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.

sole, sole, soul
sole (SOHL) (noun)
1. The underside of the foot from the toes to the heel: "I have a blister on the sole of my right foot where my new shoe was rubbing."
2. The underside of a shoe, boot, or other piece of footwear, sometimes excluding the heel: "We had to have our shoes repaired with a new inner sole for each shoe."
sole (SOHL) (adjective)
1. Only, exclusive, lone, solitary, single: "The hermit is the sole inhabitant of that cave on the hill."

"The father has sole responsibility for the child."

2. Single, alone, or having no other individual associated with a situation: "She has been the sole occupant of the house ever since her parents died."
soul (SOHL) (noun)
1. The animating and vital principle in humans, credited with the faculties of thought, action, and emotion and often conceived as an immaterial entity: "Every human being is believed to have a soul."
2. The spiritual nature of humans, regarded as immortal, separable from the body at death, and susceptible to happiness or misery in a future state: "Many religious leaders preach that the souls of their faithful followers will go to Paradise (Heaven) and the souls of the unfaithful will suffer in Hades (Hell)."
3. Essence, embodiment, quintessence: "The banker was the soul of honesty and understanding."
4. Inspiration, force, spirit, vitality: "Some musicians lack soul."
5. A soul mate or a person with whom someone has a strong affinity: "When she met my friend, she told her sister that she believed that she had finally found her soul mate."

Worship Services: Your soul is our sole mission.

As the prince was trying on the shoe to find Cinderella, someone commented that the prince was using the shoe to find his true love, while someone over hearing the statement said, the prince was actually looking for his sole mate; which, of course, would also supposedly result in the prince finding his soul mate.

solid, solid, stolid
solid (SAHL id) (noun)
Something that is neither a gas nor a liquid: "His chemistry teacher told him that everything can be categorized by three separate characteristics: a solid (firm and visible), a gas (not visible), and a liquid (visible and wet in appearance)."
solid (SAHL id) (adjective)
1. Something that has no internal cavity: "On the playground, we used a solid rubber ball in our games."
2. Uninterrupted: "The speeches went on for two solid hours without a break."
3. Prudent, serious in purpose and character: "He had a solid reputation for good judgment in financial matters."
stolid (STAHL id) (adjective)
Expressing little or no emotion; impassive: "When she was angry, her face assumed a stolid expression and it was difficult to know what she was thinking."

His personality was calm and stolid. People always had a sense of solid reassurance when working with him on business deals.

solitaire, solitary
solitaire (SAH i tair") (noun)
1. Any of a number of card games in which there is only one player: "In the evening, she likes to get her cards out and play solitaire while sitting by the fire."
2. A gem stone (diamond, etc.) mounted in a single setting with no other stones: "Her engagement ring was a beautiful topaz solitaire."
solitary (SAH i ter" ee) (adjective)
1. Living alone, isolated, without companionship: "He lived a solitary life style during the summer when he was camping."
2. Being both single and isolated: "She provided a solitary example of the relationship between rocks and lichens."
  3. Living in a prison with no other inmates: "Because of his dangerous behavior, the criminal was placed in solitary confinement for two weeks."

Living a solitary existence needs a high light or two. She often plays solitaire out on the balcony while admiring her solitaire engagement ring.

some, sum, sum
some (SUHM) (adverb)
1. An unknown or unspecified individual or thing: "Some guy called when you were out side and for some reason he wouldn't give me his telephone number."

"He found some strange looking creatures in the water and brought them to the laboratory for examination."

2. An unspecified amount, number, or quantity: "He needs to get some water because his throat is dry."

"I have some change in my pocket."

3. An unspecified number of people or things: "I think there are some 80 individuals attending the meeting."
sum (SUHM) (verb)
1. To provide a brief statement of the most important information in a piece of writing or speech: "The last sentence in the report ought to sum up all the arguments for the new tax."
2. To perform the mathematical function of adding: "The grade five student was asked to sum the column of numbers on the chalkboard."

"Please sum up your comments in a short sentence."

sum (SUHM) (noun)
The answer when adding numbers: "The sum of five plus four is nine."

There are at least some people who know that when anyone adds numbers, the results will be a sum of those numbers.

sometime, some time, sometimes
sometime (SUHM tighm") (adjective)
Being or occurring only once in a while or occasionally: "His aunt was a sometime visitor to his home and she was always welcome."
some time (SUHM tighm") (adverb)
At an unspecified or unknown point of time: "They heard the neighbors come home some time last night after midnight."
sometimes (SUHM tighmz") (adverb)
Occasionally, happening now and then: "Sometimes he likes to go for a long walk when it is raining."

