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

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

English can be very confusing; for example, a house burns up as it burns down, a form is being filled in as it is being filled out, and an alarm goes off by going on. How about when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible?

As you examine the groups of words in this unit, you will find many examples of confusions; sometimes, just one or two letters in a word can change its meaning completely. There are also times when two different words get confused because their meanings apply to things that are very similar.

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.

savant, idiot savant, idiot
savant (sa VAHNT) (noun)
1. A learned person or someone who knows a great amount about a particular subject: Rhonda is really a computer savant because she is an excellent authority regarding computers.
2. Someone who does not have normal intelligence but who has a very unusual mental ability that other people do not have: Michael had poor reading skills; however, he was considered a savant because he could do unbelievable things with numbers and he had a fantastic memory of historical facts.

Savant is now the preferred term for "idiot savant" and is recommended as the word which should be used instead.

idiot savant (ID ee uht sa VAHNT) (noun)
An intellectually disabled person who exhibits extraordinary ability in a highly specialized area; such as, mathematics or music: Idiot savant is no longer considered an acceptable term and "savant" is now the preferred reference for this definition.
idiot (ID ee uht) (noun)
A foolish or stupid person: Kyle felt that he really made an idiot of himself at the dinner table the other night by asking the hostess an embarrassing question by mistake!

An idiot driver kept trying to pass Joel on the narrow road the other night while he was going at the speed limit while other cars were coming from the opposite direction.

Anita, a famed psychologist and a renowned savant in the field of child psychology, gave a lecture in which she emphasized the negative implications of the use of the term idiot savant and the even more frequent use of idiot.

saver, savor, savor, savior
saver (SAY vuhr) (noun)
1. An individual who takes an active role in the prevention of harm or destruction of something: The mayor was seen as the saver of the historical district in the town.
2. Anyone who protects others from physical, emotional, or spiritual harm: The preacher was well-known as a saver of souls.
3. Someone who stores, puts aside money, material items, etc.: Roberta's mother was a real saver of coupons to take to the store.

When Jacob looked at his bank book, he congratulated himself on being a saver so he could buy the car that he needed.

savor (SAY vuhr) (noun)
The distinctive taste or smell of something: The savor of the soup was a blend of tomato and herbs.
savor (SAY vuhr) (verb)
To experience, to taste, or to delight in: Lee wants to savor his holidays in the summer.

Melvin likes to dine by candlelight and to savor every bite of his well-prepared meal.

savior (SAYV yuhr) (noun)
1. Someone who saves something or someone from danger, harm, failure, destruction etc.: Wilma felt that her psychologist had been her savior after her counseling sessions were completed.

There were many who expected the governor to be the savior of his political party.

2. When capitalized, Savior is used by Christians to refer to Jesus Christ: As Christians, they took time to pray to their Savior during the special service on Christmas.

Marian says that Alfred will be her savior if he will just savor the soup she is making and tell her what he thinks. Marian is also a saver of all the waters that she uses to cook her vegetables to make soup stock.

saw, saw
saw (SAW) (verb)
1. To have perceived an object by the use of one's eyes or vision: Yesterday Jessie saw the herd of buffalo in the distance.

Vera saw Leon's sister at the party last night and she seemed to be having a good time.

2. To have become aware of some concept or reality: Bradley's friend saw an opportunity to improve his career and so he took advantage of the situation.
3. To have understood something: Jeanne finally saw the point made by her teacher after she read the chapter in her textbook.
saw (SAW) (noun)
1. A tool used for cutting hard material; such as, wood or metal: Bill sharpened his saw so he could finish cutting the logs for the fireplace.
2. A common saying or proverb: Herbert's grandfather often recited the old saw about "an apple a day keeping the doctor away."

Sue said, there is a saw (saying) about "Red Sky at Night, Sailors' Delight" because when she sailed to Australia, she saw what that saw meant since she and her fellow travelers experienced spectacular sunsets over the Pacific Ocean and a safe and peaceful voyage.

scald, scold, scold
scald (SKAWLD) (verb)
1. To burn by using a hot liquid or steam: Why did Frederick have to scald Don's hand with that hot water?
2. To bring a liquid to a temperature that is not quite boiling: The recipe said to scald the milk before using it.
scold (SKOHLD) (noun)
Someone who is habitually noisy and quarrelsome: Ricky is the village scold who was always complaining and gossiping about other people.
scold (SKOHLD) (verb)
To rebuke or to find fault, typically in an argumentative manner: The teacher might scold her students if they don't do their homework.

