyms, and antonyms.

Homonyms are words that sound alike, but have different meanings. Synonyms are words that are related in meaning but do not sound alike (begin and commence, for example).

Antonyms are direct opposites in meaning, as hot and cold; white and black.

With homonyms, the following set of to, too, and two are all pronounced exactly alike, but by no means are they interchangeable in writing. To be sure that you choose the correct spelling for any on these, you must know the meanings of all three so you will not make wrong choices with a feeling of vagueness and uncertainty.

Efforts have been made to help you grasp the meanings of these and other 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.

cannon, canon, canyon
cannon (KAN uhn) (noun)
A large mounted gun that shoots heavy metal or stone balls and which was once a common military weapon: In past wars, a variety of cannon were used to cause great devastation.
canon (KAN uhn) (noun)
1. A Roman Catholic Church law: People are expected to know the canon of the Church.
2. An accepted rule or guide about how people should behave or about how something should be done: Anyone who disregards every canon of honesty, as this store manager has, should be fired.
canyon (KAN yuhn) (noun)
A narrow valley with steep sides, often with a river in the bottom: They rode the mules to the bottom of canyon to view the Colorado River.

It was against the canons for respectful behavior to fire a cannon over the canyon edge during the tourist season.

cant, can’t
cant (KANT) (noun)
Words that are supposed to sound like serious statements about important issues; such as, religion or morality, but that are not honest or sincere: We think the people are sick of hypocrisy and cant from their leaders.
can't (KANT) (verb/adverb)
A contraction of the words "can not": The child yelled out, "I can’t do it!" when he was urged by his father to jump off the diving board into the swimming pool.

I can't tell you how offended I am by all the cant that has been preached at the electorate during this election.

canter, cantor
canter (KAN tur) (noun)
A gait slower than a gallop but faster than a trot: The rider kept the horse in an easy canter.
cantor (KAN tur) (noun)
The official soloist or chief singer of the liturgy in a synagogue: Jan Pierce was a cantor before becoming an opera singer.

The cantor at our congregation was also a fine horsewoman and would take her horse out for a canter early in the morning.

canvas, canvass
canvas (KAN vuhs) (noun)
Coarse cloth used to make tents, sailing cloth, etc.: The tent was made of green canvas.
canvass (KAN vuhs) (verb)
To survey, examine, or to investigate: In the spring, Tanya would canvass her neighbors, asking for donations to a charity.

Because it was raining when Kelvin went out to canvass his neighbors, he wore a canvas rain jacket so he could stay dry.

capable, culpable
capable (KAY puh buhl) (adjective)
Having the ability required for a specific task or accomplishment: Blake and Rudy were sure that Tamara was capable of winning the tennis match.
culpable (KUL puh buhl) (adjective)
Deserving of blame or censure as being wrong, evil, improper, or injurious: Neal is more culpable than the others of doing the right thing because he's had more experience than they have had.

The police investigator seemed to be very capable when he brought the charges against the two men stating that they were both culpable for stealing the car.

capital, capital, capitol, Capitol
capital (KAP i t'l) (adjective)
1. In the form of uppercase letters; for example: A, B, C, etc., rather than a, b, c: In his e-mail message, he typed in lower case letters at times when he should have used capital letters.
2. Having the main offices of a government: The state's capital city is where the main government officials are located.
3. When referring to a crime, having death as a possible punishment: Homicide that occurs during the course of an attempted kidnapping is a capital crime in several states.
capital (KAP i t'l) (noun)
The amount of money, property, etc. which is used to start or to operate a new business: Jane asked, "Do they have sufficient capital to continue in business or will we lose our jobs?"

He needed more capital for the investment.

capitol (KAP i t'l) (noun)
A building, or group of buildings, in which a state legislature meets and where other state government offices may be housed: Greg asked, "Have you seen the new capitol which was recently built in our city?"

The governor could speak on the steps of the capitol.

Capitol (KAP i t'l) (noun)
The white marble domed building in Washington, D.C.: The U.S. Congress meets in the Capitol when doing its legislative business.

Capital punishment is when those guys in the Capitol of Washington, D.C. come up with a new capital tax.

carat, caret, carrot, karat
carat (KAR uht) (noun)
A unit of weight measuring pearls and precious stones, equal to 200 milligrams (7.05 ounces): Lillie was given a diamond ring of one carat for her birthday.
caret (KAR it) (noun)
A mark (^) indicating that something needs to be inserted: Rex included a caret, ^, while he was editing the lexicon whenever it was necessary, to show where something should be added that was missing; such as, a word or phrase.
carrot (KAR uht) (noun)
An orange colored root vegetable: Glenda ate a raw carrot with her lunch.
karat (KAR uht) (noun)
A unit of fineness for gold, equal to 1/24 of the total amount of pure gold in an alloy: Pure gold is 24 karat while gold that is 50 percent pure is 12 karat.