Sometimes he feels like going jogging; however, in reality it is a sometime activity because he recently bought a new car. He promised his nephew that he would take him for a drive into town some time.

son, sun
son (SUHN) (noun)
1. A male offspring or descendent: "My boy friend is the son of the school principal."
2. Sometimes the term son is used by an older person to address a younger man or boy: "Slow down, son, you're talking too fast."
3. An individual closely associated with the creation of a nation, a geographic area, etc.: "He was a native son of the prairies."
sun (SUHN) (noun)
1. The star around which the earth and other planets revolve and which provides light and heat for the Earth: "Using a specifically designed device called a star gazer, we were able to watch the eclipse of the sun and not injure our eyes."
2. Someone considered bright, brilliant, and remarkable: "Our mother was the sun in our family and she made us all very happy."

His older son is really quite the mathematical sun in the family. Since he is a true son of the prairies, he excels in making calculations about the sun and the winds.

soot, suet, suit, suit
soot (SOOT, SUHT) (noun)
The black residue left from burning material; a fine black powder that accumulates in chimneys: "There was a haze of soot in the air which came from the forest fires."

"The chimney was clogged with soot and needed to be cleared out."

suet (SOO it) (noun)
The hard fat obtained from beef or mutton: "The butcher sold me some suet because I was making a traditional Christmas pudding."
suit (SOOT) (verb)
1. To accommodate or to meet the needs of: "Will these chairs suit you when you have your meeting in this room?"
2. To please, to agree, or to be satisfactory: "Will it suit you to come for the meeting at ten tomorrow morning?"
suit (SOOT) (noun)
1. An action in court the purpose of which is to regain the possession or right of something: "The shop proprietor brought a suit in the courts to recover goods that the shoplifter had taken."
  2. Clothing or a set of garments, typically including two or more pieces: "She brought a blue two-piece suit to wear to the job interview."

"He bought a new suit for his job at the company."

He got soot from the burned suet on his new suit.

spacious, specious
spacious (SPAY shuhs) (adjective)
Having a large area or space for utilization: "Their dining room is spacious enough to accommodate, or to seat, all of the family of five plus up to six guests."
specious (SPEE shuhs) (adjective)
1. Having the ring of truth or plausibility but actually fallacious: "It was obvious that he was making a specious excuse."
2. Appearing to be true but actually false: "She justified her actions with specious reasoning."

The park provided a spacious playground for the children. The mayor presented specious economic reasons as to why it should be closed.

spam, Spam
spam (SPAHM) (noun)
Unsolicited e-mail, often of a commercial nature, sent indiscriminately to multiple mailing lists, individuals, or newsgroups; junk e-mail: "The family gets a lot of spam in their e-mail and they have to clear it out several times every day."
Spam (SPAHM) (noun)
A trademark used for a canned meat product consisting primarily of chopped pork pressed into a loaf: "Spam is a great meat to take on camping trips because the contents of the cans don't need refrigeration until the containers are opened."

There was a spam advertisement on his computer about a fantastic price for a bulk purchase of cans of SPAM.

spark, spark, stark, start, start
spark (SPAHRK) (noun)
1. A small piece of burning material that comes from a fire or is produced by rubbing or hitting two hard objects together: "A spark from the logs in the fireplace could set something in this cabin on fire."
2. A quality that makes a person or something pleasant, interesting, or successful: "He's a great actor, but he seems to have lost some of the spark he used to have."
spark (SPAHRK) (verb)
1. To cause something to start or to happen: "His accusation is bound to spark an argument."
2. To increase interest, liveliness, or flavor to something: "His jokes always spark laughter before he even starts to tell them."
stark (STAHRK) (adjective)
1. Complete or utterly; extreme; entirely: "Too many people are living in stark poverty."

"All of that loud noise is about to drive me stark raving insane and why is that guy walking down the street stark naked?"

2. Unpleasant and difficult to accept or to experience: "The stark reality of his death while driving should be a stark reminder of the dangers of driving while drunk."
start (STAHRT) (verb)
To begin doing something or to do the first part of something: "She saw the new assignment as a chance to start a new life."

"The fitness trainer suggested that we start with some warm-up exercises."

start (STAHRT) (noun)
The first part of an activity, development, event, or the time at which something begins: "From the start of this winter, it has been snowing at least once a week."

"The discovery of the books could be the start of a better understanding of how the pioneers were able to survive as they traveled across the country."

