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.

state, state
state (STAYT) (verb)
1. To express something of importance in words: "When he prints the poster, it will state that there is to be NO SMOKING in the room."
2. To indicate something formally in speech or writing: "The lawyer will state the facts of the case."
state (STAYT) (noun)
1. A condition of temperament or physical health: "She was in a state of perfect health."

"He was in a state of frustration because he had a flat tire and he was already late for work."

2. One of several units of a nation having a federal government: "The governor of the state went to the nation's capital to meet with the President."
3. The condition of something with respect to its main attributes: "The current state of affairs at my school is calm and well organized."

We visited a state in the far north in which the state of health of its residents is remarkable. The health minister agreed to state that the state of health of the younger residents is the result of the state campaign to STOP SMOKING.

stationary, stationery
stationary (STAY shuh ner" ee) (adjective)
Not moving; staying in one place or position: "The weather front has remained stationary in our area."

"The prices for the kind of machinery we are using have remained stationary over the last months."

stationery (STAY shuh ner" ee) (noun)
Writing paper and envelopes and related office or personal supplies that are used for corresponding with others: "We are fortunate that we have a store in our neighborhood which sells stationery items and supplies."

He asked the salesman if the prices for the various kinds of stationery will remain stationary for the next months in case he needs to get some more for his business.

Spell it stationery when you mean paper and other writing materials, and spell it stationary when you mean standing, fixed, not movable, etc.

statue, stature, statute
statue (STACH yoo) (noun)
A sculpture that represents a form or a shape which is usually made of stone, metal, etc.: "Including the base and pedestal, the Statue of Liberty is slightly more than 300 feet (91.44 meters) high."
stature (STACH uhr) (noun)
1. The level of respect that people have for a successful person, organization, etc.: "We are honored to be working with a writer of his stature."

"The computer software company grew in stature in just a few months."

2. The natural height of a human, animal, or some object in an upright position: "Since his stature was more than the other basketball players, he had a significant advantage over them."
statute (STACH yoot) (noun)
An established law or rule that is formally created by a government: "The government's statute of limitations limits the time people can submit their tax reports."

"The state legislature passed the statute by an over whelming margin."

The inspector told the sculptor that there was a city statute which prohibits a statue of such stature.

steady steady, steady, study
steady (STED ee) (adjective)
Free or almost free from change, variation, or fluctuation; uniform: "Her brother finally has a steady job."
steady (STED ee) (noun)
A person who is a special friend or a regular boyfriend or girlfriend: "The man introduced the woman as his steady."
steady (STED ee) (verb)
To support or to control something: "As the father was about to use the ladder, his wife said that she would steady it while he climbed up to replace the light bulb."
study (STUHD ee) (noun)
1. The pursuit of knowledge, as by reading, observation, or research: "It requires years of study to become a medical doctor."
2. An area of learning that is taught in a school or university; or what a person gives attention to: "The students were assigned to do a study regarding the causes of childhood obesity and to determine procedures that parents could utilize to diminish such conditions."

She tries to study in a conscientious and steady manner for at least two hours every evening before watching any TV.

steal, steel, steel
steal (STEEL) (verb)
1. To take wrongful possession of something: "The thief tried to steal the lawn mower from his neighbor."
2. To come or to go unexpectedly or unobtrusively: "The baseball player tried to steal a base but the other player tried to stop him."
3. To take or to win by trickery and cunning: "The soccer player tried to steal the ball from his opponent."
steel (STEEL) (noun)
1. A quality of the mind or physical state that suggests hardness: "His muscles were as hard as steel."

"His mind is like a trap of steel because once he learns something, he never forgets it."
2. Commercial iron that may contain up to 1.7% carbon alloy thereby allowing it to be malleable: "The steel used for the building was manufactured at the local mill."

steel (STEEL) (verb)
To prepare oneself for something difficult or unpleasant with determination and courage: "She was told to steel herself because someone was about to tell her some bad news."

