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

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

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

macrocosm, microcosm
macrocosm (MAK ruh kahz" uhm) (noun)
A great and universal complex structure that represents one of its components on a large scale: The assignment for the astronomy class was to create a macrocosm of one star in the Milky Way.
microcosm (MIGH kruh kahz" uhm) (noun)
Small, little, representing the epitome of a larger entity: The diversity of the residents in the tall residential building appeared to represent a microcosm of the population of the city.

"Think GLOBAL, buy LOCAL" is an example of balancing the concepts of macrocosm and microcosm.

madam, madame
madam (MAD uhm) (noun)
1. A respectful form of address to a woman when the actual name is not known: In answer to her questions, the youth spoke respectfully, addressing her as Madam.
2. The female head of a house of prostitution: The madam of the brothel also ran a bar to serve wine, beer, and liquor.
3. When capitalized, used to designate rank or position of a woman in a business or governmental context: Madam Chairperson began the meeting punctually.
madame (muh DAM, MAD uhm) (noun)
Term of reference and address to a woman who is not from an English-speaking country: The concierge asked, "Please, Madame, would you like me to order a taxi for you?"

One can get into some very sticky social situations by addressing an older woman of great dignity as "madame" if she is not aware of the nuances between being addressed as "madam" and being referred to as a "madam".

made, maid
made (MAYD) (verb)
1. Manufactured, created, or produced either artificially or by an individual: Cleo's purse is made of imitation snake skin.

Janine's mother made a skirt which complimented her purse.

2. Assured of success by having the right qualities to be or to do something: Chris was made to be an actor.
maid (MAYD) (noun)
1. A woman servant: Debora hired a maid to help out at the large gathering in the garden.
2. An unmarried young woman: The young maid was imaginative and she often imagined what her future would be like.

The maid had made the bed before she vacuumed the floor.

magnate, magnet
magnate (MAG nayt") (noun)
An individual having power, rank, and influence, often in a specific area of expertise: Marcus was a magnate in the area of computer programming.
magnet (MAG nit) (noun)
1. A piece of iron or steel which produces an attracting power which draws smaller pieces of iron, steel, etc. to it: Luis picked up the scattered nails on the floor by using a magnet.
2. That which attracts: The seashore was a magnet for holiday vacationers who knew that they could enjoy the sunshine every day in the summer.

The presence of the famed industrial magnate was a powerful magnet for other industrialists to attend the symphony fund raising event.

mail, male
mail (MAYL) (noun)
1. Items that are sent by the postal service from one location to another: Greg checked the letter box to see if the mail had arrived that morning.
2. Armour, a defensive covering made of metal, or the hard covering of an animal: When going to battle, knights often wore mail to protect themselves.

The turtle has a hard shell, like mail, that helps to protect it from harm; so, the mail of the turtle protects it from predators.

mail (MAYL) (verb)
To send an article from one location to another through the post: She walked down the street to mail her letter.
male (MAYL) (adjective)
1. Masculine, manly, opposite of feminine: The male sprinter won the race by only a second or two.
2. Characteristic of men, or being masculine: Many sports that were considered appropriate only for a male player are now being played by women.

The man's wife was complaining that there was nothing in the postbox except more male mail.

Because he was expecting some delicately contentious mail, the often flirtatious male in the office commented he’d better put on his mail before opening his daily mail.

A secretary was talking with a colleague, "I hate junk mail."
Her fellow worker responded with, "Me, too, and there's one now," as she nodded toward her boss as he was just entering the office [referring to him as, "junk male"].

A woman likes a male best who has a will of his own . . . made out in her name.

—Evan Esar
main, main, mane, Maine
main (MAYN) (adjective)
1. Most important; principal, chief: The main or foremost idea is to drive down the major or main highway to get to your destination.

The audience was waiting for the big or main event of the evening.

