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.

cement, cement, concrete, concrete
cement (si MENT) (noun)
A combination of chemicals which is pulverized and used to create mortar, a substance to bind or stick, e.g. bricks, together in a building: The workers mixed fresh cement when they were building the new house.
cement (si MENT) (verb)
Binding together, as in friendship: Lynda and Nelson drank a toast to cement their new friendship.
concrete (KAWN kreet", kawn KREET) (noun)
A strong building material created out of sand, water and a pulverized chemical mixture: The machine poured the concrete for the new sidewalk in an efficient manner.
concrete (KAWN kreet", kawn KREET) (adjective)
Actual, real, having qualities of reality: Lance asked his teacher if he could give a concrete example of what he was talking about in his presentation to the class.

When the concrete was still fresh on the side walk, two of the Ned's friends drew their initials in it to cement their friendship in a concrete manner.

cemetery, symmetry
cemetery (SEM i ter" ee) (noun)
A place where the dead are buried: The famous author is buried in the local cemetery.
symmetry (SIM i tree) (noun)
The quality of something that has two sides or halves which are the same or very close in size, shape, and position: During her travels, Pam admired the symmetry of the ancient buildings in Italy.

Steve noticed the symmetry of construction of the tombs in the cemetery.

censer, censor, censor, censure, censure, sensor
censer (SEN suhr) (noun)
An article used in certain religious services; such as, a container for burning incense: The priest walked slowly, swinging the censer while chanting prayers.
censor (SEN suhr) (noun)
Someone who examines things for nonconformity or possible evil: The censor told the reporter that he was not allowed to speak on TV because he was going to attack the administration of the dictator.
censor (SEN suhr) (verb)
To examine and to subject a book, writer, etc. for suppression or prevention from becoming known, when it is regarded as objectionable for any reason: The film board was determined to censor the imported film due to what was perceived to be inappropriate language.
censure (SEN shur) (noun)
A condemnation or formal, public statement of disapproval of someone or something: Verna was held up for public censure because of her radical views regarding birth control.
censure (SEN shur) (verb)
To express disapproval typically in a formal presentation: The judge will censure the local hockey coach when the coach appears in court.
sensor (SEN suhr, SEN sor") (noun)
A device capable of detecting and responding to physical stimuli; such as, movement, light, or heat: To enhance her sense of safety, the electrician installed a light sensor at the corner of the garage which would illuminate the backyard.

"A homonym is a word which is similar to another in sound, but has a different meaning; such as, in the sentence: Censers smell sweet, censors are foul."

—Evan Esar

"A censor is a faultfinder who always sticks his no's into other people's business and a moralist who is always trying to tie the nation into hard not's."

—Evan Esar

During the tour of the church, the guide demonstrated how the censer was used; however, in doing so, he activated the smoke sensor and set off the fire alarm.

This brought him the censure of his supervisor who sometimes acted like a censor by telling the guides what and what not to say.

census, senses
census (SEN suhs) (noun)
The periodic enumeration of the population in a specific geographic area; such as, a city: Sandy's first summer job was to conduct a census in the capital city.
senses (SEN suhs) (noun)
Conscious awareness of rationality or meaning: Belinda came to her senses and realized her mistake at the last minute.

The governor indicated that it makes sense to him to conduct a periodic census because it gives a real sense of what the issues are for the people.

cent, scent, sent
cent (SENT) (noun)
A monetary unit or coin worth 1/100th of the basic value: That car is not worth a cent.
scent (SENT) (noun)
1. A particular odor or smell, typically pleasant but not necessarily: Kurt could smell the rancid scent from the factory long before he got to the front door.
2. An indication or hint of something to come: There was a scent of trouble in the air.
sent (SENT) (verb)
The past tense of "send": having caused something to happen, to communicate, or to convey: Cody was sent away in disgrace because of the poor language he had used in the meeting.

"Flora was sent to Australia on a mission by the government."

My friend, Charles, was sent by his wife to buy something called "penny perfume" or "cent scent".

cents, cense, scents, sense
cents (SENS) (noun)
Monetary units or coins worth 1/100th. of the basic value, sometimes used in an expression equating words with money: Jaime is always ready to offer his two cents worth on any topic, whether he knows anything about it or not.
cense (SENS) (verb)
To distribute an odor or perfume by using a special container: When a priest uses a censer it is to cense the church, filling it with the odor of the incense being burned.
scents (SENS) (noun)
Particular odors or smells, typically pleasant but not necessarily: On Faye's dresser were several bottles of scents which she used depending on her mood.
sense (SENS) (noun)
Awareness of rationality or meaning; agreement: After the teacher explained the equation, it all made sense to Ada.

Natasha had a few cents in her pocket which her common sense told her that she should spend on food, but she really wanted to purchase some fresh incense which she could burn to cense her apartment and to replace some of the unpleasant scents from the restaurant kitchen downstairs.

cere, sear, seer
cere (SEER) (noun)
The thick skin at the base of the upper beak of some birds: With parrots, the cere contains the bird's nostrils.
sear (SEER, SEE ur) (verb)
To scorch, char, or burn the surface with something very hot: The directions said to sear the roast on all sides before roasting it slowly in the oven.
seer (SEER) (noun)
A prophet or a clairvoyant: The prophet at Delphi was considered a seer and people often petitioned her for advice.

The seer wore a mask which was made to look like a bird’s head complete with the cere which was drilled with holes so the seer could breathe.

