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Read thousands of example sentences from current newspapers, magazines, and literature. We show you how words live in the wild and give you usage tips so that you're more confident about using the words you learn.

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self-conscious

Use the adjective self-conscious to describe someone who is ill at ease or uncomfortable with himself. A self-conscious person might worry about how he looks or whether he's saying the right things.

Being self-conscious goes beyond just being aware of yourself — when you're self-conscious, you constantly question the way you appear to others. You might feel self-conscious when you stand in front of a group to give a speech, or when you're trying out for a movie or a play. The word first meant "conscious of one's own action" when it emerged in the 1680's, and by 1830's it had come to mean "preoccupied with one's own personality."

Choose your words

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

epidemic/ pandemic

A pandemic is like an epidemic on steroids. Both are words for a widespread disease, but a pandemic can spread across continents, while an epidemic affects a smaller population. An epidemic disease can originate in one area but grow to be a pandemic as it infects people all over the world.
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scrimp/ skimp

These words are two sides of the same coin: ways to get more or to make something go further. One side is about saving; the other is about spending less.
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loath/ loathe

Confusion between loath ("unwilling or reluctant") and loathe ("to hate") is a growing trend.
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faze/ phase

To faze is to disturb, bother, or embarrass, but a phase is a stage or step. It could faze your family if your princess phase lasts well into your college years. read more...

prescribe/ proscribe

Warning! These similar sounding words have very different meanings. To prescribe is to recommend and to proscribe is to forbid. One little letter makes a big difference. read more...

bridal/ bridle

Bridal is related to a bride, but bridle refers to a part of a horse’s harness and what you do with it. Although the words sound the same, they run in different circles unless you’re getting a horse ready for her wedding. read more...

See all Choose Your Words articles »
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