The old scold in the kitchen had to scold her son by reminding him to scald the pot before making a new pot of tea.

scalp, scalping; scalp, scalping; scalpel, scalpels
scalp, scalping (SKALP, SKALP ing) (nouns)
1. The skin covering the top of the human head: Charlene went to the doctor for treatment of the excessive loss of hair from her scalp.
2. A portion of the skin that covered the top of the head with its attached hair, cut from a body especially as a battle trophy or as proof in claiming a bounty: Herman removed a piece from the scalp of the fox as evidence of killing it in order to collect a reward.
3. The act of cutting and tearing the hair and skin off the head of an enemy as a sign of victory; now often used figuratively: Because of Marcia's disrespectful behavior there is no doubt that her boss will be using the method of scalping or firing her.
scalp, scalping (SKALP, SKALP ing) (verbs)
1. To engage in the reselling of something; such as, tickets for a sports or musical event, etc.; usually, at a price higher than the established value: Last week Herman was scalping tickets to the latest rock concert and now he wants to scalp tickets to the basketball game.
2. To punish in a severe manner: The boss decided to scalp the employee who leaked corporate secrets to the competition.
scalpel, scalpels (SKAL puhl, SKAL puhlz) (nouns)
1. From Latin scalpellum, scalprum, "knife, chisel"; from scalpere, "to cut, to carve, to scrape": A surgical knife for cutting tissue; scapels with steel blades are used for most surgical operations, but in some cases (for example, eye surgery) sharper diamond or ruby blades are used.
2. A small straight knife with a thin sharp blade used in surgery and dissection: Each student in the anatomy class was using a scalpel to dissect his or her animal corpse.

The scalpel that the surgeon uses to cut is simply a small, sharp knife, but it takes on a special meaning when summoned by the surgeon: Scalpel! This word is the signal that the operation is to begin.

As he started the brain operation, the surgeon used a fine scalpel to remove part of the scalp of the patient who was injured in a scuffle with a customer when he tried to scalp a ticket for a hockey match.

scam, scam, scram
scam (SKAM) (noun)
A deceptive, dishonest, or fraudulent undertaking: The police arrested the two who were operating a scam and convincing others to give them money.

The Ponzi scam was an investment swindle in which some early investors were paid off with money put up by later people in order to encourage more and bigger risks.

scam (SKAM) (verb)
To get something; such as, money by deceiving individuals: The Ponzi scheme was designed to scam or rip off money from thousands of people.
scram (SKRAM) (verb)
1. To depart, to leave, to go away quickly: The delinquents had to scram or bolt off before the police arrived.
2. To command or to tell someone, or an animal, to leave or to get out of a place: Vernon's mother told him to scram or clear out after she caught him eating cookies instead of carrot sticks.

When Terri, the small grocery store owner, realized that the two children were trying to scam her into giving them some free candy, she told them to scram.

scan, scan, scandal
scan (SKAN) (verb)
1. To review or to investigate carefully: The editor was asked to scan the research materials that Arthur wanted to use for his report.
2. To glance at something, often in a hasty manner: The speaker barely had time to scan the statistics before responding to the questions.
3. To use a sensing device to examine objects: Wilma's nephew used a metal detector to scan for lost metal objects on the beach.
scan (SKAN) (noun)
An image, typically of a body part, that is obtained by the use of radiographic equipment: The doctor reviewed the scan of Carla's broken ankle and assured her that she would not need surgery.
scandal (SKAN d'l) (noun)
1. Conduct that discredits an individual or organization: There was a horrible scandal in the bank when the manager discovered that some funds were missing.
2. Disgrace to a person's integrity or reputation because of an immoral or disgraceful behavior: The scandal surrounding the runaway couple was the gossip of the town for a long time.

Delores likes to scan the newspapers every day to see if there is a new scandal involving some politician and she is rarely disappointed.

scat, scat, scat, scat
scat (SKAT) (verb)
To insist that someone or an animal leave immediately and quickly: When Kristen saw the strange cat on her back porch, she told it to scat!
scat (SKAT) (noun)
A style of jazz singing that uses nonsense syllables to approximate the sound of a solo instrument: The singer used scat to improvise vocal sounds instead of words to go along with the melody of the clarinet that was being played by another member of the group.

