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.

sac, sack, sack, sacque, sec, sec
sac (SAK) (noun)
1. A pouch containing fluid found in both plants and animals: The doctor said Frank had an inflammation in the sac surrounding his heart, medically identified as pericarditis.
2. A part inside the body of an animal or plant which is shaped like a bag and that usually contains liquid or air: The hernial sac in the peritoneum (abdominal cavity) is a sac-like protrusion that contains a herniated organ.
sack (SAK) (noun)
A bag which may be made of cloth, paper, etc.; the contents of such an object: Florence takes her own plastic sack when she goes shopping.

Roger bought a sack of peanuts to feed the squirrels in the park.

sack (SAK) (verb)
1. To place objects in a bag or similar container: Albert's summer job was to sack the potatoes for the farmer.
2. To dismiss from an employment or a job: The employer plans to sack Jack because he is late to work too often.
3. To loot, to plunder, and to steal that which is valuable: The pirates planned to sack the coastal town at the crack of dawn.
sacque (SAK) (noun)
A short jacket typically worn by an infant: Cindy's grandmother made a colorful sacque for her baby as a holiday gift and the sleeves and length were just perfect!
sec (SEK) (adjective)
Descriptive of something that is moderately dry, often in reference to alcoholic drinks: Steven ordered a sec martini just the way he liked it.
sec (SEK) (noun)
A short space of time; short for "second": Mary said, "If you can wait just a sec, Jerry will get the box off the shelf for you."

Last year, Tiffany's boss tried to sack her from her job. She appealed his decision and did not lose the job after all; so, she went out to celebrate at a pub and had a drink that was very sec.

While Wendy was at the pub, a friend showed her a lovely sacque that she had made for her niece.

Ray's friend, Edith, was feeling well that night; however, she has often experienced a pain in her chest and she was afraid that her pericardium sac was inflamed and so Edith has been seeing a doctor about it.

sacks, sacks, sax
sacks (SAKS) (noun)
Several bags or similar containers for holding objects: Joyce has bought several colorful sacks to use when she gives gifts to her friends.
sacks (SAKS) (verb)
1. To fill bags with objects: Justin, a farm employee, sacks the onions very quickly in order to put the sacks on the truck.
2. Plundering or stealing: Mythology has grown up about the pirate gang that sails the seas and sacks the sleeping villages on the shore.
sax (SAKS) (noun)
The short name for the musical instrument known as the "saxophone": Gloria's sister always wanted to play the sax in a concert band.

There is a story about a thief who sacks an apartment and finds a sax which he takes home for his son to learn to play.

sacred, sacrosanct
sacred (SAY krid) (adjective)
1. Regarding something that is considered worthy of veneration; holy: The sacred books were kept in a fireproof box.
2. Concerning something which is important and is exclusive to one undertaking: Melissa believed that it was her sacred duty to care for children who lived in the slums and had no families.
sacrosanct (SAK roh sangkt") (adjective)
Pertaining to something which is considered very religious or too important to be changed, criticized, etc.: The traditions of the ceremonies are considered sacrosanct.

Heather's grandmother believed that the order of the religious ceremonies was sacrosanct.

Terry and Diane were told that the government's most sacrosanct institutions had to be respected.

Anna considers it her sacred obligation to protect children who are vulnerable. It is also a sacrosanct teaching of many religions.

sacrilege, sacrilegious
sacrilege (SAK ruh lij) (noun)
An outrageous violation of or act of irreverence towards something considered divine: Whistling in church is definitely considered a sacrilege.
sacrilegious (sak" ruh LIJ uhs, sak" ruh LEE juhs) (adjective)
A description of an act or behavior that is considered a violation of something considered spiritual and worthy of veneration: The graffiti on the walls surrounding the cemetery were considered sacrilegious given the holiness of the site to many of those whose ancestors were buried there.