A carat is the unit of measurement by which many a woman estimates a man's love.

—Evan Esar

As a carrot to induce her to marry him, Neal dangled a ring which was of 24 karat gold mounted with a diamond of two carat.

Lydia was so thrilled when she wrote to her mother that she used all sorts of marks including the ^ (caret) to communicate her happiness: *!^@%%$

careen, career
careen (kuh REEN) (verb)
Typically involving speed, to move or sway from side to side: The car appeared to careen down the street as if it were out of control.
career (kuh RIR) (noun)
A permanent profession or calling for which one trains: It is often difficult to decide what career to choose when you are young.

Debbie's career started to careen out of control when the boss discovered she had taken money from the cash register.

caries, carries
caries (KAR eez, KAR i eez) (noun)
Decay of teeth, bones, or tissues: The dental assistant checked each of the students for caries as part of his job.
carries (KAR eez) (verb)
1. Moving something from one place to another while holding and supporting it: Mary often carries her baby in her arms.

Julie's son always carries his books to school in a backpack.

2. Reporting information in the media: The TV station carries reports on the weather 24/7.
3. Having something in a store and ready to be sold or to keep something in stock: Marcia's grocery store always carries a good selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Bill's friend, Marge, always carries an extra toothbrush because she is afraid of getting caries if she doesn't brush her teeth after every meal.

carol, carrel
carol, carols (KAR uhl) (noun)
A song of joy or a hymn: As a normal practice, they were singing a carol in church on Sunday.
carrel, carrels (KAR uhl) (noun)
A partially partitioned nook in or near the stacks in a library, used for private study: The library didn't have another carrel available for Colleen to do her research.

During the holidays, the university library staff often gathered in an empty carrel to practice singing one carol after the other which they planned to sing at the faculty lunch.

carousal, carousel
carousal (kuh ROU zuhl) (noun)
A party or revelry that is marked by drunkenness and out of control behavior: The neighbors called the police when the carousal next door spilled out into the street.
carousel (kar" uh SEL, kar" uh ZEL) (noun)
1. A merry-go-round: The children enjoyed riding on the carousel in the park.
2. A circular conveyor system: Vera saw her luggage on the carousel at the airport.

Because the sports team had to wait for a long time at the carousel in the airport, they started acting silly and the other passengers complained about their carousal.

cartilage, cartridge
cartilage (KAHR t'l ij) (noun)
Tough white fibrous connective tissue attached to the surfaces of bone joints: When Vicki fell during the tennis match, she tore the cartilage in her knee.
cartridge (KAHR trij) (noun)
1. Small arms ammunition or shotgun shells: Malcolm carried the cartridge of shot gun shells in a special pocket in his jacket.
2. A small modular unit designed to be inserted into a larger piece of equipment: The toner for the office printer came in a cartridge which made it easier to change.
3. A case containing reeled magnetic tape: The small tape recorder required a cartridge of tape in order to record Carlton's speech.
4. A case with photographic film that can be loaded directly into a camera: Homer's old-fashioned camera had a separate cartridge for the film, not a disk.

Dr. Tamara kept the video of her operation on the damaged cartilage of the man's knee in a cartridge in her office.

carton, cartoon
carton (KAR t'n) (noun)
A box made of cardboard: When the carton is empty, please place it in the recycling bin.
cartoon (KAR toon) (noun)
An amusing drawing of people or things which are often also intended for satirical or political purposes: That particular political cartoon in the newspaper always makes people laugh or, in some cases, there are those who may be offended.

On the side of the cereal carton was a note encouraging customers to collect the cartoon cards which were inside each box.

cask, casque
cask (KASK) (noun)
A barrel to hold liquids: The cask of wine was stored in the cave.
casque (KASK) (noun)
A helmet, especially an ornate visorless headpiece of the 16th century: The teacher wore a casque to illustrate the kind of helmet worn by a soldier of past.

The actor discovered that when he was wearing a casque, it was impossible to raise the small cask of cider to his lips for a drink without spilling it all over himself.

casket, gasket
casket (KAS kit) (noun)
A coffin wherein a dead body is placed: The family was amazed at the price of the casket and asked to see other models.
gasket (GAS kit) (noun)
A seal used between matched machine parts or around pipe joints to prevent the escape of gas, fluids, etc.: The rubber gasket on the pipes was important for the safety of the workers.

The old casket appeared to have a rubber gasket around the edge to prevent air from getting into or out of it.

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

Pointing to explanation of "Standard English and Nonstandard English" article with a poem of confusing English words.

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