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

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

The day-to-day arena of spoken and written communication has always been a perilous place, fraught with endless possibilities for embarrassing blunders by even the most wary.

People may have a fine grasp of grammar, be proficient with spelling and syntax, and still occasionally find themselves in a quandary about which word to use. These days it seems that those of us who want to be precise are having a harder time than ever because there is so much which is working against us.

For one thing, there is the constant bombardment of sloppy English that we are subjected to from what we hear and read; and not just what's overheard on the bus or read on the walls of buildings.

We are also subjected to the many errors audible on TV or radio and published in every conceivable kind of printed matter; especially, in blogs and other presentations on some internet sites. These are strong influences, and if we hear and see a word misused often enough, it takes on a certain "correctness".

—Compiled from the "Introduction" of
Confusion Reigns by James S. Harrison;
St. Martin's Press; New York; 1987.

If you have any problems understanding the pronunciation symbols, go to this Pronunciation Chart for clarifications.

Once again, we want you to know that efforts have been made to help you grasp the meanings of the following and the other word groups 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.

desolate, desolate, dissolute
desolate (DES uh layt") (verb)
To lay waste, to make uninhabitable: The people in the village were afraid the severe storm would desolate the countryside.
desolate (DES uh lit) (adjective)
Lonely, solitary; uninhabited, deserted: The story of the desolate castle in the wilderness intrigued the explorers.
dissolute (DIS uh loot") (adjective)
1. Immoral, debauched: Don Giovanni was considered a dissolute but charming individual.
2. A description of someone whose way of living is considered morally wrong: It's sad to say, but Lorene has led a dissolute life as a beggar ever since she left home as a teenager.

The dissolute army officer marched his army through the countryside, planning to desolate it for future farming.

By the time his army reached the sea, a whole swath of countryside was desolate and uninhabitable.

desperate, disparate, desperado
desperate (DES puhr it) (adjective)
Concerning the extreme loss of hope, frustration, or attempts to escape a situation: Caught in the undertow of the tide, Spencer made a desperate attempt to swim to the shore.
disparate (DIS puhr it, di SPAR it) (adjective)
1. Marked by distinct differences or character: Even though the boys were twins, their personalities were disparate.
2. Different from each other; dissimilar; radically different, different in essential qualities: The discussion included topics as disparate as the economy and health care.

The school was composed of students from disparate cultures.

desperado (des" puh RAH doh, des" puh RAY doh) (noun)
A bold bandit or criminal, often associated with the "wild west" of the United States: The desperado was easily recognized by his white horse and silver saddle as he came into town.

The desperado was described as a desperate character or ruffian.

The desperate desperadoes were disparate as to how they should avoid capture by the pursuing police.

detract, distract
detract (di TRAKT) (verb)
To take or to draw away: The bill boards along the highway only detract people's attention from the natural scenery.
distract (dis TRAKT) (verb)
To draw the mind or attention away in another direction; to divert: The soft music helped to distract Raquel's mind from her worries.

The politician wanted to distract his constituents by sending out charming letters intended to detract their attention from his outlandish remarks to the media.

device, devise
device (di VIGHS) (noun)
Something invented to accomplish a specific purpose or to provide certain results: Bryant presented a device that automatically turns on the street lights when it gets dark.
devise (di VIGHZ) (verb)
To invent or to contrive: It must be possible to devise some way to protect the environment from such pollution.

Gwen wanted to devise a device that would make driving safer and less expensive.

deviser, devisor
deviser (di VIGHZ uhr) (noun)
Anyone who forms, invents, or contrives something in the mind: Otto was a deviser of a new method for converting sunlight into electricity.
devisor (di VIGH zuhr, dev" i ZOR) (noun)
Someone who transmits real estate by means of a will: Bertha was a devisor of her home to her son.

Acting as a divisor, Sharon's uncle ensured that the property he bought with the wealth he accumulated as the devisor of specialized farm equipment was willed to her mother.

dew, do, due
dew (DOO, DYOO) (noun)
Moisture in small drops: The early morning sun highlighted the wet places, or dew, on the grass.
do (DOO) (verb)
To act, to perform, to achieve, to accomplish: Grace said, "Royce, you need to do your yardwork before it gets dark."
due (DOO) (adjective)
That which is owed; payable: The statement from the telephone company indicated that the payment on the bill would be due the next day.

Due to the dry weather, we do not see any dew on the grass.

"If you had your due," Bill's father said, "You'd get a good whipping True?"

"I guess," said Bill, "but bills aren't always paid when they are due."

—Ennis Rees, Pun Fun
diagnosis, prognosis
diagnosis (digh" uhg NOH sis) (noun)
The investigation or identification of a problem, illness, etc.: The doctor will present her diagnosis at the conference at the hospital the following day.
prognosis (prag NOH sis) (noun)
Prospect of recovery after an illness or difficult situation: The doctor's prognosis for a full recovery pleased the patient very much.

The diagnosis given by the three specialists confirmed that the prognosis for Silvia was good and that she would have a full recovery.

diagram, diaphragm
diagram (DIGH uh gram") (noun)
A drawing that illustrates, explains, or shows the parts of something: The diagram showed Fred how the clock operated.
diagram (DIGH uh gram") (verb)
To show or to explain something: The coach will diagram the new play on the blackboard for the football team.
diaphragm (DIGH uh fram") (noun)
The muscular partition between the chest and the abdomen in mammals; a thin membrane or partition: The football player complained that his diaphragm hurt after the hard tackle during the game.

