New Word #28: More Confusing Pairs

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

22 thoughts on “New Word #28: More Confusing Pairs

  1. Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Finding the time and actual effort to produce a really good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and don’t manage to get anything done.


    1. Tell me about it. I used to write each pair out, but to no avail. There’s no help. The confusion just continues as strongly as ever. LOL. It’s almost like a hopeless relationship–it doesn’t matter how hard you work on the relationship, it’s like beating a dead horse.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL. I agree that the monkeys are most suitable for a language post. LOL. Yes, some pairs are so confusing that no matter how many times I try to clarify my mind, it keeps going confused. LOL.


    1. LOL. I am glad you like it. Yes, the picture is cute and fortunately it is from the 19th century and there’s no copy rights issues. I always have to be very careful with that.


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