As a boy, Jeff seemed to enjoy acting in a sacrilegious manner; for example, shouting in sacred places. His mother would admonish him, reminding him that his shouting was a sacrilege.

sage, sage, sage
sage (SAYJ) (noun)
A plant, salvia officinalis, the leaves of which are used in cooking and baking: When making a special bread, Jessica's mother always included ground sage which smelled wonderful when being prepared in the oven.
sage (SAYJ) (noun)
An individual who is considered to be wise by virtue of experience and age: Heather, Alice, and Doris consulted the village sage before they started to climb up the mountain.
sage (SAYJ) (adjective)
Characterized by wisdom and good judgment: Martha's mother gave her some sage advice before she went to the university.

Keith's grandmother, whom he teased about being a sage, always had sage advice for him. She taught Keith that sage was an important plant to keep in his garden because it had so many uses both for cooking and for medicinal applications.

sail, sail, sale
sail (SAYL) (noun)
Fabric that is hung in a particular fashion on a ship or boat and which catches the wind to make a ship or boat move in a forward direction: The captain gave the order to hoist the sail and the sailors cheered because their adventurous travels were beginning.
sail (SAYL) (verb)
1. To move in a boat that is propelled by wind: Anthony and David were planning to sail around the world in a schooner.
2. To move or to proceed without resistance: The mayor expects the new tax bill to sail through the city council without opposition.
sale (SAYL) (noun)
1. The transfer of ownership of something from one person to another one for a specified price: Deborah and James completed the sale of the farm and cattle on the weekend.
2. The marketing of items that are offered at bargain prices: Christine went to the store that was having a sale of kitchen appliances.
3. A public event at which things are given away in exchange for money: The museum is having a sale of fine antiques the following week.

The nautical club was having boat canvas bargains last weekend or, in other words, they made it possible for people to take advantage of a sail sale.

salon, saloon
salon (suh LAHN, SAL ahn", sa LAWN) (noun)
1. A gathering of people often associated with the arts and cultural endeavors: The members of the salon met every Wednesday in the home of their patroness.
2. A business establishment the purpose of which is to promote glamour, gorgeousness, and fashion: Darlene owned a beauty salon in the local mall.
3. An assembly hall or space for the exhibition of art: Leo owned a salon just off the main street where the new artists could show their creations.
saloon (suh LOON) (noun)
1. A business establishment or room where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed: The group looked for the sign, SALOON, and then went in for a drink.
2. A place on a train or ship that is comfortably and fashionably furnished for the wellbeing and ease of the passengers: On the streamliner, the dining saloon was the best place for the tourists to sit and have excellent meals and pleasant conversations with the others at their tables.

Next door to his aunt's hair dressing salon was a saloon that sometimes was noisy in the afternoon.

Once or twice a year, Ana would take the saloon car on the train into the city to attend a beauticians' conference which was often held in a large salon.

salve, salve, save, save
salve (SAV, SAHV) (noun)
1. An ointment to apply to wounds or sores to assist in healing: The nurse applied a salve to the scrape on Leon's arm and then she put a bandage on it.
2. A soothing influence, typically in connection with a physical or an emotional injury, to make something less painful: Veronica's gentle voice was like a salve on her friend’s hurt feelings.
salve (SAV, SAHV) (verb)
To ease or to comfort or sooth: Bertha's friend brought her flowers to salve her loneliness while she was recuperating from her foot injury at home.
save (SAYV) (noun)
An action that prevents an opponent in sports from gaining an advantage: Because of the last minute save by the goalie, the home team won the game by one point.
save (SAYV) (verb)
1. To keep someone or something safe or to stop a person from dying or being hurt or preventing anything from being damaged or lost: Ronnie risked his life to save his friend from drowning.

The lifeguard was there to save anyone who swam too far from shore.

2. To put aside money for a special purpose: Alex decided to save all the money from his paper route so he could buy a new bicycle.
4. To stop something from ending or failing: The new CEO (Chief Executive Officer) will make every effort to save the company from bankruptcy.
5. To store data in a computer file or on a storage device so, it can be used later: Derek told his friends that they should save the content of their work on their memory sticks before they shut down their laptops, or they might lose everything they have done.