The doctor drew a diagram to illustrate the location and functions of the body's diaphragm.

diarist, direst
diarist (DIGH uh rist) (noun)
An individual who writes a journal or document of daily occurrences: Samuel Pepys was considered a great diarist of the Seventeenth Century.
direst (DIGHR ist) (adjective)
Fearful or dreadful: The pirate captain threatened the direst punishments to the crew if they disobeyed him.

The author was considered a significant diarist of her times as she chronicled the direst events with compassion and insight.

dice, dice, dies
dice (DIGHS) (noun)
1. A plural form of a game using small cubes with dots on each side numbering one to six: Each player threw one "die" to determine who would be the first to roll the pair of dice at the table.
2. Small cubes that are made of plastic, wood, etc. which have one to six dots on each side, and are used usually in pairs in various games: The guys in the back room were playing games with dice to see who could walk away with the most money.
dice (DIGHS) (verb)
To cut food into small cubes: Amanda will dice the potatoes and add them to the soup and then dice the onions so they can become a part of the soup, too.
dies (DIGHZ) (verb)
No longer living or being in existence: The garden dies if it is not watered regularly.

The brain dies a little each day as a person gets older and older; especially, if there are no mental challenges.

When Lorena's aunt dies, the directions for how best to dice vegetables will die with her unless she writes them down.

Jenna explained the directions to her daughter who illustrated the page with drawings of dice.

diced, minced
diced (DIGHS't) (adjective)
Chopped into small cubicle pieces: Eloise put the diced vegetables into the soup.
minced (MINS't) (verb)
1. To cut up into very small or minute pieces: The spaghetti sauce was made with minced beef.
2. To speak in a way that is not normal: Josefina minced her words in an effort to sound sophisticated.

As an actor on the TV cooking show, Nick minced his words while he diced the vegetables and minced the meat for the soup.

dictionary, glossary, lexicon, thesaurus
dictionary (DIK shuh ner" ee) (noun)
A book containing the alphabetical listing of words used in a language, providing definitions, pronunciations, etc.: She received a new English dictionary when she graduated from high school.
glossary (GLAH suh ree, GLOS uh ree) (noun)
A collection of specialized words and their meanings: There was a glossary at the end of the book to help the reader understand the text.
lexicon (LEK si kahn", LEK si kon") (noun)
Another term for "dictionary" which includes any book typically containing all the morphemes (smallest meaningful parts) of a language: The scholar sought a lexicon in the library to assist her in writing her thesis on the Gaelic language.
thesaurus (thi SAUR uhs, thi SOR uhs) (noun)
A book containing a store of words; especially, of synonyms and antonyms arranged in categories: Linda and Greg found out that there was more than one kind of thesaurus available to find logical structures and word associations.

While Jill was looking up synonyms in the thesaurus, she also consulted a new dictionary which was helpful in that it had a special glossary of specialized words which she had not seen when she reviewed the old lexicon that her friend had given to her.

die, die, dye, dye
die (DIGH) (verb)
To cease living: If a fish is left out of the water too long, it will surely die.
die (DIGH) (noun)
1. A tool for molding or shaping something: The workers used a die to make the piece to fix the locomotive.
2. One of a pair of dice: At the store, Lana rolled a large die and the number five was on top which gave her that number of free trial days at a fitness studio.
dye (DIGH) (verb)
To change the color of something: Mary decided to dye her hair dark red.
dye (DIGH) (noun)
A substance, natural or artificial, used to alter the color of something: Meredith plans to use a black dye on her hair because she wants to change the gray hair that is growing in areas on her head with her normal black hair.

Jesse always said, "Before I die, I want to dye my hair red; but first I want to complete my collection of individual die all of which are single samples of those that have been used in many gambling places in Las Vegas."

He also plans to use a die to make a special cabinet in which to store his die collection.

differentiate, distinguish
differentiate (dif" uh REN shee ayt") (verb)
To mark or identify distinguishing qualities or characteristics of something: How can a person differentiate between a rock and a hard place?
distinguish (di STING gwish) (verb)
To perceive or to mark as different; to divide into classes or categories: Mindy marked each rock in her collection with a white dot to distinguish her rocks from those belonging to others.

In order to differentiate the distinctive geological features on the map, Lynette used different colored markers to distinguish low hill formations from higher hill formations.

diffident, dissident, dissident
diffident (DIF i duhnt, DIF i dent") (adjective)
Hesitant, lacking in self-confidence: Ethan's diffident manner suggested he was shy rather than embarrassed.
dissident (DIS i duhnt, DIS i dent) (noun)
Someone who is opposed to official policies, etc.: The dissident in congress voted against the government’s proposed legislation.
dissident (DIS i duhnt, DIS i dent) (adjective)
Relating to having a different opinion than other individuals or groups: Hana's dissident activities suggested she was having contrary opinions about the candidate for office.

The leader of the dissident faction attending the conference displayed a surprisingly diffident attitude when speaking to the crowd.

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.

Pointing back to Confusing Words Quizzes Confusing Words: Vocabulary Quizzes Listed.