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

(lists of "A" 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.

analyst, annalist
analyst (AN uh list) (noun)
Someone with specialized knowledge or skill who studies or examines something by separating it into its constituent elements and gives an assessment, description, or explanation of it: In business a person must be a good analyst of his or her commercial possibilities.
annalist (AN uh list) (noun)
1. Someone who writes records of events arranged chronologically by each year or by successive years; a chronicler: The annalist wrote a series of chronicles about the events that took place during the existence of the club.
2. A writer, or historian, who compiles the records and reports of an organization or a learned field in chronological order: The historical annalist compiled a book about the city covering the last 100 years.

The author, who was the annalist for the town historians, invited an analyst to review his writing before publication, to ensure that the facts were correctly explained.

anecdote, antidote
anecdote (AN ik doht") (noun)
An interesting incident or brief history; a short narrative; sometimes, a humorous account: Scott, have you noticed that many public speakers begin their talks with a humorous anecdote?

Jane told an anecdote about her early childhood.

antidote (AN ti doht") (noun)
1. A remedy to counteract poison; an antitoxin: Doctors rushed an antidote to the boy who was bitten by a snake.
2. Anything that works against an unwanted condition; a remedy or a cure: A hobby is considered a good antidote for boredom and for keeping our minds active.

Is there an antidote for strychnine poisoning?

Be sure to spell and pronounce anecdote properly. Don't confuse it with antidote; for example, James told an anecdote about his Canadian travels.

Does the doctor have an antidote for the food poisoning our friend got when he ate at the restaurant?

angel, angle, angle
angel (AYN juhl; soft g) (noun)
1. A celestial or heavenly being; a heavenly spirit: The angel Gabriel is mentioned in the Bible.
2. A financial backer for a play; a patron, a sponsor: Gilbert is an angel of the new play on Broadway.

"An angel is a person who puts up money for theatrical plays when it's a case of dough or die."

—Evan Esar
angle (ANG guhl; hard g) (noun)
1. A geometric figure, as of a triangle: A vertical line will meet a horizontal line at an angle of 90 degrees.
2. A bend, a corner, or an edge: The road makes a sharp angle just over that hill.
3. Point of view or a viewpoint; a perspective: Brian, try to look at the situation from my angle.

The view of the valley is beautiful from this angle.

angle (ANG guhl; hard g) (noun)
1. To fish with a hook and line: Keith wanted to angle for trout today.
2. Trying to get something in a clever or indirect way: Glenda will angle for a promotion when she tells her boss about her new selling technique.

Our uncle or Family Angel is an avid fisherman and enjoys angle fishing.

This seems to require following the old country road with all the twists and angles in it to get to the stream.

Although Kevin prefers to fish by himself, John will often angle his way into going with him. Kevin usually set his rod at a sharp angle and then he would lie back and relax in the sun.

angry, mad
angry (ANG gree") (adjective)
Feeling extremely annoyed, often about an insult or a wrong; enraged, furious; hostile, hateful: Bill's rudeness makes Georgia angry.

Pearl is in an angry mood.

mad (MAD) (adjective)
1. Angry; resentful, infuriated: Dustin, if you keep teasing that dog, you are going to make him mad.
2. Suffering from a disorder of the mind; insane, deranged: Some people have periods during which they are absolutely mad or out of their heads.

Leo must be mad not to feel angry about the rude comments the radio announcer made.

anguish, languish
anguish (ANG gwish) (noun)
Extreme anxiety or emotional torment; grief, woe: The mother waited in anguish for news of her missing child.
languish (LANG gwish) (verb)
1. To undergo hardship as a result of being deprived of something, typically attention, independence, or freedom: Alex lost his accustomed vigor and was about to languish in the tropical climate.
2. To long for something that is being denied; to pine for: After days in the hospital without visitors, Brad could only languish for the sight of his family.

When Tim had to languish in his bed for such a long time because he was ill, he started to experience a sense of anguish that he might not ever be well again.

annalize (verb), annalizes; annalized; annalizing
1. To write in logs or journals in order to document information: Alvin's main job was to annalize, or to record, events as they were arranged chronologically by the year.
2. To record history in general, as it is recorded in books and other documents: Marlene was known to annalize the historical past of her city.
annual, annual, annul, perennial
annual (AN yoo uhl) (adjective)
1. Yearly, occurring every year or once a year: Most people have an annual birthday celebration.
2. A plant that lives for only one year or season: Pearl planted some annual flowers in front of her house.
annual (AN yoo uhl) (noun)
A publication; such as, a journal or magazine, that is published only once each year: Wilma just received the annual publication about new words that have been created this year.
annul (uh NUHL) (verb)
To cancel; to invalidate, to rescind: The contract was annulled because it was not legally signed by both parties.
perennial (puh REN ee uhl) (adjective)
1. Lasting through the year; that is, continuous: Perennial air pollution continues to cause problems in many major cities of the world.
2. Lasting indefinitely; perpetual, continual: Lydia is sitting there with that perennial grin on her face.
3. In botany, having a life span of more than two years; such as, a recurring plant: There are many perennial plants that produce flowers every year.

It is that annual time of year when Tara plants several new perennial flowers in her garden.

