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

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

A classic story tells how Plato had defined man as a featherless two-tooted animal, and his students agreed. The next day, Diogenes pulled the feathers off a cock and took it to Plato.

"Here's Plato's man," he said.

It was an embarrassing moment for Plato. Thereafter he corrected the definition to "a featherless two-footed animal with flat nails".

Ever since Plato's description, man has never ceased to define man, and has constantly sought a more meaningful self-definition. Voltaire altered the Platonic version, in Candide, to "man is a featherless biped with a soul".

Another unknown author created, "Man is the only animal that eats when he is not hungry, and drinks when he is not thirsty."

—Compiled from the "Foreword" of
Esar's Comic Dictionary by Evan Esar;
Doubleday & Company, Inc.; Garden City, New York; 1983.

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.

babble, babble, babel, bauble, bubble, bubble
babble (BAB uhl) (verb)
1. To talk rapidly or at length about things that seem irrelevant or foolish; to jabber or to prattle: The salesman babbled on and on until Josh said, "No thanks!" and shut the door in the man's face.
2. To say something rapidly and incoherently without pausing, usually because of excitement or fear: Lorena babbled something about a car accident and then ran out to take a closer look.
3. Gurgle, murmur, coo: Elsa's baby babbled happily.
babble (BAB uhl) (noun)
Clamor, hubbub, din: Elliot shouted over the babble of the crowd.
Babel, babel (BAY buhl, BAB uhl) (noun)
Tumult, confusion, bedlam, clamor: The political convention became a babel of conflicting opinions.

The term Babel comes from the Biblical "Tower of Babel", the tower which, according to Genesis 11:4-9, was started by the descendants of Noah to reach heaven but it was abandoned when God confused the language of the builders into many mutually incomprehensible languages. The city of Babel in Shinar is now thought to be Babylon.

bauble (BAW buhl) (noun)
A trinket, ornament, usually cheap, or an inexpensive piece of jewelry: Tricia wore the red bauble that she obtained when she visited the gypsy’s tent at the fair.
bubble (BUB uhl) (noun)
1. A small globe of gas floating in a liquid: The bubble floated upwards in the lava lamp.

The child loved to try to blow a big bubble in his milk using a straw.

2. Anything that lacks firmness or permanence of substance or that may involve excessive speculation; often fraudulent: The investment officer encouraged his clients to invest in the real estate bubble.
bubble (BUB uhl) (verb)
To become lively or effervescent: Miranda seemed to bubble with laughter and happiness.

Attending a conference of salespeople was like attending the building of the Tower of Babel; all babble and babble. It made Denis think that the whole thing was just a bubble of enthusiasm; however, the organizers gave him a charming bauble to take home as a memento.

bad, bade, badly
bad (BAHD) (adjective)
1. Not good, poor, inferior, below standard; faulty, defective: Most people thought that Kelly was a very bad singer.

Susan mentioned, "Jarrod, your car won't start if the battery is bad."

2. Immoral, unethical, wrong: Lying is a bad thing.
3. Erroneous, wrong, incorrect: Gretchen's bad spelling kept her from becoming a secretary.
bade (BAYD, BAHD) (verb)
To tell, to say, to wish: Delia's friend bade her farewell.

Hal bade his mother goodbye when he left for work.

badly (BAHD lee) (adverb)
1. Poorly, improperly, incorrectly: Elvin did the work very badly.
2. Immorally, unethically, corruptly: The army behaved badly toward the war prisoners.
3. Very much, greatly, intensely: Lorena's tooth hurts badly.

Young Tyson wanted a new bicycle badly.

Mindy bade us good bye after we had a very bad meal. In fact, when Kendrick got home, his stomach was behaving badly and he felt ill the rest of the night.

bail, bail, bale
bail (BAYL) (noun)
A bond, a surety: The accused are being held on $10,000 bail.
bail (BAYL) (verb)
1. Post bond for, post bail for: James, the brother of William, the accused, was going to bail him out of jail.
2. Scoop, throw water out: Bail the water out of the boat as quickly as possible.
bale (BAYL) (noun)
1. A large amount of material; such as, hay, wood, paper, cotton, etc. which is pressed together tightly and often tied or wrapped: The farmer loaded the big bale of hay onto the truck.