The competition tried to steal the formulas for many of the successful steel products that his company makes.

steely, stele
steely (STEE lee) (adjective)
1. Resembling steel, as in color or hardness: "His eyes were a steely blue suggesting a personality of determination and drive."
2. Being very strong and determined often in a cold or unfriendly way: "She gave him a steely look when he tried to talk to her."

"He had a steely determination to succeed."

stele (STEE lee) (noun)
An upright stone or slab with an inscribed or sculptured surface, used as a monument or as a commemorative tablet in the face of a building: "The builders included a stele on the front of the building near the main entrance."

The ancient stele that was erected in the farmer's field often tripped visitors prompting steely looks from them.

steer, steer
steer (STEER) (verb)
To direct the course of a vessel or vehicle by means of a rudder, steering wheel, or other guiding device: "Careful drivers can successfully steer their cars into proper parking spaces."
steer (STEER) (noun)
A male bovine animal; such as, an ox of any age raised for beef: "The farmer had a steer which he was raising as beef for human consumption."

The cowboys tried to steer the rebellious steer into the corral.

steno, steno, stereo
steno (STEN oh) (noun)
Short for stenographer or someone who takes notes on a subject in shorthand or other abbreviated notation forms: "As a steno, she used a yellow writing pad when her employer was giving her information to be written down."
steno (STEN oh) (adjective)
An abbreviated form of or a reference to stenography: "She kept her new steno pad in her brief case when she went for the job interview in case she was asked to demonstrate her note-taking skills."
stereo (STER ee oh") (noun)
A piece of electronic equipment that plays the radio, CD's, etc., and which uses two speakers for the sound: "The couple loved to play their stereo too often and at an excessive volume."

"They had to replace their old stereo system with the latest model because the sound was very poor with the old stereo."

The steno completed the order forms for the new stereo equipment.

stentorian, stertorous
stentorian (sten TOR ee uhn, sten TOHR ee uhn) (adjective)
A very loud or powerful voice: "The teacher spoke to his noisy students in a stentorian tone."
stertorous (STUHR tuh ruhs) (adjective)
Characterized by a harsh snoring or gasping sound: "He often disturbed his wife's sleep with his loud stertorous breathing."

The politician not only spoke in a stentorian voice, but he was reportedly also stertorous when he was sleeping.

step on it, step on it
step on it (STEP awn it) (verb)
To hurry up, or to go faster, in order to get something done quickly: "Come on, step on it so we can get this project finished tonight."

"Step on it or we are going to be late."

step on it (STEP awn it) (verb)
To put or to set the foot down on something: "A mother saw a big bug crawling on the floor and she told her son to step on it before it went under the sofa."

A man ordered a hamburger in the fast-food restaurant and told the waiter to please step on it!

A foreigner over hearing this wondered why the man would want to buy something to eat and tell someone to step on it.

step, step, steppe
step (STEP) (noun)
1. Movement achieved by lifting one foot and replacing it slightly ahead of its original position and this is repeated with the other foot and done in a continuous process so the user can make progress: "During his rehabilitation session, he was able to move one step at a time across the room."
2. The height or elevation of one stair: "The first step on the staircase was wide but it was very shallow."
3. A short or abbreviated distance: "It is just a step or two from my house to the corner store."
4. A process that occurs as one of a series of actions: "We took the first step in planning our vacation by calling the travel agent to get things ready."
step (STEP) (verb)
To press down on something using one's foot: "When he approached the corner, the driver had to step on the brake to slow the bus down."
steppe (STEP) (noun)
A vast semiarid grass-covered plain, as found in southeast Europe, Siberia, and central North America: "The buffalo graze on the steppe in Alberta, Canada, where they live on a protected reservation."

