In this series of articles, we cover an important part of usage: confusing words. Each article consists of 10 pairs or sets of words. In general, these pairs contain words that have similarities in spelling and pronunciation. Because of this, there is generally confusion in their usage. The articles in this series explain the difference in usage for the words in these pairs and also highlight usage for these words.
1. Abjure & Adjure
Abjure means to formally reject or disavow a formerly held belief, usually under pressure.
Usage Example: To marry a commoner the Prince had to abjure his title.
Adjure is to ask for or request earnestly.
Usage Example: The sect chief adjured his followers to spread his teachings all over the world.
2. Abrogate & Arrogate
Abrogate means to cancel or revoke formally or officially.
Usage Example: It was not in the power of the judge to abrogate the law.
Arrogate means to claim unwarrantably or presumptuously; assume or appropriate to oneself without right.
Usage Example: Elected governments arrogate many decision making powers to themselves without any thought of the rights of the common man.
3. Abstruse & Obtuse
Abstruse means not easy to understand; recondite; esoteric.
Usage Example: The abstruse and lengthy lectures of the professor made sure that the students avoided them.
Obtuse means taking more than usual time to learn or understand; lacking intellectual acuity. It is also used of an angle; between 90 and 180 degrees.
Usage Example: One fears that he is too obtuse to grasp the delicacy of the situation.
4. Abysmal & Abyssal
Abysmal means extremely or hopelessly bad or severe. It is used for things like, abysmal poverty, and abysmal ignorance.
Usage Example: His school academic record was abysmal.
Abyssal means of or like an abyss; immeasurable; unfathomable. It is also used as of or relating to the biogeographic zone of the ocean bottom between the bathyal and hadal zones: from depths of approximately 13,000 to 21,000 feet (4000 to 6500 meters).
Usage Example: Abyssal depths can only be explored in submersibles.
5. Accede & Exceed
Accede means to assent or give one's consent; agree. It can also be used to attain or assume an office, title, or dignity; succeed (usually followed by to).
Usage Example: The minor Prince acceded to the throne on the demise of the Emperor.
Exceed, on the other hand, means to go beyond the bounds or limits of, or to surpass; be superior to; excel.
Usage Example: Her dance performance exceeded all the other students.
6. Accept & Except
Accept means to take or receive (something offered); receive with approval or favor. It is also used to undertake the responsibility, duties, honors, etc., of.
Usage Example: He accepted the office of the President with reluctance.
Except can be used as with the exclusion of; excluding; save; but.
Usage Example: The old man is fond of everyone except you.
7. Abdication & Addiction
Abdication means the act or state of abdicating; renunciation.
Usage Example: The Queen abdicated the throne in favor of her son.
Addiction means the condition of being abnormally dependent on some habit, especially compulsive dependency on narcotic drugs.
Usage Example: Addiction of any kind is bad for health.
8. Ablution & Absolution
Ablution means a cleansing with water or other liquid, especially as a religious ritual.
Usage Example: The priest undertook his daily ablution in The Ganges at four o' clock in the morning.
Absolution means the act of absolving or remitting; formal redemption as pronounced by a priest in the sacrament of penance.
Usage Example: No absolution can wash away continuous bad deeds.
9. Accent, Ascent & Assent
These three similar sounding words have vastly different meanings.
(a) To pronounce with prominence (a syllable within a word or a word within a phrase).
(b) The unique speech patterns, inflections, choice of words, etc. that identifies a particular individual: She had a mild Tamil accent.
(c) To give emphasis or prominence to; accentuate. The accent in her home was on pastels.
(a) An act of ascending; upward movement; a rising movement: The ascent of the hot air balloon was swift.
(b) The act of climbing or travelling up: The ascent to the mountains was very steep.
(c) Movement upward from a lower to a higher state, degree, grade, or status; advancement: The ascent of his political career was stupendous.
(a) To agree or concur. His silence was taken as his assent.
(b) To give in; yield; concede. The students assented to the demands of the teacher.
10. Access, Assess & Excess
Access means the ability, right, or permission to approach, enter, speak with, or use; admittance.
Usage Example: She could not access her bank account as she had forgotten her password.
Assess means to judge the worth, importance, etc, of; evaluate.
Usage Example: Intellectual property is difficult to assess.
Excess means more than or above what is necessary, usual, or specified; extra.
Usage Example: He had to pay extra for the excess baggage.