Michele realizes that she needs to save some money so she can buy the salve that the doctor prescribed.

Dr. Wesley said the salve would save Michele's skin from being burned by the sun. She was afraid that she might forget the name of the salve, so she wrote it down, intending to save it later on her computer.

sanatorium, sanitarium
sanatorium (san" uh TOR ee uhm, san" uh TOHR uhm) (noun)
An organization or establishment dedicated to the treatment or rehabilitation of individuals suffering from an illness or injury: Because Greg had a lung infection, he had to spend six months at the sanatorium before he was well enough to go home.
sanitarium (san" i TAIR ee uhm) (noun)
An alternative word for an establishment the purpose of which is to provide rest and treatment for the ill: The famous sanitarium was located near the desert where the air was dry and not polluted.

While Dr. Francisco was reviewing old medical texts, he noticed that what we now know as a sanatorium used to be spelled sanitarium.

Now, a distinction is sometimes made between sanitarium (a kind of health resort) and sanatorium (a hospital); or both spellings are used interchangeably.

sane, seine, seine, Seine
sane (SAYN) (adjective)
Characterizing an individual who is mentally healthy and is able to anticipate and judge his or her actions in a rational way: Danielle could tell by Joann's disposition that she was a sane and happy person.
seine (SAYN) (noun)
A trawl net that hangs vertically in the water which, when drawn up towards shore or onto a boat, captures aquatic vertebrates: The fishing company used a seine when fishing off the coast of the island.
seine (SAYN) (verb)
To angle using a net: Calvin and Tom decided to seine for fish at night using a flare to light their way on the water.
Seine (SAYN, SEN) (noun)
A watercourse in France which flows northwest through Paris and empties into the English Channel: Clifford and Cathy rented a barge and floated down the Seine River from Paris to the sea.

Sometimes, in order to feel sane at the end of a strenuous working day, Miguel imagines that he is sailing down the Seine River, using a seine to catch fish for his dinner.

sanguine, sanguinary, sanguineous
sanguine (SANG gwin) (adjective)
1. Relating to a character trait of cheerfulness: Darrell had a sanguine personality and got along with everyone at school.
2. Description of a person's ruddy skin tone: After a day hiking in the mountains, Jon had a fresh and sanguine complexion.
sanguinary (SANG gwuh ner" ee) (adjective)
Concerning that which is bloody or is associated with bloodshed: There are just too many sanguinary wars that have taken place throughout history.
sanguineous (sang GWIN ee uhs) (adjective)
1. Relating to or involving the body fluid or homicide: The medical surgery was more sanguineous than the doctors expected.
2. Concerning the color of person's vital fluid; cardinal-red: Tommy's new sanguineous shoes were hard to keep clean.

Gail's sanguine personality was matched by her sanguineous cheeks which were a rosy red; however, her favorite reading materials have been murder novels and the more sanguinary they are, the more she likes to read them!

sap, sap, SAP
sap (SAP) (noun)
1. The watery fluid that circulates through a plant, carrying food and other substances to the various tissues: Maple syrup is made from the sap tapped from sugar maple trees.
2. A leather-covered hand weapon; a blackjack: The robber used his sap on the poor victim when he tried to resist being robbed.
3. A slang term for a person who is easily tricked or cheated: The poor sap believed everything Audrey told him.
sap (SAP) (verb)
1. To use up the supply of something; such as, a person's courage, energy, strength, etc.: Carrying things up and down the steps for hours can sap the strength of just about everyone.

These unemployed people complained that months of not being able to get a job can really sap them of their self-confidence and even cause serious depression.

2. To cause a person to lose courage, energy, strength, etc.: Calvin's illness tended to sap him of his mental and physical strength to such a degree that he was on the verge of giving up any further medical treatment.
SAP (SAP) (noun)
System Applications Program, founded in 1972, in Germany, SAP has a history of innovation and growth as an industry leader. SAP currently has sales and development locations in more than 50 countries worldwide and is listed on several exchanges, including the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and NYSE under the symbol SAP: SAP delivers products and services that help accelerate business innovation for their customers.

