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.

scruff, scuff, scuff
scruff (SKRUHF) (noun)
The back or nape of the cervix: The mother cat picked up her kitten by the scruff of the neck and carried it back to the box with the other kittens.
scuff (SKUHF) (verb)
1. To shuffle or to walk without lifting one's feet; to explore using one's feet: When Joe is tired, he tends to scuff his feet when he makes his way from one room to the other room at home.

Children like to scuff by dragging their feet through piles of leaves in the yard.

2. To roughen or to scratch by wear: Before she could dance in her new high heels, it was necessary for her to scuff the soles of her shoes on the sidewalk so they wouldn't be slippery.
scuff (SKUHF) (noun)
A slipper with a flat sole: Lucy noticed the heel of her left scuff was worn out so she figured that she needed a new pair of house shoes.

When he walked across the lawn, his left scuff caught on a twig. He didn't want to scuff his scuff(s) again so he took them off and started to scuff through the grass in his bare feet.

As he was walking, his kitten ran to meet him and he picked her up by the scruff of her neck to carry her into the house.

scull, scull, skull
scull (SKUHL) (noun)
A racing boat that is propelled by individuals using oars: The scull was long and sleek and easy to maneuver.
scull (SKUHL) (verb)
To propel a boat using one or two long oars, often undertaken by one individual: Susan watched as the son of her friend tried to scull the little raft and almost tipped over.
skull (SKUHL) (noun)
1. The structure of bones that form the head and face of a human or other animal: After falling on the slippery sidewalk and being taken to the hospital, the doctor said our neighbor had a fractured skull.
2. The skeleton head bone of a vertebrate which encloses and protects the brain and other delicate parts in that part of the body: In the museum I saw the skull believed to be that of the oldest primate in the world.

They knew they were in danger when their scull hit a skull floating in the river.

sculptor, sculpture, sculpture
sculptor (SKUHLP tuhr) (noun)
An artist who produces work by carving a material; such as, wood, stone, etc.: The sculptor has an exhibit of her work in the local gallery.
sculpture (SKUHLP chuhr) (verb)
To create works of art out of hard materials: Mary tried to sculpture a toy out of a single piece of wood.
sculpture (SKUHLP chuhr) (noun)
A work of art that is three dimensional: The sculpture of King Tut at the gallery was incredibly tall and beautiful.

The local sculptor created a magnificent sculpture for the new municipal building.

sea, see, see
sea (SEE) (noun)
1. The body of salt water that covers most of the surface of the world: Carol decided to sail across the sea in a cargo ship which also had provisions for about ten passengers.
2. An essentially landlocked body of saltwater of secondary size to the ocean: The Mediterranean Sea is a beautiful blue during the summer.
3. The heaving motion of the surface of a large body of water: The rough sea caused the ship to toss up and down just before Jack and Jill arrived in the English Channel.
4. A gathering of vast dimensions: From Lucy's balcony, she could watch the sea of faces gathered in the town square below.
see (SEE) (noun)
1. The seat or location of an ecclesiastical authority: The palace is the see for the bishop in the town.
see (SEE) (verb)
1. To notice or to become aware of someone or something by using the eyes: Greg and Sam can see the hills in the distance from their front porch.
2. To recognize, to understand, or to suppose: Looking at the sales figures, Mr. Smith can see a steady decline in profits.

Investors were never able to see this turn in the stock market coming.

We asked our California friends if they can see the sea from their house.

seam, seem
seam (SEEM) (noun)
1. The joining of two edges of a fabric or material of some sort: Mary could not see the seam in the dress where the tailor had mended it.
2. The space between the wooden planks on a ship: The sailors used pitch to fill the seam that was leaking.
3. A thin layer of something lying between sections of a different substance: We could see the seam of silver ore glinting in the dark rock.
seem (SEEM) (verb)
1. To appear to be something or to do something: Because Nicole's sleeping bag was wet, it would seem to her that the tent must be leaking and that they should find a different shelter.
2. To have a quality, appearance, etc., that shows or suggests a particular characteristic, feeling, etc.: What they're doing doesn't seem right to me.

