There are countless confusing pairs in English that it is very easy to mistake one for the other. Here I list a few that I encountered recently.
wreck and wrack
wreck: a vehicle or ship that has been destroyed or badly damaged
wrack: 1 : ruin, destruction. 2 : a remnant of something destroyed.
These two words can be verb or noun; they look a like, with similar meanings. However, the two are used in different circumstances. When associated with “ship”, it’s usually wreck, such as ship wreck, or a wrecked ship. Wreck means damage beyond repair, while wrack is to execute certain vengeance. When it is associated with brain, it is something like “I wracked my mind”.
risible and irascible
risible: such as to provoke laughter. This word, despite the appearance, has nothing to do with “rise”.
irascible: having or showing a tendency to be easily angered.
martinet and matinee
martinet: a strict disciplinarian, especially in the armed forces
matinee: a performance in a theater or a showing of a movie that takes place in the daytime.
I’ve never seen martinet being used, but I’ve seen matinee several times– when people come to New York for a visit, they will want to choose a Broadway show to watch and sometimes it is a matinee.
vindicate and vindictive
vindicate: clear (someone) of blame or suspicion.
vindictive: having or showing a strong or unreasoning desire for revenge.
insolent and insolvent
insolent: showing a rude and arrogant lack of respect.
insolvent: unable to pay debts owed.
gregarious and gangrene
gregarious: (of a person) fond of company; sociable.
gangrene: localized death and decomposition of body tissue, resulting from either obstructed circulation or bacterial infection