Scat is said to have originated on the Hot Five song Heebie Jeebies when Louis Armstrong dropped his lyrics to sing in this new style.

scat, scats (SKAT, SKATS) (nouns)
Small tropical ocean fish, often kept in aquaria because of their bright colors; from Indian and Pacific oceans: Scat is a shortened term of modern Latin Scatophagidae from Greek scatophagos, "dung-eating"; because scats are known to frequent sewage outlets for their food consumption and they are scavengers, feeding on algae and feces, or scat.
scat (SKAT) (noun)
A fecal dropping of an animal; especially of a game animal: The veterinarian was examining the scat of the deer in an effort to find out what was making it and others sick.

While Stacey was listening to Louis Armstrong singing scat, she noticed that right after her cat left its scat in the litter box, it jumped up on the table where the scats were swimming in the aquarium and so she firmly told her cat to scat and to leave the fish alone.

scene, seen
scene (SEEN) (noun)
1. A portion of an act or a single situation or event in a theater or film production: The second scene in the play was delightful and the audience laughed a lot.
2. The location where something happened: The police searched the scene for clues that would indicate what started the fire.
3. An exhibition of inappropriate behavior: Because Jeanne was so tired, she caused a scene at the restaurant, so the family had to go home before they could even order their meals.
seen (SEEN) (verb)
1. To have participated as a spectator: Cecil and Vera have seen several soccer games in their lives but none were as exciting as this one.
2. To have looked at: Holly has seen the beautiful jewels in the Tower of London.
3. To have made sure something is done: The waiters have seen to the setting of the tables and used all the good china.

Ruben and Tara have never seen such a beautiful scene before.

Not long ago, Kodak had a special "seen on the scene" advertisement about its new Easy Share dual lens digital camera.

scent, scent, sent
scent (SENT) (noun)
1. A characteristic or particular odor left by an animal on a surface: Roland's dog was sniffing around the tree and picked up the scent of the raccoon.
2. Perfume or other nice smelling liquid worn for the enhancement of one's personality: Thelma's aunt wore her favorite scent when she went to the opera.
scent (SENT) (verb)
To get a hint or inkling of something: The supervisor could scent that trouble was brewing among the workers.
sent (SENT) (verb)
1. To have caused something to go in a particular direction: The teacher sent Shannon home because she seemed to be very sick.
2. To have dispatched: Sheila sent an e-mail to her uncle about the train schedule.
3. To have grown as part of normal development: The flowers sent out new shoots in the spring.
4. To have discharged or poured out: The volcano sent up a cloud of smoke and ash.

When Harvey's wife received the special delivery package of perfume, it was good to know that they finally sent the scent she was expecting.

Why is the nose in the middle of the face? Because it is the scenter.

scepter, specter
scepter (SEP tuhr) (noun)
The staff or emblem of royal authority: The queen carried the scepter in her hand as she walked to her carriage.
specter (SPEK tuhr) (noun)
A ghost or something that appears to haunt a location or an individual: In the shadows, Arnold was certain that he saw the specter of his long lost uncle.

Tradition has it that the royal specter walks beside the prince when he is carrying the scepter into the royal chambers.

scratch, scratch
scratch (SKRATCH) (verb)
1. To rub the skin with something sharp, as with the fingernails, in an attempt to stop an itching: Sheila had nervous itches and her first reaction was to scratch them for relief.
2. To decide to quit doing something: Ethel and Edgar had to scratch their plans for flying because of the bad weather.
3. To earn barely enough money to live on: Mr. Brown was barely able to scratch out a living for his family.
scratch (SKRATCH) (noun)
1. A line or mark in the surface of something that is caused by anything rough or sharp which has rubbed against it: Milton saw a scratch on the back bumper of his car.
2. The very beginning at which nothing has been done before: The author started his new novel yesterday from scratch.

Mary decided to make the cake from scratch and not from a prepared package mix from the store.

A vandal used a nail to scratch the expensive car, leaving a deep scratch on the fender and two of the doors. Brett, the owner, had to scratch his plans to leave on his holidays so he could take the car to the paint shop for repairs.

scream, screech, shriek, squeal
scream (SKREEM) (verb)
1. To suddenly cry out in a loud and high voice because of pain, surprise, etc.: Everyone in the house asked, "Did Ellen scream when she saw the dead body?"
2. To speak, to write, or to express something in a way that shows intense or uncontrolled emotion: The newspaper headlines did indeed scream about the increase in crime of the downtown area.
3. To produce a vivid impression or startling effect: The colors of Ellaine's pink sweater and orange blouse seemed to scream at each other.
4. To make a very loud, high sound: The woman could only scream when her husband drove into the fire hydrant and hit a tree early in the morning.

