Confusable words | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Confusable words

19 September, 2021

Some English words appear to be similar but they have different meanings. Here are some of them.
Fracture / break
There is hardly any difference between a fractured bone and a broken bone. Medically, the preferred term is fracture.
Fragile / frail
‘Fragile’ means easily broken or damaged.
Be careful with that vase – it’s very fragile.
Someone who is frail is weak and thin because they are old or ill. ‘Fragile’ is more aptly applied to things but ‘frail’ implies physical weakness.
Frantic / frenetic
‘Frantic’ means extremely worried and frightened about a situation, so that you cannot control your feelings.
There was still no news of Emma and her parents were getting frantic.
‘Frenetic’ activity is fast and not very organised.
Some people rush from one job to another at a frenetic pace.
Frightened / scared
To be ‘frightened’ or ‘scared’ is an immediate or passing experience.
Many animals are frightened of fireworks.
Some people are scared of dogs.
‘Scared’ is less formal than ‘frightened’ and is the usual word to use in everyday English.
Fruition / completion
If a plan or project comes to fruition, it is successfully put into action and completed.
The minister’s proposals came to fruition only after the war.
‘Completion’ means the state of being finished.
The job is subject to your satisfactory completion of the training period.
Fustian / fusty
‘Fustian’ means words that sound important but have very little meaning.
Ideas of people who are fusty are old fashioned.
Some universities are full of fusty old academics.
Futility / fatuity
Actions that are futile are useless because they have no chance of being successful.
Max delivered a lecture on the futility of war.
‘Fatuity’ means stupidity.
Please don’t ask fatuous questions.
Gaff / gaffe
‘Gaff’ is a stick with a hook at the end used to pull big fish out of the water.
A ‘gaffe’ is an embarrassing mistake made in a social situation or in public.
The ambassador’s comments were a major diplomatic gaffe.
Gamble / gambol
A ‘gamble’ is an action or plan that involves a risk but that you hope will succeed.
It was a big gamble for me to leave a permanent and pensionable job and become a writer.
‘Gambol’ means to jump or run round in a lively active way.
The lambs gambolled happily in the sunshine.
Genial / congenial
‘Genial’ means friendly and happy.
Susima always had a genial smile on her face.
‘Congenial’ means pleasant in a way that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed.
The university provided a congenial atmosphere for research.
Gentle / genteel
‘Gentle’ means kind and careful in the way you behave or do things, so that you do not hurt or damage anyone or anything.
My father was a very gentle, caring person.
‘Genteel’ means polite, gentle or graceful.
Anoma broke into a genteel run.
Gilt / guilt
‘Gilt’ means a thin shiny material, such as gold or something similar, used to cover objects for decoration.
‘Guilt’ is a strong feeling of shame and sadness because you know that you have done something wrong.
Jack had to buy an expensive present for his wife out of guilt.
Gist / grist
The ‘gist’ is the main idea and meaning of what someone has said or written.
The gist of his argument is that a lockdown is impossible.
‘Grist’ is something that is useful in a particular situation.
Any publicity is all grist to the mill.