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instant/ instance

Around the Vocabulary.com office, we might like an instance of tea, but we vehemently oppose instant tea. Continue reading...

dual/ duel

Seeing double? Not quite! Dual is two, or double, but a duel is a fight. If you’re getting sick of your fair-weather friend’s dual personality, perhaps you should throw down your glove and challenge him to a duel at high noon. Continue reading...

grisly/ gristly/ grizzly

Blood, guts, and man-eaters, oh my! Feint of heart turn back now! Grisly means relating to horror or disgust, gristly means related to gristle or cartilage, and grizzly is a big ol’ bear. That can eat you. Continue reading...

censor/ censure

A censor hides information. A censure is harsh criticism. They’re both judgments and they both stink. Continue reading...

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FEATURED WORD

obelisk

Next time you visit the nation’s capital, you can wow tourists by telling them the Washington Monument is an obelisk — a tall, narrow stone pillar that tapers to a point at the top and commemorates an important person or event.

Obelisks were all the rage in ancient Egypt and still in vogue in Rome’s heyday. The Egyptians associated the skinny four-sided monoliths with the sun god Ra and thought they looked like the sun’s rays shining down. Herodotus was among the first writers to describe obelisks, and it’s to him that we owe the word; it comes from the Greek obelos, meaning “nail” or “pointed pillar.” History buffs can still spot obelisks, also called “Cleopatra’s Needles,” everywhere from Myanmar to Manhattan.