Twelve Most Misunderstood Words in English

Words are tricksy.

I loved this list of commonly misunderstood words (published by and reproduced here with permission), and was surprised to see I did not have the correct definition for several of these words, having used them inappropriately in conversation and writing.  Moot, Precocious and Alternate are on my ‘I did not know that’ list.

[Infographic provided by]

Take the definition of Moot, for example – my understanding is that it meant no longer open for debate or closed to discussion.  That is incorrect – it means exactly the opposite: Open for debate.  But my incorrect meaning applied to the word is the popular one, I think.  If used it correctly, I might be misunderstood or confuse my reader, who is using the word by the common, incorrect definition.

Perhaps it is best to steer clear of such words completely.  It is a rich language we enjoy, and there are many other words that are not so tricky. 

Mind you, I am not continually proscribing infamous, systematic alternates – less than historical, but moot nonetheless. It is a nauseous and precocious penultimate to consider, after all.


12 thoughts on “Twelve Most Misunderstood Words in English

  1. Really interesting, Mitch. I knew the ‘moot’ thing only because I dated a law student at college and he would go on ad nauseum about ‘moot points’ …The only one I didn’t get right was No. 12 ‘Nauseous’. As I say, interesting and probably moot.

    • Thanks, Sue. I remember Sheldon on Big Bang Theory correcting someone that they said ‘nauseous’ when they should have used ‘nauseated’. So I guess you can learn something from TV, after all.

  2. Cheers, Mitch. This makes for good reading, informative and an eye opener for me on quite a few of the words – tis good to be learning.


  3. “Moot” can also mean “of no practical importance; irrelevant,” which I believe most people mean when they use it. So, no matter that a point is debatable, it may be irrelevant.

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