It would seem that the seam in the tent doesn’t keep the rain out.

The difference between a kiss and a sewing machine is this; one sews seams nice and the other seems so nice.

—Ennis Rees, Pun Fun
seamed, seemed
seamed (SEEM'd) (verb)
To have attached the two edges of a material to each other: The new sewing machine flawlessly seamed the fabric for the new coat.
seemed (SEEM'd) (verb)
To have given an impression or to have gained the sense of something: It seemed to me that the tower on the hill was crumbling and needed to be repaired.

It seemed to her that the seamstress seamed the torn place in her coat so well that the seam was invisible.

seamen, semen
seamen (SEE muhn) (noun)
Sailors having the rank below that of petty officers in the navy or coast guard: The seamen wore their clean white uniforms while the ship was in port.
semen (SEE muhn) (noun)
A viscous fluid that is secreted by male reproductive organs: The doctor collected a sample of the man's semen to send to the laboratory for analysis.

The seamen were concerned about their colleague because the doctor had ordered a test of his semen.

sear, seer, sere
sear (SEER) (verb)
To dry out or to burn with a sudden application of heat or flame: The chef was careful to sear the swordfish steak over the open fire.

Bryce saw the lightning sear the tree.

seer (SEER) (noun)
1. An individual who demonstrates unusual insight or one who practices divination or fortune telling: Mark was curious to consult a seer about his future life.
2. A person who looks for or who perceives information by using his or her eyes: John's aunt who had limited vision always traveled with a friend who acted as her seer, describing the scenery, etc.
sere (SEER) (adjective)
Characterized by being dried, winkled, or withered: In fairy tales, the old crones always seem to have sere skin.

Another way to describe "dried cranberries" is to say the cranberries are sere.

At the local BBQ and street fair, a seer was predicting how the chef would sear the roast. "As a seer, Mark can see him planning to sear it until it is quite sere."

seas, sees, seize, siege, cease
seas (SEEZ) (noun)
1. The saltwaters that cover much of the Earth's surface: Greg traveled by ship on the seas from South America to the Indian Ocean.
2. Large bodies of water, salt or fresh, that are more or less landlocked: Mr. Hathaway's boat was overwhelmed by the heavy seas caused by terrible thunder storms.
sees (SEEZ) (verb)
To notice or become aware of living creatures or things by using the eyes: Ivy sees better now than she did before the operation relating to her vision.
seize (SEEZ) (verb)
1. To grasp suddenly and forcibly; to take or grab something: The bank will seize their house because they have not been able to make their mortgage payments.
2. To grasp, to take possession of, to capture: The publisher was enthusiastic as he told the author that his new novel would seize the imagination of the public.
siege (SEEJ) (noun)
A prolonged effort to gain or overcome something or a serious and lasting attack of something: They had a long siege of bitterly cold temperatures this winter.
cease (SEES) (verb)
1. To put an end to or to stop doing something: The factory will cease operations next year.

Mr. Chips cautioned the students to cease their talking and to do their work.

2. To stop performing an activity or action; to desist: The noise will cease when the cars stop honking their horns.

The goal of a pirate captain is to wander the seas (with his fellow pirates) and to seize any ship he sees that looks as if it has any value even if he has to lay siege to it until he gets his loot; then after that he will cease his efforts until another victim is found.

seasonable, seasonal
seasonable (SEE zuh nuh buhl) (adjective)
Concerning something happening in good time; appropriate for the circumstances; opportune: We had a seasonable frost this morning which made the grass white.

We had a seasonable discussion about what to do about our friend's upcoming birthday.

seasonal (SEE zuh nuhl) (adjective)
Pertaining to an action or undertaking occurring or varying depending on timing or circumstances: Picking cherries on the farm is a seasonal activity.

We had a seasonal snowstorm on the first of December.

