Confusable words | Sunday Observer

Confusable words

18 July, 2021

Some words in English appear to be similar but they have different meanings. Here is a collection of such words.
Desire / want / need
‘Desire’ involves a degree of wishful thinking. ‘Want’ implies a less urgent craving. ‘Need’ expresses the strongest requirement and urgency.
Sam desired an easy life, wanted to build a house and needed a steady income.
Detract / distract
To ‘detract’ is to ‘take away from.’
One mistake is not going to detract from your achievement.
To ‘distract’ is to divert someone’s attention away from what they are doing.
Coverage of the war was used to distract attention from other matters.
Device / devise
A ‘device’ is something designed and made for a specific purpose.
Modern houses are equipped with many labour-saving devices.
To ‘devise’ means ‘to plan or invent a new way of doing something.
The manager devised a method for quicker communication between offices.
Devil’s advocate
A devil’s advocate is someone who pretends to disagree with you in order to have a good discussion about something.
Danny would play devil’s advocate with anyone.
Diagnosis / prognosis
A diagnosis is an identification of a problem or disease. A prognosis is a prediction about the outcome.
An exact diagnosis can be made by obtaining a blood sample.
It was a hopeful prognosis of the country’s development.
Differ from / differ with
To ‘differ from’ suggests a contrast.
My views usually differ from those of others.
To ‘differ with’ someone is to disagree.
I differed with George on every point put forward by him.
Different from / different to
‘Different from’ means ‘not like something or someone’
Our children are different from each other.
Jack’s mobile phone is different to mine.
Dilate / dilatory
To dilate something is to expand it.
To be dilatory is to waste time.
A dilemma is a situation in which it is very difficult to decide what to do because all the choices seem equally good or equally bad.
Kathy is in a dilemma about the job offers from two companies.
Dinghy / dingy
A dinghy is a small boat. ‘Dingy’ means ‘grim, soiled, shabby and gloomy.’
The tourists got into a dinghy to reach the ship.
Her grandmother lived in a dingy room.
Disc / disk
A disc is a flat object.
Ben retired prematurely because of a slipped disc.
A disk is a small flat piece of plastic or metal which is used for storing computer or electronic information.
Discomfort / discomfit
‘Discomfort’ is a feeling of slight pain or of being physically uncomfortable.
If the exercise causes discomfort, stop it immediately.
‘Discomfit’ means ‘to make someone feel slightly uncomfortable, annoyed or embarrassed.’
I was discomfited by her silence.
Discover / invent
To discover something is to find it for the first time, even though that is already existent.
Nancy discovered that she was pregnant.
To invent is to create something that never existed previously.
You will never know who invented the wheel.
Discreet / discrete
‘Discreet’ means ‘careful about what you say or do, so that you do not offend, upset, or embarrass people’
She was making discreet inquiries about you.
‘Discrete’ means ‘clearly separate’
Changes will occur in discrete steps.