According to company statements, by using SAP solutions, companies of all sizes; including small businesses and mid-size companies, can reduce costs, optimize performance, and gain the insight and agility needed to close the gap between strategy and execution.

Jim, the poor sap, thought he was working for the SAP program, but he didn't read the fine print: Stationary Alert Plan.

The realization of this seemed to sap his energy for a while; however, Jim rallied and went on to design the tools used to tap the sap in maple trees.

sat, set, set, sit
sat (SAT) (verb)
1. To have rested on a chair or other surface: Ana sat on the boulder and admired the view.
2. To have been inactive: The tractor sat in the barn because it had a flat tire.
3. To have lain or rested: The pot of soup sat on the stove where Jim's wife was cooking and it smelled very appetizing.
4. To have been in a location: The house sat in the middle of the green lawn and shade trees.
set (SET) (verb)
1. To place on a surface with care and deliberation: Mrs. Smith told her students, "Please set the books neatly on the shelves."
2. To attend with a fixed intention: Marcus had set his mind to solving the mathematical puzzle before he watched television.
3. To establish a standard or pattern for a performance: Megan set the criterion for high jumping during the sports competition.

Jay's generosity set an example for his colleagues who also contributed to the relief fund.

set (SET) (noun)
1. The scenery for a theatrical or film production: The set for the new play was lovely and earned a round of applause.
2. A collection of books or other objects that belong together because of such circumstances as being by the same author, having the same pattern, etc.: Suzanne bought a new set of china to replace the set that she had had when she was at college.

At the auction, Alex bought the complete set of Thackeray novels.

sit (SIT) (verb)
1. To be in a position in which one's bottom is resting on a chair, a seat, the ground, etc.; especially, with one's back upright: Jane said, "Hello Bernard, please come in and sit down on the couch."
2. To occupy an official position: Randall was elected to sit for a city council position after he resigned from the board of directors.
3. To allow to be inactive: Oscar and Eleanor will let the car sit in the garage over the winter because they don't have winter tires.

The sled will sit in the garage during the summer and then it will be used again when the snow covers the ground in the winter.

4. To pose for a portrait, photograph, etc.: Lucille agreed to sit for the painter this week.

Edwin thought he would sit down for a few minutes and admire the set for the play which will premier tomorrow. The scene was set in the countryside in an old house that looked as if it had sat on the same location for at least a hundred years.

Satan, satin, satin, sateen
Satan (SAYT'n) (noun)
The profoundly evil adversary of God and humanity, often identified with the leader of the fallen angels; the Devil: Ray told his friend Hazel that as a child, if he had told a lie, his mother would remark that Satan must have gotten his tongue.
satin (SAT'n) (noun)
A smooth fabric, as of silk or rayon, woven with a glossy face and a dull back: Jamie's beautiful wedding dress was made of antique satin.
satin (SAT'n) (adjective)
Glossy, sleek, and smooth: Leslie brushed her hair so it had a satin sheen.
sateen (sa TEEN) (noun)
A cotton fabric with a satin-like finish: Geraldine made a light cotton sateen dress for the summer.

Debbie decided to buy a new dress in sateen instead of satin; however, it was a great temptation, as if the voice of Satan were whispering to her, to buy the satin dress.

satire, satyr
satire (SAT ighr") (noun)
A written work or a spoken expression that ridicules people's behavior: Edwin wrote a satire based on his observations of people who traveled First Class on the train.
satyr (SAY tuhr, SAT uhr) (noun)
1. A deity from Greek mythology with the characteristics of a goat or a horse and which enjoys revelry: Amber looked at the urn in the gallery which depicted a satyr prancing in the forest.
2. A lecherous man: After too much to drink, Joel acted like a satyr and was removed from the saloon by the bouncer.

The satire which appeared in an arts magazine was on the same page as the photograph of a recently discovered ancient pottery with a satyr pictured on it.

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