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Commonly Confused: Four Less Common Pairs

I love words. I get a kick out of twisting a sentence around or subtly shifting its meaning with the replacement of one little word. From passive to aggressive or formal to casual, the switch of a noun or verb can make all the difference in your phrase… or sentence… or paragraph.

It’s vital, therefore, to ensure you’re always using the correct word. That’s not to say there’s always the right word… just make sure you’re using the word you mean to use.

In today’s installment of Commonly Confused, I’m comparing some less common pairs. Can you relate to any of these? Be honest!

PROCEED vs. PRECEDE

Proceed¹

  • to come forth from a usually specified place or thing; to come into being; to come forth by way of descent from a specified parent or ancestor
  • to go on (as after a pause or an interruption) with what has been begun; go forward from a point already arrived at; go ahead; to go on with one’s movement or traveling; go forward on one’s way; make one’s way forward; to go on with what one is saying or writing; move along with the thread of one’s discourse or the development of one’s ideas; to continue
  • to begin and carry on some action,process, or movement; set out on a course; to deal with something or act toward something in a particular way; to go to law; take legal action; enter upon a lawsuit
    Caution

To put it layman’s terms, to proceed means to come forth from a specific person or place, to continue with what has already begun, or to begin and carry out some action or process. You may have seen a road sign or two that read “Proceed with Caution.”

Precede²

  • go before in rank, dignity, or importance; take precedence of
  • to be, go, or come before in arrangement or sequence; be, go, or move before or in front of
  • to go before in order of time; be earlier than; occur before with relation to something

In other words, to precede means to go or come before—whether that means in rank, sequence, time, size, or any other means you can identify. When walking through a doorway, I allow my kids to precede me.

DISPERSE vs. DISBURSE

Disperse³

  • to do or to cause to break up and go in different ways; send or drive into different places; scatter
  • to do or to cause to become spread widely; distribute
  • to do or to cause to spread or distribute from a fixed or constant source

Simply put, to disperse is to scatter or cause to scatter or spread. Leaves are dispersed with the howling of the wind. So are marbles.

Disburse4

  • to expend especially from a public fund; pay out
  • to pay in settlement of; defray
  • distribute

In English, to disburse is to distribute, usually in the form of payment. Your royalty checks are disbursed from your publishers.

EMIGRATE vs. IMMIGRATE

Emigrate5

  • to leave a place of abode (such as a country) for life or residence elsewhere

To emigrate is to leave your home to establish a life elsewhere. You emigrate from your home country.

Immigrate6

  • to come to dwell or settle; to enter and usually become established
  • to come into a country of which one is not a native for the purpose of permanent residence

To immigrate is to enter a new place and settle; come to a new country and establish permanent residence. You immigrate to a new country.

HORDE vs. HOARD

Horde7

  • n: an unorganized or loosely organized mass of individuals; a vast number

A horde is a large, disorganized mass of individuals. Think The Walking Dead. Zombie hordes

Hoard8

  • n: a collection or accumulation or amassment of something usually of special value or utility that is put aside for preservation of safekeeping or future use often in a greedy or miserly or otherwise unreasonable manner and that is often kept hidden or as if hidden; a supply or stock or fund of something that is stored up and closely and often jealously guarded
  • v: to collect or accumulate or amass into a hoard; lay up a hoard of

A hoard is a huge collection of stuff—valuable or worthless—that is carefully guarded by he who hoards. Yes, they make televisions shows about these kinds of hoards, too. I’m not sure which are scarier, though.

I hope this list has been helpful. Leave a comment with other commonly confused pairs.

Happy writing!


SOURCES:

1) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, s.v. “proceed,” accessed March 17, 2015, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/

2) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, s.v. “precede,” accessed March 17, 2015,  http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/

3) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, s.v. “disperse,” accessed March 17, 2015, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/

4) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, s.v. “disburse,” accessed March 17, 2015, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/

5) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, s.v. “emigrate,” accessed March 17, 2015, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/

6) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, s.v. “immigrate,” accessed March 17, 2015, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/

7) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, s.v. “horde,” accessed March 17, 2015, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/

8) Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, s.v. “hoard,” accessed March 17, 2015, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/


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