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    Posted on Sep 28, 2015

    Do You Actually Know The Meaning Of These Commonly Misused Words?

    Words don't always mean what you think they mean.

    1. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      'Bad’ and ‘confrontational’ are closer in meaning to adverse (as in ‘adverse conditions’) rather than averse, which describes things you have a strong dislike or opposition to.

    2. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      If you picked ‘ban or prohibit’, you’re probably thinking of censor, as in ‘film censorship’. Censure with a U means to express severe disapproval of something.

    3. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      Things described as venerable often happen to be incredibly old, but the word itself really only refers to things that are held in high regard.

    4. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      Acting disingenuously involves acting falsely or naively, in particular by withholding information or playing dumb. Ingenuous itself means ‘innocent’, ‘inexperienced’, or ‘unsuspecting’.

    5. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      Don’t mix this up with meretricious (which really does describe things that are superficial but lack real value) or mendacious (dishonest behaviour).

    6. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      Bad or disrespectful behaviour is impudence whereas foolhardiness is imprudence, and laziness is indolence.

    7. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      Associations with the rich and powerful and a similar spelling to ‘largeness’ mean largesse is often wrongly used to refer to great wealth or superiority, when it actually means ‘charity’ or ‘benevolence’.

    8. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      Indefatigable basically means ‘insusceptible to fatigue’, and describes someone or something that persists at something tirelessly.

    9. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      Strictly speaking, fortuitous and fortunate don’t mean the same thing: fortuitous really only describes things that happen unexpectedly or by chance, regardless of whether they turn out to be good or bad. Confusion with fortunate, which always refers to good luck, means they’re so often muddled up that they’re used pretty much interchangeably.

    10. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      If you picked ‘postpone’, you might be confusing this with procrastinate, which means to stall or drag your feet in doing something. You can of course procrastinate by prevaricating, which only complicates things...

    11. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      Disinterested and uninterested don’t mean the same thing: uninterested means that you’re unconcerned or bored with something, whereas disinterested means that you’re personally not involved or not affected by it, so can remain totally unbiased.

    12. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      If you picked ‘slow-witted’ you might be thinking of obtuse, which refers to dullness, simple-mindedness, or insensitivity. Abstruse describes things that are difficult to get your head around.

    13. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      The stairwell is the gap between the stories of a building that’s filled by a staircase. The space at the bottom of a staircase is really called the stair-foot (as in ‘the foot of the stairs’). And the part you walk on is just called the tread.

    14. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      Obdurate comes from the same root as durable, and describes someone with hard, unchangeable opinions.

    15. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      If you picked ‘as bad as being tortured’ then you’re thinking of torturous, with an extra R. Tortuous means twisting and turning, or longwinded and time-wasting like a meandering route. Things that are tortuous can often seem torturous, making the two words easy to mix up.

    16. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      The non– of nonplussed is confusing: although many people use it to mean ‘unimpressed’ or ‘unfazed’, it actually means that you’re so surprised or shocked that you’re not sure how to react at all.

    17. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      It’s biannual that means ‘twice a year’. Biennial means ‘once every two years’.

    18. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      If you’re thinking this has something to do with high school graduations, you’re mixing it up with valedictorian. A valetudinarian is someone who is obsessive about their health.

    19. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      Loathe with an E means ‘to hate’. Loath without an E means ‘unwilling’ or ‘unenthusiastic’.

    20. Correct! 
      Wrong! 

      Complaisant not complacent, which would be closer in meaning to the other two options.

    Sources: OED, Oxford Dictionaries.

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