In this guise, the seer told the assembly of people that they should sear the roast over the fire and then slow roast it until it was done.

cereal, serial
cereal (SEER ee uhl) (noun)
1. An edible, starchy grain yielded by certain plants of the grass family; such as, rice, wheat, rye, oats, etc.: Farmers around the world are raising some kind of cereal which is used for bread, breakfast food, etc. all of which are necessary to feed many people on a global scale.
2. The kernels or seeds and the food made from them: A multitude of types of cereal for food exist for people to eat for breakfast and all of their other meals every day.
serial (SEER ee uhl) (noun)
A novel or other story regularly presented in successive installments; such as, in a magazine, on radio, television, or in motion pictures: Sally published a serial about the suffering of women in various parts of the world.
serial (SEER ee uhl) (adjective)
Descriptive of crimes that are committed in a repeated and recognizable pattern: The newspaper reported on several serial bank robberies that appeared to be the work of the same person.

Sabrina wanted to check the serial number, or code, on the box of cereal before she bought it because the box might contain a card with the next installment of the serial novel she was reading.

cetaceous, setaceous
cetaceous (si TAY shuhs) (adjective)
Descriptive of any of a number of large marine mammals with long bodies, fins, and hairless bodies: The whale is among the largest of the cetaceous mammals in the sea.
setaceous (si TAY shuhs) (adjective)
A reference to objects consisting of or made with bristles: The curry brush for the horse was setaceous with bristles from pigs.

Whalebone is the horny substance from the upper jaw of a cetaceous mammal. It is used to stiffen fabric for the clothing of women, and it might also have been used for the setaceous construction of industrial brushes.

champ, chomp
champ (CHAMP) (noun)
An informal reference to "champion": "Mike was proud to be the champ of his basketball team.
champ (CHAMP) (noun)
To make biting or chewing noises; to show impatience: You could hear the man champ on his pipe angrily.
chomp (CHOMP) (verb)
1. To chew or to bite on something in a noisy way: We could hear the horse chomp on the oats.
2. To chew or to bite on something repeatedly: William was obviously nervous because Jane could hear him chomp on his cigar over and over again.

The black horse was the racing champ of the stables and the owners gave him carrots and apples to chomp on as a reward.

champagne, champaign
champagne (sham PAYN) (noun)
A sparkling white wine specific to a region in France, Champagne Province: Steve ordered champagne at the restaurant when they went to celebrate his new job.
champaign (sham PAYN) (noun)
A stretch of level and open country; a plain: The champaign of the prairie stretched before the travelers as they started out on their holidays.

Champaign is a city of east-central Illinois adjoining Urbana. Founded in 1855 with the coming of the railroad, it is a commercial and industrial center in a fertile farm area.

After crossing the champaign in the late afternoon, the group decided to celebrate with a glass of champagne at the local restaurant.

chance, chants
chance (CHANS) (noun)
1. The likelihood of the occurrence of an event: The chance of it raining today is very high.
2. An unexpected, random, or unpredictable event: The chance of a thunderstorm this time of year is 100 per cent.
3. A risk or hazard; a gamble: The group sat around the table playing a game of chance, betting food coupons instead of real money.
chants (CHANTS) (noun)
1. Short, simple melodies in which a number of syllables or words are sung on the same note: In the middle of the night, the monks rose to sing chants in the church.
2. Monotonous rhythmic calls or shouts: The chants of the demonstrators at a meeting disrupted the speaker.

The visitors had the rare chance to stop at the monastery just as the monks started their chants in the chapel.

chanty, shanty
chanty (CHAN tee) (noun)
A song sung by sailors to the rhythm of their movements while working: The singer always included a sea chanty or two in her performance.
shanty (SHAN tee) (noun)
A roughly built, often ramshackle cabin; a shack: The old shanty by the river was destroyed when the river flooded.

The old river pilot lived in a shanty near the river and often entertained passersby by singing a familiar chanty about the river boats of the past.

charted, charted, chartered
charted (CHART id) (adjective)
1. A reference to a map showing coastlines, water depths, or other information of use to navigators: The captain studied the charted coastline before sailing to the far away islands.
2. Descriptive information in the form of graphs or tables in order to make a plan for something: Mabel followed her own charted career path and assisted the manager who developed a diagram and grid that showed the growth of the company.
charted (CHART id) (verb)
To develop or to draw a map or diagram indicating the direction something or someone should go: The pilot charted the course of the flight before leaving the tarmac.
chartered (CHAR tuhr id) (verb)
Assigned or hired; such as, to hire a ship, bus, etc. for temporary use: The bus was chartered by Rene's school to take students to the football game.

After Sabrina and Ross had charted the route for their holiday, they chartered a bus to carry them and their luggage to the mountain lodge.

chased, chaste
chased (CHAYST) (verb)
1. To have run after or pursued someone in order to catch that person, an animal, or something: Marjory chased after her child, Jimmy, before he could run out into the street.
2. Having caused someone or something to go away: Mildred chased the cats out of her garden so they wouldn't catch the birds.
chaste (CHAYST) (adjective)
Not indulging in unlawful sexual activity, being decent and moral: She remained chaste throughout her engagement and married as a chaste bride.

A chaste woman is seldom chased.

—Evan Esar

My neighbor, Mildred, was chaste and upstanding. It always broke her heart if someone chased a stray animal into her yard.

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.