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.

sleave, sleeve
sleave (SLEEV) (verb)
To separate something into fine filaments: "My cousin, who is an engineer, developed a machine to sleave the threads of silk before weaving it into new cloth."
sleeve (SLEEV) (noun)
1. Part of a piece of clothing designed to cover each arm of the wearer: "When I tried on the new coat, I noticed that the right sleeve was too short for me so I concluded it was a manufacturing error."
2. An open ended tubular packaging: "I slipped the newspaper into the plastic sleeve so it would not get wet."
3. Informal expression to suggest an individual is keeping a secret: "She was grinning so hard I was sure she had something up her sleeve."

The finishing touches on the sleeve of her new dress were very artistic. Someone had to spend a lot of time to sleave the threads to create such an elaborate fringe along the seam.

sleight, slight
sleight (SLIGHT) (noun)
1. Deceitful efforts. "He tried to borrow a large sum of money by using sleight."
2. The act of tricking or deceiving someone, or others, in a clever way: "Investigative journalists exposed the company's financial sleight of hand to its investors."
slight (SLIGHT) (adjective)
1. Not stout, but slim or delicate: "Her slight figure was draped in black because her favorite cat had died."
2. Trivial, superficial, and not having much importance: "They had a slight acquaintance and so they could not say that they were friends."

The circus barker was physically very slight as well as very clever. Her sleight of hand when it came to card tricks was amazing.

slew, slew, slough, slough, slough
slew (SLOO) (noun)
Large numbers or quantities of something: "We collected a whole slew of eggs from the chicken nests in the barn."
slew (SLOO) (verb)
1. To turn, to swing about, or to skid: "The car was going too fast and it slew around the corner on the ice."
2. To have killed something, typically in great numbers: "The knight slew the dragon and won the hand of the princess."
slough (SLOO, SLOU) (noun)
1. A depression or hollow, usually filled with deep mud or mire: "A slough is known as a slue or a stagnant swamp, marsh, bog, or pond; especially, as part of a bayou, inlet, or backwater."
2. A state of deep despair or moral degradation: "She was in such a slough of discouragement that she decided to go to see her doctor for help."
slough (SLUHF) (noun)
1. The dead outer skin shed by a reptile or an amphibian: "You can see in this cage that this is the slough or skin of the snake which is living here."
2. In medicine, a layer or mass of dead tissue separated from surrounding living tissue, as with a wound, a sore, or an inflammation: "Using a scalpel, the doctor removed the slough that was inhibiting the healing of the wound on her foot."
slough (SLUHF) (verb)
To get rid of something that is unwanted: "It is important that they slough off their fears and to face the challenges that confront them in this project."

"He will slough off his winter coat and stand in front of the fire so he can get warm."

The dragon got ready to slough its slough while wading through the slough. Sloughing time is a very slough time in a dragon’s life because it is very slow at slough time; in fact, a knight recently slew another dragon that lived just down the pike.

sloe, slow, slow
sloe (SLOW) (noun)
A plum tree typical of the North Eastern United States which has dark purple fruit with yellow flesh: "The sloe of the blackthorn stained her fingers when she was picking them."
slow (SLOW) (adjective)
1. Lacking in readiness, dull: "We were slow to start this morning because of the flat tire."

"You will have to excuse me, but I am a bit slow so early in the morning."

2. Boring, lacking in activity and gaiety: "The pace of life in the country is slow when compared to living in the city."
slow (SLOW) (adverb)
Moving without much speed: "The slow traffic this morning resulted in his being late to work."

"The river is deep and slow here, but watch out for the rapids downstream."

Don’t be slow when you are picking a sloe from the sloe tree.

slug, slug, slug, slug
slug (SLUHG) (noun)
A small, soft creature which is like a snail without a shell: "Going for walks in the country, I have seen one slug after another crawling around during the evening."
slug (SLUHG) (noun)
1. In the U.S., a small piece of metal that is part of a bullet fired from a gun: "The police found a slug in the door from the gun that was fired by the suspect."
2. A disk shaped like a coin that is used illegally instead of a legitimate coin in a machine: "Someone used a slug to get candy from the coin machine."
3. A small amount of liquor taken in one swallow: "The customer took one slug of whiskey after the other at the bar."
slug (SLUHG) (noun)
A hard punch with the fist: "The boxer hit his opponent with a slug to the jaw."
slug (SLUHG) (verb)
To hit someone or something hard with the fist, a bat, a tennis racket, etc: "The baseball player positioned his bat so he could slug the ball out of the ballpart for the winning score."