2. Exerted to the utmost; sheer: Leo's main or brute strength was never to give up.
main (MAYN) (noun)
The largest pipe in a system of connected pipes: The water main was damaged during the earthquake and so people were deprived of water for several days.
mane (MAYN) (noun)
Long, heavy hair that is a characteristic observed around the necks of some mammals: The brown horse had a long black mane on the crest of its neck.
Maine (MAYN) (noun)
One of the fifty states comprising the United States: Trudy's summer cottage is on the coast of Maine.

The man found a shaggy mare in the country side of Maine and with might and main, he tried to trim her mane.

"What is the principal part of a horse?"

"The principal part? The mane, of course.

A male lion is the only cat with a mane.

"Lion researchers have observed that many male lions with short manes had suffered from injury or sickness; while by contrast, dark-maned males tended to be older than the others, have higher testosterone levels, heal well after being wounded, and sire more surviving cubs; all of which made them more desirable mates and formidable foes."

"A mane, it seems, signals vital information about a male lion's fighting ability and health to mates and rivals."

—This information came from
"The Truth about Lions" by Abigail Tucker;
Smithsonian magazine; January, 2010; page 30.
maize, maze
maize (MAYZ) (noun)
Corn, often referred to as Indian corn: The recipe called for ground maize, which Debora bought in the health food store.
maze (MAYZ) (noun)
That which is complicated or elaborate: On the first day of Tony's new job, he tried to understand the maze of regulations.

The ornamental garden was a complex maze of shrubbery and trees.

The farmer set up a labyrinth in his cornfield and invited people to participate in what the newspaper referred to as the maize maze.

majority, minority, plurality
majority (muh JOR i tee, muh JAHR i tee) (noun)
1. The age by which one receives and assumes civic responsibilities: The first thing Jerome did when he achieved the age of majority was to register to vote in the next election.
2. The greater number, by at least one, when counting the total of something: The majority, or most of the students of the class, decided to go to the football game instead of staying in the library.
minority (muh NOR i tee, muh NAHR i tee, mi NOR i tee) (noun)
1. A segment of population which does not share characteristics of the larger population: The new immigrants were a minority in the large city, being outnumbered by the rest of the residents.
2. A group which is comprised of a smaller number than another group the combination of which represents the total size of the something: A minority attending the public meeting did not want the new bridge to be built.
plurality (ploo RAL i tee) (noun)
1. A larger or greater number of people: The plurality of the townspeople, or almost everybody, wanted to build a swimming pool in the park.
2. The number of votes needed to elect an official that is not 50% of the total votes cast but is more than the total votes cast for either of two or more other candidates: Shanna was elected by a narrow plurality of five.

The majority of the city population had reached their majority and could therefore participate in elections; as a result, their candidate received a plurality of votes. The minority population looked forward to gaining their majority in the next year or two.

malady, medley, melody
malady (MAL uh dee) (noun)
An illness of an animal or a social illness; such as, poverty: The veterinarian finally was able to diagnose the affliction or the malady of the farmer’s horse.
medley (MED lee) (noun)
A piece of music made up of a series of short tunes: Polly hummed a medley of show tunes while she worked.
melody (MEL uh dee) (noun)
A pleasant and pleasing arrangement of tones: The melody that was played on the accordion was delightful.

Chad was unable to carry the melody of the song which was in fact a medley of popular tunes. Someone joked that he seemed to be suffering from an unknown malady.

mall, maul, maul, moll
mall (MAWL, MAL) (noun)
1. An urban shopping center, often enclosed to protect shoppers from the weather: Going to the mall is one of Jane's favorite things to do on Saturday when she can buy the items she needs for the week.
2. A grassy public park, typically for pedestrian use: Shanna strolled down the mall and enjoyed the beauty of the flowering trees.
maul (MAWL) (noun)
A tool used for cutting or chopping lumber: The hired hand on the farm used a mall to split logs for firewood.
maul (MAWL) (verb)
To injure or to handle roughly: There were reports in the newspaper of attempts by bears to maul and physically harm hikers.
moll (MAHL) (noun)
A woman companion of a gunman or gangster: The crook's moll told the police where the gang was hiding.