A single spark from a cigarette was determined to have been the start of the forest fire. The landscape appeared stark and uninhabited after the fire was finally extinguished.

speak, speech
speak (SPEEK) (verb)
1. To articulate sounds in an ordinary voice: "Once I caught my breath, I tried to speak in a normal voice."
2. To make an oral expression of thoughts, feelings, or activities: "I was angry and I decided that I would speak my mind to the bossy neighbor the next time she interferes."
3. To act as a spokesperson for a group or gathering: "We authorized the union president to speak for the membership."
speech (SPEECH) (noun)
1. The exchange or communication between or among individuals using verbal expressions: "Her speech was inspirational and sold her audience on the idea of a new park in the city."
2. An individual style or manner of communicating: "Her everyday speech sounded affected and insincere."
  3. A public presentation of ideas through verbal communication: "The professor made a graduation speech about embracing future challenges."

He agreed to speak at the convention if he could choose the topic of his speech.

spell, spell
spell (SPEL) (verb)
1. To write, say, or print the letters of a word or name: "How do you spell your last name?"
2. To have or to lead to a particular result or effect: "I was told that the amount of planning I do could spell the difference between success and failure."
3. To write out something in complete words instead of using a number, an abbreviation, etc.: "When addressing the invitations, please spell out 'street', 'road', etc."
4. To take the place of another person who has been working or doing something for a period of time: "When the couple is taking care of their niece, they spell each other throughout the day."
spell (SPEL) (noun)
1. A charm or incantation; that is, a group of secret words that are believed to have magic powers: "She felt as if she were under the spell of the words which he uttered."
2. An interval of space or time usually marked by a particular activity or condition: "It looks like we're in for a spell of rainy weather."

In their efforts to try to end the long spell of hot and dry weather, the farmers resorted to hiring a water witch in hopes that she could cast a spell to bring rain. They actually had to hire two water witches to spell each other off while waiting for the rain to start.

Later, after it actually rained, a farmer had to write a check to pay the two witches and so he asked each one to spell her name carefully for him.

spelt, spelt
spelt (SPELT) (noun)
An ancient and hardy kind of wheat, grown mostly in Europe: "In Germany, spelt is called dinkel and when they eat chicken [hinkel] and spelt [dinkel] together, they sometimes express their thoughts about how good the hinkel and dinkel meal tasted."

Etymology: The Latin name is Triticum spelta.

spelt (SPELT) (verb)
Primarily British, the past tense and past participle tense of spell which forms a word or a part of a word: "The man from England, who was visiting in New York, told the librarian that she spelt his name incorrectly."

"While visiting in London, the woman spelled the word favor in a note, but someone told her that in England they spelt it as favour."

The cook realized that he had spelt the word "spelt" wrong when he was writing down a recipe. He wrote "spelled" when he meant "spelt" while he was referring to the flour that is used to make speciality breads.

splatter, splatter, splutter
splatter (SPLAT uhr) (verb)
1. To move, fall, or to hit something in large drops: "Mud will splatter everywhere when the wet dog shakes herself."
2. To cause a liquid to move or to fall in large drops: "Why do you have to splatter paint everywhere?"
splatter (SPLAT uhr) (noun)
Something that has been hit and broken apart on a surface: "She can see that he has a big bug splatter on the windshield of his car."
splutter (SPLUT uhr) (verb)
1. To make a spitting or choking sound: "The family can hear the log splutter in the fireplace."
2. To say something in a choking incoherent manner: "She couldn't help but cough and splutter as she climbed out of the icy water."
3. To speak hastily and incoherently, as when confused or angry: "He responded to the accusation that he cheated on the test with a splutter, 'Th-that's simply not true!'."

All she could do was splutter when a car drove through a large mud puddle and created a huge splatter of goo all over her as she was walking on the sidewalk.

spot, spot, spot
spot (SPAHT) (noun)
1. A small area of a surface that is different from other sections: "The man fell through a thin spot in the ice on the lake."
2. A small amount of a substance that is on something: "A candle in the holder dropped a spot of wax on the table cloth."
3. A particular space or area: "They had trouble finding a parking spot."

"We spent our vacation in a nice quiet spot on the coast."

spot (SPAHT) (verb)
To see or to notice someone or something that is difficult to see or to find: "Did you spot the lack of quality in this meal as compared to the one we had at the other restaurant?"

"She can spot errors in the written presentation much better than other editors."

spot (SPAHT) (adjective)
1. Relating to goods or shares that are paid for and delivered immediately instead of at some future time: "There is quite a difference between futures and spot commodities."
2. The act or process of looking at a few things or people in a group in order to find possible problems: "The police announced that they would be making spot checks of drivers on New Year's Eve in order to reduce driving after drinking alcoholic beverages."

She did a spot check of her clothes and she was able to spot a spot of grease on her new green coat.

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