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Caught between words?

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assure/ ensure/ insure

Although these three often show up at the same party, giving hugs, they’re not the same, thank you very much. To assure is to tell someone everything’s ok, to ensure is to make certain, and to insure is to protect financially. Have it straight now? Are you sure? Continue reading...

sensual/ sensuous

The words sensual and sensuous are often used interchangeably, but careful writers would do well to think before using one or the other. Continue reading...

afflict/ inflict

Both afflict and inflict cause pain, but afflict means to cause suffering or unhappiness, something a disease does, but inflict means to force pain or suffering, like if you smack someone upside the head. Continue reading...

demur/ demure

To demur is to show reluctance or to hesitate, like not quite getting in the car when someone opens the door, but demure isalways an adjective describing a modest, reserved, or shy person, and sounds like the mew of a tiny kitten. Continue reading...

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FEATURED WORD

acrimony

Acrimony is bitterness, or ill will. Acrimony is a spiteful word. It sounds bitter, like acid.

Acrimony comes from the Latin word acrimonia, meaning basically "sharpness." Although it sounds like matrimony, the only thing the words have in common is the suffix from monium which means "state, condition." So it's the state of being acrid, or bitter. It's not just for married folks, though — this slightly dusty noun can refer to any sharp, bitter feeling. After a drawn-out court case, there might be lingering acrimony stirred up during the trial. Not surprisingly, it's also the name of a British heavy metal band from the '90s.