After taking a slug of whisky at the bar that belonged to another guy, that man reacted with a slug at the drinker's face which caused each drunk to slug the other until they were finally thrown out onto the street.

sluggard, slugger
sluggard (SLUHG uhrd) (noun)
An individual who is habitually lazy and avoids work or physical exertion: "Our obese neighbor tends to avoid exercise, over eats, and spends too much time as a sluggard in front of the TV or playing electronic games hour after hour on his computer."
slugger (SLUHG uhr) (noun)
1. Someone who hits a baseball very hard: "When the baseball player got up to bat, the crowd cheered, 'Come on, Slugger. Get another home run'."
2. A boxer who hits an opponent hard over and over again: "The prize fighter was a slugger who won against most of his opponents."

A baseball slugger can hardly be a sluggard and expect to win a championship.

smack, smock
smack (SMACK) (verb)
1. To press together and open the lips quickly and noisily, as when eating or tasting: "You could hear the cook smack his lips as he tasted the food he was preparing for dinner."
2. To strike sharply and with a loud noise; such as, a blow delivered with an open hand: "She smacked her hand on top of the table to emphasize a major point in her speech."
3. A hard slap or hit; including a loud noise that is made when something hits anything else in a forceful way: "We could hear the big book fall to the floor with a smack."
smack (SMACK) (noun)
A hard slap or hit; including a loud noise that is made when something hits anything else in a forceful way: "We could hear the big book fall to the floor with a smack."
smock (SMAHK) (noun)
1. A loose coatlike outer garment, often worn to protect the clothes while working: "She wore an artist's smock whenever she was painting her pictures."
2. A woman's loose blouse-like garment, reaching below the waist and worn over slacks, etc.: "We see more and more girls each of whom is wearing a smock when they are in school or even walking around town."

If you are going to smack your lips and gobble when you are eating, you will need to wear a smock to keep your clothes from getting messy.

smart, smart, smart, smart
smart (SMART) (adjective)
1. Amusingly clever; witty: "He often came up with smart plays on words known as puns."
2. Characterized by sharp quick thought; mentally bright: "She made a smart investment, this time."
The smart money's on tropical islands

Looking for a sound investment to combat the biodiversity crisis? Spend your cash on an island. It turns out they are about nine times as valuable as an equally large piece of mainland.

—From an article by Emma Young in the New Scientist; May 16, 2009; page 12.
smart (SMART) (adjective)
Relating to, or being a highly automated device; especially, one that is fitted with a built-in microprocessor: "There are many so-called smart cards, smart signals, smart phones, smart missiles, and many other smart tools which are available in our modern age."

"When we started out to build our network two summers ago, there was not a single smartphone (smart phone) with a Wi-Fi chip in it, not a single BlackBerry with a Wi-FI chip. Now, if you look at the industry data, about 90 percent of all hand-held devices going out in the next five years are going to have Wi-Fi chips."

—Jack W. Blumenstein, chief executive of Aircell,
the company that is providing nearly all of the
Wi-Fi installations so far for U.S. carriers.

smart (SMART) (noun)
A sharp, usually superficial, stinging pain: "The child cried because of the pain of the smart on her skinned knee."
smart (SMART) (noun)
To suffer acutely, as from mental distress, wounded feelings, or remorse: "The smart to his ego resulted from the series of lost tennis matches last month."

He was smart to use his smart phone so he could get medical attention for the painful smart on his bleeding hand.

A smart phone is described as a wireless phone with text and internet capabilities that can handle wireless phone calls, store addresses, take voice mail, access information on the internet, send and receive e-mail, and fax transmissions.

smear, smear, smirch, smirk
smear (SMIR) (verb)
1. To spread on or to wipe a surface with something that is sticky: "I will use a knife to smear apricot jam on my morning toast."

"The mechanic will smear the gears with grease so they will function smoothly."

2. To make malicious or secretive comments about someone: "The unscrupulous banker tried to smear his competitor by writing gossip in the newspaper."
smear (SMIR) (noun)
1. An accusation or charge about someone that is without foundation: "The campaign of smear by his political opponents consisted of telling lies about his war record."
2. In medicine, A very small sample of something; such as, skin or blood which someone examines with a microscope: "The laboratory checked the patient's blood smear and discovered that malaria was a factor causing his illness."
3. A layer of a substance that is spread thinly on a surface: "She asked for a smear of jam on her toast."
smirch (SMURCH) (verb)
1. To make dirty, to sully: "Be sure to wear an apron so you don't smirch your dress while you're washing the dishes."
2. To bring disgrace upon someone: "His negative comments seemed to smirch the reputation of his former teacher."
smirk (SMURK) (noun)
A smile in a shallow, smug, unpleasant, or affected manner: "While the principal was talking with him, the youth seemed not to pay attention and had a smirk on his face."