Hans, the stevedore, hauled one bale of cotton after another from the ship.

2. That which causes ruin or sorrow: Meghan was suffering the bale of woe and torment in her mental anguish.

When Vance dropped a bale of cotton on his foot, it caused the bale of his career as a runner. So, he got a job with a small boat organization in the harbor to bail out the water that splashed into the boats so they could be used by people without getting their feet wet.

bait, bait, bate
bait (BAYT) (noun)
Food or other enticement placed, as a lure, on a hook, or in a trap: The fisherman put an earthworm as bait on the fishing hook.
bait (BAYT) (verb)
1. To torment with persistent insult or ridicule: Neighborhood toughs would constantly bait minority groups with racist remarks.
2. To get someone excited by exposing something desirable to that person while keeping it out of reach: Gus wanted to bait his wife by showing her a tantalizing necklace.
3. To put a lure or enticement such as a worm on a fishing hook: Carol's brother taught her how to bait her hook when they went fishing.
bate (BAYT) (verb)
To decrease, to lesson the force or intensity of, to moderate: Stacey was about to bate, or to become less active, in his exercise routines.

After Donovan made an attempt to bait the crowd to shout aggressively at the speaker, his effort seemed to fail as the energy of the crowd seemed to bate as the speaker continued her address.

baited, bated, batted
baited (BAYT'D) (verb)
To have placed something; such as, food or a bright lure, on a hook or in a trap and used in the catching of animals: Reed and Hiram baited their hooks in expectation that they would catch a lot of fish.
bated (BAYT'D) (adjective)
In a nervous and excited state because it is not known what will happen: Sonja waited for the answer with bated breath; that is, she nervously waited for the response to her request for work.
batted (BAT'D) (verb)
1. To hit with or as if with a club or bat: When Graham batted the ball that day, he set a record.
2. Informal, to produce hurriedly: Eloise batted out a speech in a short time.
3. To discuss or consider at some length: Ricky batted the idea around.
4. To wink or flutter: Mindy batted her eyelashes.

Diana batted her long eye lashes as she waited with bated breath, watching her friend, Rory, as he baited the hook so she could start fishing.

bald, balled, bawled
bald (BAWLD) (adjective)
1. No hair on the head; hairless, smooth: When he became bald, he bought a toupee.
2. Lacking a natural or usual covering; bare, without cover, treeless, denuded, barren: The mountain is bald above the tree line.
3. Open, bare, undisguised: That is a bald falsehood!
balled (BAWLD) (verb)
1. To form something into a round shape: I stood up quickly and balled the letter in my hands and threw it into the trash.
2. To have created a state of confusion or of getting things in a tangle or a mess: Because the overseer did not check all the details before giving the order, the workers balled up the project.
bawled (BAWLD) (verb)
1. Past tense of bawl (cried loudly); cried, wailed, wept: The nursery was full of babies who bawled for long periods.
2. Cried out noisily; shouted, bellowed, yelled: The captain bawled for the sergeant to come immediately.
3. Said loudly; shouted by using a very loud voice: The manager shouted, "Come in here, now!" and the salesman was bawled out for showing up late.

Kirby was so upset by the letter from the doctor confirming that he was going bald that he bawled out loud and then balled the letter up and threw it into the trash.

baleful, baneful
baleful (BAYL fuhl) (adjective)
1. Threatening harm or great evil; ominous: Jarvis turned and gave Kirby a baleful, or sinister, glare.
2. Harmful or deadly; full of menacing or malign influences; pernicious: Lane and Trisha experienced the baleful effects of water pollution on their health.
baneful (BAYN fuhl) (adjective)
Causing harm, ruin, and death: On television, people have been witnessing the baneful results of war as Israel attacks Hamas in Gaza.

In ordinary use, baleful and baneful are interchangeable, although baneful also means "poisonous" and is normally applied to substances, causes, and influences that result in death.

The gathering clouds indicated that a baleful storm was approaching.

Some poisons are merely injurious, but there are others which are baneful.