The gangster's moll decided to go to the mall for the New Year's sales; however, she immediately went back home because she noticed that the mall was packed with so many people and she didn't want anyone to maul her during the excitement of the sales.

man's laughter, manslaughter
man's laughter (manz LAF tuhr, manz LAHF tuhr) (noun)
The verbal or voiced expression by a male person of amusement or pleasure: The man's laughter echoed across the room and amused others who heard him.
manslaughter (MAN slaw tuhr) (noun)
The illegal or unlawful killing of an individual: The woman was convicted of manslaughter for purposely running the man down with her car and so she was sent to prison.

Is it really possible that some people feel that a man's laughter can be more disturbing than manslaughter?

manila, manilla, Minila, Manilla; vanilla
manila, manilla (muh NIL uh) (noun)
1. A strong paper or thin cardboard with a smooth finish, usually buff or light brown in color, made from Manila or Manilla hemp or wood fibers similar to it: The manila envelope is an envelope designed for transporting documents and it is made of thick, durable paper and sized so that full sheets of paper can fit inside without being folded.
2. When capitalized, the capital and largest city of the Philippines; located in Southern Luzon: Manila is a city and it should not be confused with another term known as Manila paper or Manilla paper.
vanilla (vuh NIL uh) (noun)
A food flavoring extract prepared from the cured seedpods of a plant or produced synthetically: Christa and Ralph preferred ice cream that is made with genuine vanilla, not the synthetic stuff.

How could anyone possibly confuse a manila, manilla envelope with a vanilla envelope, you may ask?

Well, it seems that a reporter on the radio mixed up the two by referring to a vanilla envelope and someone called in to report the obvious error to the program's moderators the next day and stated that there is a big difference between manila, manilla paper and a non-existent vanilla paper; unless someone had produced an envelope with vanilla flavor.

manner, manor
manner (MAN uhr) (noun)
1. A method of artistic presentation: Wearing tweeds and high boots, Bert's presentation was in the manner of a country gentry.
2. Social conduct: Tamika tried to imitate the manner and demeanor of a famous actress.
3. Good and appropriate behavior: The politeness or manner of Patricia's new neighbor was very friendly.
manor (MAN uhr) (noun)
1. In certain North American colonies, land which someone could rent from another authorized person for a fixed rate: The manor that Dale's father leased was large enough to raise a herd of cattle.
2. The house on an estate: The manor at the site was large and gracious.

Bernhart wanted to be polite with his guests when they came to his luxurious house; so, he decided to establish an etiquette for his mansion which he called "a manor with a good manner" because he wanted people to know that his manor's manners were superior.

mantel, mantle
mantel (MAN t'l) (noun)
An ornamental facing around, or over, a fireplace: The old clock stood on the mantel and kept perfect time.
mantle (MAN t'l) (noun)
1. A loose sleeveless coat worn over outer garments; a cloak: When Marvin went to the opera, he put on an elegant mantle instead of a jacket.
2. Something that covers, envelops, or conceals: Looking up into the sky was like looking at a dark blue mantle overspreading the earth.

A tragedy almost happened when the glamorous opera star, wearing an elegant mantle, leaned against the mantel of the fireplace and her mantle almost caught on fire.

manual, manual, Manuel
manual (MAN yoo uhl) (adjective)
Relating to something which is done by hand, not using a machine: Because of the rocks in the field, the farmer hired manual labor to cut the wheat.
manual (MAN yoo uhl) (noun)
A book or precise description or explanation on how to use something: The directions in the car's repair manual were explicit and easy for mechanics to follow.
Manuel (MAN yoo uhl) (noun)
1. A given name for a male: Mother called to remind her son, Manuel, to come home for dinner.
2. A surname: Fred noticed there were many people in the telephone directory with the last name of Manuel.

Helena's nephew, Manuel, has always liked to do manual work; especially, fixing engines which was easy for him because he always utilized the instruction manual.

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