The nasty minded youth seemed to smirk when making a comment that would smirch the reputation of his friend. It was almost as if young guy was trying to start some kind of smear campaign against his buddy.

smeller, speller
smeller (SMELL uhr) (noun)
1. An individual who uses the olfactory senses to identify substances: "The most valued employee in the perfume factory is a smeller with a finely developed olfactory sense."
2. An individual or thing what emanates an odor: "That old cheese is quite a smeller."
speller (SPEL uhr) (noun)
An instructional text to teach how to use letters to create meaningful words: "I brought my new speller home from school and I plan to use it for my homework."

The smeller who worked at the perfume factory always carried an old fashioned speller so she could write down new words, check the spelling of some words, and increase her vocabulary.

smudge, smudge, smug, snug, snug
smudge (SMUHJ) (verb)
To rub, to blur, or to make indistinct: "Mary used the art gum eraser to smudge the picture and to create the appearance of fog."
smudge (SMUHJ) (noun)
A spot or stain on something: "After eating a hamburger, Bill discovered a smudge of catsup on his shirt."
smug (SMUHG) (adjective)
1. Having or showing the annoying quality of people who feel very pleased or satisfied with their abilities, achievements, and having a glow of self-congratulation: "Samuel had a smug expression on his face because he was sure he had won the competition."
2. An archaic or out-of-date usage: very clean, tidy, and very correct: "Rick's desk in the office was always smug as were the documents which he wrote."
snug (SNUHG) (adjective)
1. Close fitting and comfortable: "The new coat had a snug fit and was very comfortable and warm."
2. Warm, comfortable, and safe: "The Christmas poem described the children as being snug in their beds."

"The cottage was a snug place to be on a rainy afternoon."

snug (SNUHG) (verb)
To fasten down securely: "The sailors had to work hard to snug the barrels on the deck so they would not roll around."

She was feeling very smug because she was able to get the smudge out of her new snug sweatshirt.

soared, sword
soared (SOHRD) (verb)
1. Flowed or sailed often at a great height by floating on air currents: "The eagle soared high in the sky above us."
2. To have risen quickly upward to a great height: "The ball soared out of the stadium."
sword (SOHRD) (noun)
A weapon with a long metal blade that usually has a sharp point and edge: "He was a skilled fighter with a sword."

"There is a saying that people need to beat their swords into plowshares; or, to stop fighting wars and begin to live peacefully."

During the hand-to-hand fight, the man's rapier flew into the air; that is, the opponent's sword soared out of control.

He who lives by the sword dies by the sword or, in other words, those who view war as a solution to a national or international problem will ultimately be destroyed by their own soaring violence.

sodder, solder
sodder (SAHD uhr) (noun)
Someone who, or a machine which, lays sod or grass for a lawn: "They had a sodder come to get rid of the weeds and lay the sod for a new lawn for their new home."
solder (SAHD uhr) (verb)
1. The process by which two pieces of metal are fastened together, typically using a different melted metal to accomplish the process: "The tinsmith was able to solder the broken drainpipe back together."
2. To create a solid friendship or union: "We went out to lunch together to solder our renewed friendship."

The professional sodder who took care of their yard was also able to solder the broken hinge on the gate.

soil, soil
soil (SOIL) (noun)
The top layer of the earth in which plants grow: "These plants will grow very well in moist soil."

"The soil around here is very sandy."

soil (SOIL) (noun)
To make something dirty or unclean: "Yes, she did soil her dress when she spilled the milk shake in her lap."

If anyone works in garden soil, then that person should expect to soil the clothing that is being worn.

sold, soled
sold (SOHLD) (verb)
1. To have exchanged money to acquire property: "He sold the antique desk to the highest bidder at the auction."
2. To have given up something in a foolish or dishonest manner: "She sold her good name when she became involved with the fraud scheme."
3. To have influenced or persuaded others to take a certain course of action: "The teacher sold the children on the idea of creating posters advertising their upcoming concert."
soled (SOHLD) (verb)
To have attached a new bottom to a shoe or boot: "The shoe repairman soled his shoes for him while he was waiting."

She sold the pair of shoes that she recently had soled at the shoe repair.

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