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vitreous

Something that has the characteristics of glass — hard, brittle, glossy, possibly transparent — can be said to be vitreous, or glasslike. A vitreous surface works well for a kitchen counter.

The adjective vitreous, which appeared in the 1640s, is from the Latin vitrum, "glass." Since the 1660s, the gel that fills the eye between the lens and the retina has been known as the "vitreous humor," the "vitreous body," or simply "the vitreous," presumably for the gel's clear, glassine appearance. If the vitreous breaks down, becoming more liquid than gel (usually due to aging or an injury), it can be disrupted, creating vision problems.

Choose your words

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

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...

disassemble/ dissemble

Disassemble is to take something apart, like an old car motor, but dissemble is sneaky — it means to hide your true self, like the guy who said he was a mechanic but had never actually seen a motor, much less put one back together.
read more...

pitiable/ pitiful/ piteous/ pitiless

We don't often look at four words that can be easily confused for each other, but this pack is an exception.
read more...

reluctant/ reticent

Reluctant means resisting or unwilling, while reticent means quiet, restrained, or unwilling to communicate. Is it a distinction worth preserving? read more...

prostate/ prostrate

Oh, for the want of a letter! Prostate is a gland found in male mammals, but prostrate, with an r, means to lie face down. Get them mixed up and you’ll thoroughly confuse your doctor. read more...

entomology/ etymology

Don’t bug out! Entomology is the study of insects, but etymology is the study of words. They sound similar and both end in -logy, which means “the study of,” but don’t mix them up unless you like completely confusing people. read more...

See all Choose Your Words articles »
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