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Betrothed means "formally engaged." If you are betrothed, then, congratulations! As they say in the song, you’re going to the chapel — you’re going to get married.

Betrothed came into English through a combination of bi-, or "thoroughly," and treowðe, the Old English word for "truth, a pledge." If you are betrothed, you are completely and formally pledged to someone. Betrothed has a slightly more old fashioned and formal feel than its synonym engaged, but both describe people who are between "Will you marry me?" and "I do."

Choose your words

Caught between words? Learn how to make the right choice.

compose/ comprise

Compose is to make up a whole, and comprise is to contain parts. Poodles compose the dog class because the class comprises poodles. The parts compose the whole, and the whole comprises the parts. Confused? Everybody else is!

lose/ loose

Lose sounds like snooze. If you lose something, you don’t have it anymore. Add an “o” and loose rhymes with goose and describes something that’s not attached.

connote/ denote

Don’t let the rhyme fool you — to connote is to imply a meaning or condition, and to denote is to define exactly. Connote is like giving a hint, but to denote is to refer to something outright.

that/ which

The words that and which point to something — which one? That one! Before a clause or phrase, a that clause goes with the flow, but a which clause starts with a pause. American English makes a big deal out of the distinction but British English doesn't, which may be why it's so dang confusing. read more...

prophecy/ prophesy

One letter separates prophecy from prophesy, and the close relationship is derived from a shared word history. read more...

inflammable/ inflammatory

Inflammable and inflammatory can be confused with one another, but they also offer their own source of confusion with the prefix in-. read more...

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