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captivate

To captivate means to attract others, fascinating or enchanting them. Some people are able to captivate with wit and charm, others with physical beauty, still others with intelligence.

Notice the similarity between the verbs captivate and capture. Both come ultimately from the Latin captus "taken captive." Still, while both words mean some sort of hold on someone, capture sounds harsh, as though a trap has been set, while captivate is a softer, more attractive word that suggests there might be a willingness to be caught. Robert S. McNamara, a former U.S. secretary of defense, said, "Coercion, after all, merely captures man. Freedom captivates him.”

Choose your words

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

accept/ except

To accept is to receive, and except is to exclude, usually. Both are busy little words skipping around to different meanings, but they never run into each other.
read more...

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?
read more...

venal/ venial

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

discomfit/ discomfort

To discomfit is to embarrass someone. Say it with a Southern accent while sipping sweet tea. Discomfort is a noun meaning uncomfortable, like the feeling you get when you realize you put salt instead of sugar in Mama’s tea. read more...

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. read more...

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. read more...

See all Choose Your Words articles »
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