Since we are expecting seasonal weather for the weekend, we are planning a seasonable outdoors activity to celebrate the end of the school year.

sensitive, sensual, sensuous
sensitive (SEN si tiv) (adjective)
1. Referring to a person's character which is susceptible or easily hurt: Sam was aware of her sensitive nature and tried to be gentle when he told her about the accident.
2. Descriptive of secret or classified information: The sensitive documents for which the minister was responsible were accidentally left in the restaurant.
3. Regarding a condition which is easily susceptible to change or fluctuation: The temperature in the room was sensitive as the result of the drafts coming in through the crack in the window.
sensual (SEN shoo uhl) (adjective)
Worldly; pertaining to the gratification of one's physical appetites or desires: Linda sought to satisfy her sensual desires by dressing in an extravagant manner and dining in elegant restaurants.
sensuous (SEN shoo uhs) (adjective)
Characterized by the impressions or imagery of the senses: Going to the museum was a sensuous feast for my artistic appetite.

The well-known and sensitive news reporter was awarded prizes of excellence for a series of articles that provided sensuous descriptions of those who are looking for physical gratifications in other parts of the world in order to satisfy their sensual desires.

sentence, sentence, sentence
sentence (SEN tuhns) (noun)
A group of language units that expresses a statement, question, command, or wish: Sentences usually contain a subject and a verb and, in written English, the first word of a sentence is capitalized and the sentence ends with a period, question mark, or an exclamation point.
sentence (SEN tuhns) (noun)
A court judgment, especially a judicial decision of the punishment to be inflicted on a person adjudged guilty; the penalty meted out: He is serving a sentence of fifteen years in prison for armed robbery.
sentence (SEN tuhns) (verb)
To declare a decision of the courts, typically specifying punishment: The judge will sentence the offender to 30 days of community service.

"I am" is the shortest grammatical sentence in English, but "I do" can be a life sentence.

septic; skeptic, sceptic; styptic
septic (SEP tik) (adjective)
1. Characterized by infection or putrefaction: Because it was not treated promptly, the wound on Jane's foot became septic.
2. Referring to the drainage system for a tank holding sewage and other waste: The roots of the tree had clogged the septic tank and the city engineers needed to be called to clear it out.
skeptic, sceptic (SKEP tik) (noun)
An individual who typically questions knowledge or reserves judgment on a topic: My friend Mark is a skeptic when it comes to reading certain articles in the local newspaper.
styptic (STIP tik) (noun)
A substance that tends to act as an astringent: When he was learning to shave, the young man kept a tube of styptic close by in case he cut himself with the razor.

The environmental sceptic was observed poking around in the septic trash in a park where he injured his thumb which required a styptic application in order to prevent his thumb from becoming septic.

seraph, serif
seraph (SER uhf) (noun)
An angel, often depicted as a child: We admired the painting of the seraph on the ceiling of the chapel.
serif (SER if) (noun)
One of the short lines near the top and bottom of the long parts of some printed letters: The curlicue at the top of the letter "A" is her special serif when she is printing posters.

There was a drawing of a seraph on the ceiling of the chapel and surrounding the seraph was some elegant writing with a distinctive serif highlighting each letter; such as, A B C D E F all of which are showing the extra serif highlighting the marks on the letters.

serf, surf, surf
serf (SURF) (noun)
Someone in feudal times who was bound in servitude and who lived and worked on a estate which was usually owned by someone from the upper class: The serf worked hard, hoping that some day he would be able to rise to a higher social level and own property.
surf (SURF) (noun)
A wave of the sea that breaks onto the shore: Jamie could hear the sound of the surf lashing and pounding on the beach from his resort hotel.
surf (SURF) (verb)
1. To ride the large waves of the sea towards the shore by using a specially designed board: Janet's boyfriend tried to surf the big billows of ocean water in Hawaii.
2. To go on the internet or to watch television for recreation, education, or entertainment; frequently changing the site or channel: James likes to surf the internet looking for information that can provide sources of information for his university classes.

He felt like a serf having to work so much all week; so, it was a relief on the weekend when he could surf the internet and learn some new things.

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