Confusable words | Sunday Observer

Confusable words

1 August, 2021

Some English words appear to be similar but they have different meanings. Here is a collection of such words.
Dominate / domineer
‘Dominate’ means ‘to control someone or something or to have more importance than other people or things.’
Certain industries are dominated by multinational companies.
‘Domineer’ means ‘to control other people without considering their feelings or ideas.’
Bob has a domineering mother.
Doubtful / dubious
‘Doubtful’ means ‘probably not true or not likely to happen.’
Prospects for a lasting peace remain doubtful.
‘Dubious’ means ‘probably not honest, true or right.’
The assumption that growth in one country benefits the whole world is highly dubious.
Dual / duel
‘Dual’ means ‘having two of something or two parts.’
The bridge has a dual role, carrying both road and rail.
‘Duel’ means ‘a fight with weapons between two people.’
The officer challenged him to a duel.
Dwarf / midget / pygmy
‘Dwarf’ means ‘a human, animal or plant of stunted growth.’
Have you read Snow White and Seven Dwarfs?
‘Midget’ means ‘someone who is very short.’
‘Pygmy’ means ‘someone who belongs to a race of very small people.’
Each other / one another
‘Each other’ is used to show that each of two or more people does something to the other or others.
They enjoy each other’s company.
‘One another’ also means ‘each other.’
Mary and I have known one another for many years.
Traditional grammarians try to preserve ‘each other’ for two people or things and ‘one another’ for more than two. However, their usage has become so intertwined that we no longer appreciate the difference.
Earthly / earthy
The word ‘earthly’ is connected with life on earth rather than in heaven.
Switzerland is an earthly paradise.
‘Earthy’ means ‘tasting, smelling or looking like earth or soil.
The artist has used a lot of earthy colours.
Ecology / environment
‘Ecology’ means ‘the way in which plants, animals and people are related to each other and to their environment.’

Rex is studying the natural ecology of the earth.
The environment means ‘the air, water and land on earth, which is affected by man’s activities.’
Use of chemicals can be damaging to the environment.
Economic / economical / economics
‘Economic’ means ‘relating to trade, industry and the management of money.’
Economic growth in our country is slow.
‘Economical’ means ‘using money, time or goods carefully and without wasting any.’
The shop sells good-quality clothes at economical prices.
‘Economics’ is the study of the way in which money and goods are produced and used.
Brian is a Harvard Professor of Economics.
Educationalist / educationist
Both words mean someone who knows a lot about the ways of teaching and learning.
The traditional form ‘educationalist’ has given way to the simpler ‘educationist.’
Effective / efficacious
‘Effective’ means ‘successful and working in the way that was intended.’
Training is often much less effective than expected.
‘Efficacious’ means ‘working in the way you intended.’
Doctors have found a very efficacious method of treating cancer patients.
Effete / effeminate
‘Effete’ means ‘weak and powerless in a way that you dislike.’
He said the country is full of effete intellectuals.
‘Effeminate’ means ‘looking or behaving like a woman.’
Either / any
‘Either’ means ‘one or other of two.’
There were two films showing and I didn’t like either of them.
‘Any’ refers to more than two.
There were four films showing and I didn’t care for any of them.
Elder / older / eldest / oldest
‘Elder’ and ‘eldest’ are used primarily for human family relationships. Use ‘older’ and ‘oldest’ in other contexts.
Sam is the oldest employee on the staff.