In New York City, the sirens scream day and night and this is something Jane never really got used to.

It is no doubt just their imagination going wild, but some visitors claim that they can hear a scream from the picture of The Scream by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in the National Gallery of Oslo, Norway.

The Scream still lives on in the National Gallery of Oslo, Norway.
Word Info image © ALL rights reserved.

screech (SKREECH) (verb)
To cry out sharply in a high voice, shriek; a high-pitched harsh scream: To hear any owl screech at night and nearby can startle just about everyone.
shriek (SHREEK) (noun)
1. A loud, sharp, shrill sound: The shriek of terror in the movie made the whole audience jump.

The shriek of an engine’s whistle causes pain in some people's ears.

The woman let out a shriek when she saw and felt the mouse running over her foot.

2. A loud, ear-piercing laugh: The little girl gave a shriek of delight when her daddy came home from work.

Each child greeted the other one with a shriek of joy.

squeal (SKWEEL) (verb)
1. To make a long, sharp, or ear-splitting cry: A pig will squeal when it is hurt or wants to get away when it is grabbed.

The puppy started to squeal when Carrie stepped on its tail.

2. Slang: to inform on someone; to betray, or to expose one's accomplices: Charlotte was getting ready to squeal to the police after seeing her neighbor break into another house and carry out a TV set.

When the famous rock band came to our city, the young girls gathered on the streets to scream and to squeal their enthusiasm. The noise was deafening, causing such an alarm that the police arrived with a shriek of a siren and then stopped with a sudden screech of the brakes.

scrip, script
scrip (SKRIP) (noun)
1. A wallet or a small bag: Karl carried his subway tickets in a small scrip inside his knapsack.
2. A paper of security which can be issued for use in emergency situations instead of hard currency: Because the roads were flooded and the merchants could not get to the bank, they issued scrip for their customers to use instead of money.
3. A document that indicates that the person, to whom it belongs, is entitled to receive something: The patient presented the scrip to the drugstore and the prescription was renewed.
script (SKRIPT) (noun)
1. The written form of a play, movie, television show, etc.: At the rehearsals, the actors studied the script which the playwright had given them.
2. A style of printing that resembles handwriting: The font choices on Monica's computer include a very readable script.
3. A plan for what is going to be done or said in a particular situation: The family followed the script from the travel agent when planning their trip by train.

When questioned, the company officials followed the script and declined to comment.

The scrip which the doctor wrote was written in a fine script which was easily read by the pharmacist.

After Esther's scrip was filled, she placed it in her scrip (bag) before getting out her emergency scrip for the subway ride home. She needed to get home to review the script of the new play for which she was auditioning.

scrub, scrubs; scrub, scrubbed; scrub; scrub, scrubbed
scrub, scrubs (SKRUHB, SKRUHBS) (nouns)
A straggly, stunted tree or bush; small bushes and trees: Elmer and Brad could see the chipmunk hiding in the scrub farther away from the scrubs in the woods.
scrub, scrubbed (SKRUHB, SKRUHB'd) (verbs)
1. To rub something hard with a rough object or substance and often with soap in order to clean it: The mother had to scrub and scrub the floor until it was clean.
2. To have rubbed something hard with a rough object or substance and often with soap in order to clean it: After Janet had scrubbed the floor it shined brightly!
scrub (SKRUHB) (noun)
The procedure of having rubbed something very hard to get it clean. The pan had a good scrub and is now clean and ready to be put away.
scrub, scrubbed (SKRUHB, SKRUHB'd) (verbs)
To cancel or to abandon; to have dropped what was anticipated: Because of the high cost, the family had to scrub any plans for going away on a vacation.

The university had to scrub the football game because of the bad weather.

On February 7, 2010, NASA scrubbed the launch of the space shuttle "Endeavor" to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida because the low clouds that moved in would obscure, or make it impossible to see, the "Endeavor" as it took off.

After the doctor had scrubbed up for the surgery, he discovered that the operation had been scrubbed; so, with the afternoon free, he went for a walk among the scrubs on the hillside.

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