You have to watch your step when you walk across the steppe because you could step into a "cow pie" of cattle waste.

sticks, sticks, Styx
sticks (STIKS) (noun)
Small or thin wooden pieces from a tree, often used to build a fire: "The children collected a bundle of sticks so their parents could build the camp fire."
sticks (STIKS) (verb)
1. To pierce or to puncture something either accidentally or by using an implement: "The thorn on the bush is sharp and often sticks people when they walk too closely to the plant."

"Using a long handled fork, she sticks the piece of apple that was in the bottom of the pan."

2. To fasten or to adhere to something using a sticky substance: "The glue really sticks the pieces of wood together."
Styx (STIKS) (noun)
In Greek mythology, the main river in the underground, or Hades, often representing the passing over or turning point for one's death: "The Greek hero in mythology crossed the River Styx to join his fallen comrades."

In his imagination, he could see young men throwing sticks across the River Styx teasing the large dogs that live on the other side.

stiff, stiff, stiff, stiff
stiff (STIF) (adjective)
1. Anything that is difficult to bend or to move: "The stiff cardboard was too hard to bend or to tear."
2. Being painful to move or to use or showing pain in movement or use: "His neck is stiff and painful from typing too long without taking a break from his work."
3. Not graceful, relaxed, or friendly: "The woman appeared to be stiff and not very talkative at the party."
stiff (STIF) (adjective)
1. Very much; to an extreme degree: "The driver had to pay a stiff fine for speeding on the residential street."
2. Very hard because of having been wet and then frozen: "When she took the shirt down from the clothes line, it was frozen stiff."
stiff (STIF) (noun)
1. The body of a dead person: "In 2003, a book was published about human cadavers, titled: Stiff, The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach."
2. Someone who is thought to be lucky, unlucky, etc.: "That poor stiff usually never gets a lucky break except last week when he was called a lucky stiff because he won at bingo in his local social club."
stiff (STIF) (verb)
Not giving as much money as one should present to someone: "He was told that he should not stiff the waiter with such a small tip."

In the past, a person had to be careful not to be stiff when working with the carters who would haul a stiff off to the graveyard. It was hard work because the stiff was very stiff. Usually a new carter reported being scared stiff until he got used to taking care of the stiff cadavers.

stile, style, style
stile (STIGHL) (noun)
1. A set of steps used to cross over to the other side of a fence or a wall: "Mary climbed the stile and jumped down into the grass on the other side of the fence."
2. The vertical arms of a structure or frame upon which other pieces are fastened: "The builder created a stile so he could attach cross pieces and fashion a temporary ladder."
style (STIGHL) (noun)
1. A distinctive manner of dress, speech, fashion, etc.: "Janice had a great sense of style and always looked very fashionable."

"Jim's style of speech was very casual and friendly and easy to listen to."

"The editorial style of the newspaper was sharp and incisive."

2. The pin on a sundial that casts a shadow and enables someone to tell the time: "The style on the sundial was perfectly positioned and the dial always told the correct time; except when there was no sunshine to cast a shadow."
style (STIGHL) (verb)
To create or to design a distinctive manner of dress, etc.: "Virginia became a famous designer and would soon style fashions for the glitterati."

When Sarah went for a walk, she dressed in a comfortable country style; however, she didn't realize that she would have to climb over a stile to get back home.

stink, stink, stint, stint
stink (STINGK) (verb)
To give off a very bad smell or odor: "The garbage in the container will stink in a day or two if it is not taken to the garbage dump."
stink (STINGK) (noun)
A very strong and offensive smell or odor: "Anna's brand of perfume, even though it is expensive, has a distinctive smell or stink to it because it is so strong."
stint (STINT) (noun)
1. A defined length of time to be devoted to an undertaking: "Bob served a stint of two years in the administration before deciding on a career change."
2. The smallest of the sand piper family, the American Sandpiper: "During the family's strolls along the beach, they sighted the female stint and her nest."
stint (STINT) (verb)
To be careful or frugal: "Jim asked his wife not to stint on the butter on his hot toast."

After his stint working in the garbage industry, he was convinced that he would stink for the rest of his life.

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