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Commonly Misused Words with Meanings and Examples of Correct Use: From E to M

By Rebecca Scudder

Many words in English sound very similar or have spellings that are close but with very different meanings. Here we give you the meaning of the words and use them in a memorable sentence to help you distinguish them in the future. From economic to militate, its and it's, learn them and use them.

economic / economical

economic - about the economy

economical - to be careful of the use of, sparingly

His parents reacted to the current economic crisis by the economical use of their tightened family budget: no movies, no cable TV, only hand-me-down clothes, brown bag lunches on day old bread, entertainment using an ancient and incomplete Scrabble game, and bedtime stories from a tattered copy of Moby Dick they found on a bus.

emigration / immigration

emigration - to leave a country where you have lived

immigration - to enter a country, with intention to live there

Throughout the past two centuries, emigration from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America was followed by immigration to the United States by millions of people seeking a better life.

exacerbate / exasperate

exacerbate - to make a problem worse

exasperate - to frustrate or exhaust

The pompous teacher knew the student was trying to exasperate him with snide comments meant to exacerbate the students fuming over their latest grades in the back of the room.

flout / flaunt

flout - to refuse to obey, in an obvious way

flaunt - to exhibit, make sure is noticed

The hippies mean to flout convention when they flaunt the painted peace signs on their nude bodies at the sit-in on the Pentagon lawn in front of press cameras from around the world.

hangar / hanger

hangar - a shelter for aircraft

hanger - a place to hang something, a piece of wire shaped to hold clothing, someone who hangs things

The pilot left the hangar after putting her flight jacket on the hanger in the closet.

The wall paper hanger put pre-pasted paper with mauve cabbage roses on it over the interior of the stealth bomber hangar.

hoard / horde

hoard - to keep to oneself, to store up

horde - a mass of people, a large sometimes unruly group

The horde of dwarves removed every piece of gold from the dragon's hoard as soon as it flew north.

inherent / inherit

inherent - inseparably part of

inherit - to receive a bequest, to pass down a generation

An ability to see ghosts was inherent in the sixth sense she might inherit from her grandmother's genes.

its / it's

its - belonging to it (third person neuter singular possessive determiner)

it's - contraction of it is, it has

It's come to my attention that the peacock lost its tail feathers from plucking, not feather mites.

lay / lie

lay - to place something, to put something down

lie* - to go to a prone position, to recline

*lie also means to not tell the truth, but that meaning is usually evident from context and not confused with lay

She would lay her uniform across the dresser before she would lie in bed at night.

loose / lose

loose - to to let go, to make not tight

lose - not win, cannot find

If the hook is too loose, you will lose your flying fish before you pull it aboard the boat.

mitigate / militate

mitigate - to make less strong, to lessen

militate - to fight or pressure someone

The priest tried to militate the harsh restrictions which the Inquisition forced on unbelievers, but he could not mitigate the punishments they ordered.

Many of these words were listed in the Wikipedia article on commonly misused words. Others were selected from experience.

You can download a sheet with the meanings of commonly misused words E -M

Additional Words

If you have some words which regularly confuse you when you try to use them, or you feel should be included, let me know in comments, and I will include them in a future article.