No one is likely to be arrested if Colby gives a rival a baleful glance, but watch out if he gives someone a baneful dose of arsenic.

ball, ball, bawl, brawl
ball (BAWL) (noun)
1. Round mass, sphere, globe: The cat played with the ball of twine.
2. Games which may involve using a round object to hit or to kick: Four boys were playing ball in the field.
3. Shot, bullets, projectiles: Each musket was loaded with powder and ball.
ball (BAWL) (noun)
1. Dance, dancing party, prom: The banquet was followed by a ball.
2. A large formal party for dancing: All of the students were invited to the university ball.
bawl (BAWL) (verb)
1. Cry, wail, howl, weep: The little boy was so upset that he began to bawl for his mother.
2. To speak very loudly: The children were misbehaving so badly and the father was so frustrated, that he could only bawl at them to settle down.
brawl (BRAWL) (noun)
1. A noisy quarrel or fight: A brawl broke out among the fans after the football game.
2. A loud party: Neighbors were disturbed by the brawl that was going on after midnight.
3. A loud, roaring noise: Vince was involved in a brawl at the bar.

Sebastian got into a terrible brawl at the end of the ball game and his wife started to bawl when she saw him being attacked by a player from the other team.

Later in the evening, Lenora and Scot went to a ball at the hotel and had a ball, dancing and eating fine food.

ballad, ballet, ballot
ballad (BAL uhd) (noun)
1. A narrative poem or a narrative verse: Colby read the class a great English ballad.
2. Folk song, a song: The group sat around the campfire, while a folksinger sang a wonderful ballad.
ballet (bal LAY) (noun)
An intricate group dance with pantomime that tells a story: The famous ballet was attended by hundreds of patrons.
ballot (BAL uht) (noun)
An act or method of voting; a ticket, a list of candidates to be voted on: Three candidates for mayor are listed on the ballot.

The ballet was based on a famous ballad about a community that used the ballot to elect law enforcement officers.

balloon, balloon, balloon, balloon payment
balloon (buh LOON) (noun)
1. An extremely large bag filled with a lighter-than-air gas (such as helium) and used as a form of air transport, carrying passengers or equipment in a suspended basket or gondola: We decided to take a ride in a balloon to see the countryside from a different perspective.
2. A small sac, typically of rubber or Mylar, inflated with air or a lighter-than-air gas often used in celebrations: The teacher explained that a rubber balloon may cause harm to birds and encouraged the children not to use them for their parties.
3. A rounded outline with a point directed toward a character in a cartoon that encloses the text of the character's speech or thought: Cartoonists often use one balloon after the other to express each character's spoken words or thoughts.
balloon (buh LOON) (noun)
A sac that is inserted into a body cavity or tube and distended with air or gas for therapeutic purposes; such as, with angioplasty: The doctor explained that he would inflate a balloon within the blood vessel so it would expand and permit the normal flow of blood again.
balloon (buh LOON) (verb)
To become bigger quickly: The monthly report indicated that Dick's credit card debt would balloon at least three times more than normal and, in addition, there would be the ballooning costs of a college education to consider.
balloon payment (buh LOON PAY muhnt) (noun)
A final payment that is much larger than any earlier payment made on a debt: Trisha agreed to pay $1,000 a year for ten years and then make a balloon payment of $60,000 at the end of the period.

While Dudley was waiting for his ride in the hot air balloon, he watched the colorful sac slowly balloon as it was filled with hot air.

Josie made a down payment for her flight and was horrified after she landed and realized that she was facing a balloon payment that was twice as much as her down payment.

Balloonists are constantly defying gravity and they must continually be aware of the hazards of their hot-air activities with balloons.

balm, bomb
balm (BOM) (noun)
An aromatic preparation, often made from tropical evergreen trees, used for healing: Karin gave her son a soothing balm which had a good odor as well as a calming result.

The doctor prepared a balm using the resins and oils from various plants which helped the patient become more comfortable and quiet.

bomb (BOM) (noun)
1. As a military device, usually round, filled with an explosive substance which may be dropped on a subject with the intent of injury or destruction: The pilot was ordered to use a bomb to destroy an enemy ship while he was flying his jet over it.
2. A container to store substances: such as, gas, paint, etc. stored under pressure: The store carried a paint bomb in several shades of red.
3. A blob of lava that has exploded from a volcano: The ancient lava bomb in the farmer’s field made plowing very difficult.

