Buzz·Posted on Sep 28, 2015Do You Actually Know The Meaning Of These Commonly Misused Words?Words don't always mean what you think they mean.by Paul Anthony JonesBuzzFeed ContributorFacebookPinterestTwitterMailLink Bad, harmful Correct Incorrect Bad, harmful Confrontational Correct Incorrect Confrontational Opposed to, unwilling Correct Incorrect Opposed to, unwilling 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. To ban or prohibit something Correct Incorrect To ban or prohibit something To criticize, to condemn Correct Incorrect To criticize, to condemn To feel, to become aware of Correct Incorrect To feel, to become aware of 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. Ancient Correct Incorrect Ancient Well-established, deeply engrained Correct Incorrect Well-established, deeply engrained Esteemed, highly respected Correct Incorrect Esteemed, highly respected 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. Insincere, untruthful Correct Incorrect Insincere, untruthful Unimaginative, unoriginal Correct Incorrect Unimaginative, unoriginal Unwilling, reluctant Correct Incorrect Unwilling, reluctant Correct! Wrong! Acting disingenuously involves acting falsely or naively, in particular by withholding information or playing dumb. Ingenuous itself means ‘innocent’, ‘inexperienced’, or ‘unsuspecting’. Very precise Correct Incorrect Very precise Superficial, showy yet worthless Correct Incorrect Superficial, showy yet worthless Dishonest, underhand Correct Incorrect Dishonest, underhand 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). Ill-advised, foolhardy Correct Incorrect Ill-advised, foolhardy Rude, impolite Correct Incorrect Rude, impolite Lazy Correct Incorrect Lazy Correct! Wrong! Bad or disrespectful behaviour is impudence whereas foolhardiness is imprudence, and laziness is indolence. Wealth Correct Incorrect Wealth Generosity Correct Incorrect Generosity Sophistication Correct Incorrect Sophistication 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’. Frustrating, exhausting Correct Incorrect Frustrating, exhausting Trustworthy Correct Incorrect Trustworthy Tireless Correct Incorrect Tireless Correct! Wrong! Indefatigable basically means ‘insusceptible to fatigue’, and describes someone or something that persists at something tirelessly. Lucky, by good fortune Correct Incorrect Lucky, by good fortune Unexpected, unintentional Correct Incorrect Unexpected, unintentional Fearless, brave Correct Incorrect Fearless, brave 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. To put off doing something, to postpone Correct Incorrect To put off doing something, to postpone To nit-pick, to quibble over details Correct Incorrect To nit-pick, to quibble over details To dodge an issue, to act evasively Correct Incorrect To dodge an issue, to act evasively 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... Bored, not bothered Correct Incorrect Bored, not bothered Neutral, not biased Correct Incorrect Neutral, not biased Expressionless, not responsive Correct Incorrect Expressionless, not responsive 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. Slow-witted, unsubtle Correct Incorrect Slow-witted, unsubtle Immaterial, inconsequential Correct Incorrect Immaterial, inconsequential Hard to understand, obscure Correct Incorrect Hard to understand, obscure 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. The floor at the bottom of a staircase Correct Incorrect The floor at the bottom of a staircase The space taken up by a staircase Correct Incorrect The space taken up by a staircase The part of a staircase you walk on Correct Incorrect The part of a staircase you walk on 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. Stubborn Correct Incorrect Stubborn Hard-working Correct Incorrect Hard-working Out-dated Correct Incorrect Out-dated Correct! Wrong! Obdurate comes from the same root as durable, and describes someone with hard, unchangeable opinions. Unpleasant, something as bad as being tortured Correct Incorrect Unpleasant, something as bad as being tortured Sarcastic, something said tongue in cheek Correct Incorrect Sarcastic, something said tongue in cheek Meandering, something that’s full of twists and turns Correct Incorrect Meandering, something that’s full of twists and turns 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. Unimpressed, unconvinced Correct Incorrect Unimpressed, unconvinced Unfazed, unperturbed Correct Incorrect Unfazed, unperturbed Unnerved, unsettled Correct Incorrect Unnerved, unsettled 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. Occurring twice a year Correct Incorrect Occurring twice a year Occurring once every two years Correct Incorrect Occurring once every two years Occurring once every 20 years Correct Incorrect Occurring once every 20 years Correct! Wrong! It’s biannual that means ‘twice a year’. Biennial means ‘once every two years’. Triumphant, celebratory Correct Incorrect Triumphant, celebratory Hypochondriac, health-conscious Correct Incorrect Hypochondriac, health-conscious Conclusive, departing Correct Incorrect Conclusive, departing 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. Insufferable, hated Correct Incorrect Insufferable, hated Adverse, antagonistic Correct Incorrect Adverse, antagonistic Unwilling, reluctant Correct Incorrect Unwilling, reluctant Correct! Wrong! Loathe with an E means ‘to hate’. Loath without an E means ‘unwilling’ or ‘unenthusiastic’. Willing to please Correct Incorrect Willing to please Smug, self-satisfied Correct Incorrect Smug, self-satisfied Contented Correct Incorrect Contented Correct! Wrong! Complaisant not complacent, which would be closer in meaning to the other two options. Sources: OED, Oxford Dictionaries.