Greg chose this year’s annuals and perennials from the new seed and flower catalog which he received on an annual basis. Last year, he had to annul his old subscription for a different catalog.

ant, aunt
ant (ANT) (noun)
Any of various social insects of the family Formicidae living in highly organized social colonies: As Allison was eating a piece of cake, she saw an ant on her plate.
aunt (ANT, AWNT) (noun)
The sister of a person's father or mother, or the wife of someone's uncle: Dan's aunt and his cousin, her son, went to a movie together.

An ant is said to be a small insect that’s always busy; yet, always finds time to go on picnics with everyone's aunt.

Ants are overwhelming an aunt who was setting up food for a picnic.
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antagonist, protagonist
antagonist (an TAG uh nist) (noun)
1. Someone, or something, opposing or in conflict with another person or thing; an opponent: Edwin's antagonist in the debate was smarter than he was.
2. One of the main characters in a book, play, or movie whose values or behaviors are in conflict with those of the primary character: The objective of the antagonist in the story was to destroy the protagonist in battle.
protagonist (proh TAG uh nist) (noun)
The most important, or "primary", character (good or evil) in a novel, play, story, or other literary work: The protagonist had to defend himself against the opposition of the antagonist.

"An "antagonist" is really someone who is opposed to another person; an "opponent".

At a recent production of story of the prince and the poor girl, the character of the stepsister who was the antagonist was exaggerated and made the audience laugh; however, the poor girl who was the protagonist in the story was portrayed as gentle and sweet.

ante-, ante, anti-; auntie, aunty
ante- (AN tee) (noun )
A prefix meaning "before": The novel was set in the antebellum South.
ante (AN tee) (verb)
1. In poker, to put up a stake before the cards are dealt, or before drawing new cards: The dealer waited until everyone had a chance to ante up before he dealt the cards.
2. Often used figuratively to mean to put up money, to cover costs: Parents are usually expected to ante up, or to pay, for their children's college education.
3. To increase an amount or level; such as, to raise the cost or price of something: The popular actress first demanded twice the salary offered to her but then she kept upping the ante.
4. To increase the risk or possible harm that could result from something: The new law ups the ante, or increases penalties, for people who cheat on their taxes.
anti- (AN tigh, AN tee) (noun).
A prefix meaning against or contrary: Miguel is definitely antiwar because there had to be better ways to settle international disputes.

Exceptions: antipasto (Italian, where anti-, means "before" + pasto "food") and anticipate.

auntie, aunty (AN tee, AUN tee) (nouns)
An informal way of saying "aunt": Tamara, Sonia's favorite auntie, was coming to visit that night.

Tanya's favorite auntie was always interested in the life styles and customs of the antebellum Southern states; however, she was also known to be very anti-oppressive of the poor and oppressed.

So, Tanya's aunt used her influence to ante up the commitment of the community to create a food bank.

antecedence, antecedents
antecedence (an" ti SEED ns) (noun)
The act or state of going before in time; precedence; priority in time, pre-existence: In any chronology, everything has antecedence (precedence) over something else.
antecedents (ant" uh SEED uhnts) (noun)
The history, events, characteristics, etc., of one's earlier life; ancestors, forefathers: Isaac's antecedents were all pioneers.

One of Shelly's antecedents on her father’s side of the family attempted to write a chronology of the family, making sure that the antecedence of events was in the correct order.

any one, anyone
any one (EN ee wuhn", EN ee wuhn) (noun)
Used to distinguish one person from others in the same group or class; any single person or thing: Any one of these men could be guilty.

Not more than twelve new members are admitted to the club in any one year.

anyone (EN ee wuhn", EN ee wuhn) (pronoun)
Any person at all: Can anyone identify the culprit who committed this crime?

Stuart, if anyone calls, please take a message.

Any one of the graduating class could be distinguished as a scholar; however, anyone can apply for entry to the college and hope to be identified as such.

apiary, aviary
apiary (AY pi er" i) (noun)
A place for bees: The farmer had an apiary for his bees so they could produce honey.
aviary (AY vi er" i) (noun)
A place for birds; such as, a cage, house, or enclosure: Violet kept several birds in her aviary.

While designing the garden, Leah's aunt planned to place an apiary along the south edge of the garden and she also planned to build her aviary on the north side. There were beds of flowers in between them which the bees would certainly appreciate during the summer.

apportion, proportion
apportion (uh POR shuhn; uh POHR shuhn) (verb)
To divide and to assign according to a plan; to allot: The officials will have to apportion the proceeds from the auction to the families.
proportion (pruh POR shuhn, pruh POHR shuhn) (noun)
A relationship between things or parts of things with respect to comparative magnitude, quantity, or degree: Some of the money goes to cover expenses, but a large proportion is donated to charity.

At the conclusion of the country fair, the organizers had to determine how to apportion the proceeds, ensuring that a generous proportion was designated for the local charities.

apposite, opposite
apposite (AP uh zit) (adjective)
Especially well suited to the circumstances; strikingly appropriate and relevant: When asked about her political choices, Mae made an apposite answer.
opposite (AHP uh zit) (adjective)
1. Placed or located directly across from something else or from each other: The two houses are on opposite sides of the street.
2. Facing the other way; moving or tending away from each other: Enrique and Felicia went in opposite directions.

When Mabel attended her first political meetings, she was seated opposite the contesting candidates. During the meeting she asked several apposite questions of each candidate.

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

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

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