After the paint bomb accidentally exploded causing a burn on my arm, the doctor prescribed a balm to relieve the pain and hasten the healing process.

banco; banco, banko
banco (BANG koh) (noun)
A bet in certain gambling games, as baccarat and chemin de fer, for the entire amount allowed by the casino banker: The gambler made a banco that matched the full amount in the bank, to the exclusion of all of his previous lower bets.
banco, banko (BANG koh) (noun)
An African term for mud (local earth/clay plus water) mixed with straw and/or husks of cereals (plus cow dung which hardens to a smooth solid) and is used for coating walls and ceilings: The buildings which utilize banco, or mudbricks, are found in several areas of Africa and the use of banco is characterized by its cooling properties for those who live in such structures.

"This African banco term which refers to such "earthen construction practices" came from Manding, a widespread language group in West Africa."

Hatumere: Islamic design in West Africa;
by Labelle Prussin; University of California Press;
Berkeley, California; 1986; page 137.

The Manding languages are a fairly mutually intelligible group of dialects or languages in West Africa, belonging to the Mande languages.

Their best-known members are Bambara (the most widely spoken language in Mali), Mandinka (the main language of Gambia), Maninka (or Malinké, a major language of Guinea), and Dioula (Dyula or Jula) (an important language of the northern Côte d'Ivoire and western Burkina Faso).

"Manding languages", Wikipedia.

When the Smith family went on a safari to Africa they stopped at a banco building and were intrigued to discover a casino.

When the tourists were visiting a group of natives in their village, the car that the foreign visitors were using, broke down and so they had to spend the night in a banko structure until the vehicle could be replaced the next day.

band, band, banned
band (BAND) (noun)
1. A group, a company, a party, or a crowd: A band of students brought their grievances before the dean.
2. An ensemble or group of wood winds, brass instruments, and percussion instruments: The band played for the enthusiastic audience until midnight.
3. A strip, circlet, strap; belt, collar, or ribbon: Aurora's hair was held in place by a velvet band.

A dark band of clouds was on the horizon.

band (BAND) (verb)
To unite, to join, or to gather as a group: Kirby, the student president, said that if we all band together, we can give our complaints greater strength.
banned (BAND) (verb)
Prohibited, restricted, barred, excluded, banished: Bicycles are banned from the new superhighway.

The school threatened to have the book banned because of its vulgar content.

The rock group was so bad that the audience wanted the untalented band to be banned.

bandage, bandage, Band-Aid, band-aid
bandage (BAND dij) (noun)
A covering; such as, a strip of cloth that protects or supports part of the body that has been injured: The doctor wrapped a bandage around Stefan's arm after he fell off his bicycle.
bandage (BAND dij) (verb)
To cover or to wrap a wound or other injury with a strip of cloth: Trisha's mother had to bandage her daughter's knee to stop the bleeding.
Band-Aid (BAND ayd") (noun)
A trademark used for an adhesive bandage with a gauze pad in the center, used to protect minor wounds: After Jake cut his finger with his pocket knife, he was able to put on a Band-Aid to stop the bleeding.
band-aid (BAND ayd") (adjective)
Always used before a noun, disapproving; able to help or to improve something only for a short time: The government could only provide a band-aid solution to the problem of unemployment.

True welfare reform is being bypassed by the U.S. Congress with band-aid solutions.

The nurse used a Band-Aid as a bandage to help the hiker who had fallen and skinned his elbow; however, it was an inadequate band-aid attempt because it was too small to properly bandage the bleeding injury.

bands, banns, bans
bands (BAHNZ) (noun)
1. Small groups of musicians who play popular music together: The drummers of bands are a significant part of rock-and-roll bands and jazz bands.
2. Groups or gatherings of people with a common purpose or interest; a gathering of similar animals: Great bands of elk were roaming in the forest.

Several bands of local eco-activists gathered in the community hall.

banns (BAHNZ) (noun)
A public statement which announces that two people are going to be married: The banns of marriage were posted in the church.
bans (BAHNZ) (noun)
Statements, usually official, forbidding people from using or from doing something: The city has bans against smoking in all public buildings.

There were two announcements made today: The banns for Tracie's friends who are planning to be married next year and the municipal bans on bands playing loudly in the public park after midnight.

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