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Caught between words?

Don't be confused! Learn how to make the right choice.
formerly/ formally

Formerly is something that happened before, like when a pop star changed his name to a squiggle, he became known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. But formally comes from formal, or fancy, like the prom. Continue reading...

hone/ home

To hone is to sharpen a knife or perfect a skill. Home is where you live, where your stuff is, is where the heart is, and all that. Continue reading...

venal/ venial

Catholics everywhere are confused: do they commit venal sins or venial sins? And what is a venal/venial sin anyway? Continue reading...

decent/ descent/ dissent

Decent is all buttoned up. Descent has all the fun because it gets to climb down a mountain. Dissent is what you do when the glee club wants to get matching red outfits but you like purple. Continue reading...

All Choose Your Words »
FEATURED WORD

duress

Let’s hope you’re never denied food and sleep and forced to sign a confession, but if you are, that's called being under duress. Threats and harsh treatment meant to make you do something you don’t want to do is duress.

The word duress came into English through French, with origins in the Latin word duritia, which means “hardness.” First used to describe harsh or cruel treatment, duress soon took on the additional meaning of forcing someone to do something, usually through threats. Duress is typically used with the word under, as in a suspect who only signs a confession because he is under duress.