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25 Common Words That You’ve Got Wrong

25 Common Words That You’ve Got Wrong

Everybody talks a lot. It’s one of the most frequent things we as human beings do. We need it to communicate. People do it for entertainment. Just because we all do it all the time doesn’t mean we have perfected the craft. Here are a bunch of common words everyone uses but most use incorrectly.

1. Irony

What you think it means: Something that is funny.
What it really means: Contrary to what you are expecting.

This is a famous one because so many people get this wrong so often. It’s also kind of hard to explain, so we’ll use an example. The Titanic was boasted about as being 100% unsinkable and then in 1912 it was sunk anyway. That is what is called cosmic irony. When a starving vegetarian eats a pepperoni pizza, that is what is called situational irony. There are other kinds too, such as dramatic irony and Socratic irony. Believe it or not, sarcasm is actually irony. When you say something sarcastically, your tone and your words mean two opposite things. That is ironic. Irony can be funny but not everything funny is irony.

2. Travesty

What you think it means: A tragedy or something unfortunate.
What it really means: A mockery or parody.

This is another one that people have wrong fairly frequently. You’ve heard people call 9/11 a travesty. Truth be told 9/11 was a tragedy. A travesty is actually a mockery or a parody. One might say that a Weird Al Yankovic album is a travesty. With how often this word is associated with tragedy, we wouldn’t be shocked if that definition were eventually added as an acceptable meaning. Until then, it doesn’t mean anything bad happened.

3. Ultimate

What you think it means: The one, the only. The best.
What it really means: The last item of a list.

Some people do actually use this one properly. You may see someone list off a bunch of things and hear them say, “Okay, at the store we need eggs, milk, juice, and ultimately, butter.” That is actually the proper use of ultimate. There is no other context or added context. It simply means the last one.

4. Conversate

What you think it means: To have a conversation.
What it really means: Nothing.

Conversate actually doesn’t exist and I’ll prove it to you. Go into a program that underlines words with red if they’re spelled wrong. Now type out conversate. Did you see the red line? Conversate was meant to be a mixture of conversation and converse and be used as a verb. However, converse is a verb and there really isn’t a need for a second verb to describe the same action.

5. Peruse

What you think it means: To skim or browse.
What it really means: To observe in depth.

When you peruse something, you are actually taking a very close look at it. When you’re at a record store (remember those?) and you’re just running through a stack of records, you are just browsing. If you pick up a record and look at the artist, track list, and additional information on the back, then your are perusing.

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6. Bemused

What you think it means: Amused.
What it really means: Confused.

This is one of the many words on this list that will make you strongly dislike the English language. Despite looking all but identical to the word amused, bemused doesn’t even come close to meaning the same thing. If you are bemused then you are actually confused.

7. Compelled

What you think it means: To do something voluntarily by choice.
What it really means: To be forced or obligated to doing something.

This is one that people get wrong and it’s rather understandable. The real definition is very close to the definition people generally use. The difference is the motivation. When people say compelled, they think the person wants to perform the action. In fact, they are forced to do it regardless of their personal feelings. Here’s an example. When you’re in court, you are compelled to give honest testimony. You may not want to, but it doesn’t matter because you have to.

8. Nauseous

What you think it means: To feel ill.
What it really means: To cause feelings of illness.

This is another understandable mishap that a lot of people make. If you actually feel sick then you are nauseated. The object that made you feel ill is nauseous. Here’s how this works. If you’re at an amusement park and you’re sitting next to a full trash can, the fumes from the trash may make you feel ill. That means the fumes from the trash can are nauseous because they are making you feel nauseated.

9. Redundant

What you think it means: Repetitive.
What it really means: Unnecessarily excessive.

This one is tough because you can use it wrong but unintentionally use it right. When you repeat something a bunch of times, it can become redundant, but redundant expands far beyond just repeating things over and over. A popular thing companies are doing now is firing people but instead of calling it “getting fired,” they call it “eliminating redundancies.” The premise being that the employee they’re firing is unnecessary and excessive and they are thus eliminating them. In pretty much any scenario where there is simply too much of something, it is redundant.

10. Enormity

What you think it means: Huge, enormous.
What it really means: Profoundly immoral or evil.

Don’t beat yourself up over this one because no one knows this one off the top of their head. Enormity sounds like enormous and as with many of our other examples, here we expect words that sound alike to have similar meanings. Enormity simply means really evil. An example of how to use it is the following: “The enormity of the crimes committed by the Nazis in World War II.” It doesn’t mean the enormous crimes, it means the heinous crimes.

11. Terrific

What you think it means: Fantastic, good.
What it really means: Horrific, to inspire fear.

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This is another one that we expect will be changed in the dictionary eventually because barely anyone uses the real meaning anymore. When people say they feel terrific, they mean to say they feel fantastic. An example of something terrific is King Kong. You see a giant monster and it inspires fear. We’re going to loop awesome in with this one too. Awesome simply means to inspire awe and people often use it to describe something really good.

12. Effect

What you may think it means: To cause something to change.
What it really means: An event that causes a change.

A lot of people staunchly defend the wrong definition of this and it’s understandable. When action A causes a change in object B, action A affected object B and object B has been affected. Effect is an event that causes a change. In our prior example, action A is, in and of itself, an effect because it affects things. It’s admittedly confusing to explain but easy to remember. If it’s a noun, it’s an effect. If it’s a verb, it’s an affect.

13. Disinterested

What you think it means: Bored.
What it really means: Neutral.

A good way to remember this one is that there is a word that means bored and it’s uninterested. If you’re uninterested, you’re bored. Being disinterested is the long-form equivalent of stating that you don’t care about something.

14. Irregardless

What you think it means: Without regard.
What it really means: Nothing.

Like conversate above, irregardless isn’t actually a word. When people say irregardless, they actually mean to say regardless. Regardless means without regard. Irregardless has been used so often that it actually is in the dictionary now and that’s kind of sad. Even though it is technically there, there are a large number of people who don’t consider it a word. You can save yourself a couple of keystrokes and a tongue lashing by just using regardless.

15. Chronic

What you think it means: Severe.
What it really means: Over the course of a long time.

This is definitely one that people ought to know better. When you have severe pain, it is just severe pain. If you have chronic pain, you have been in pain for a long, long time. Chronic conditions and diseases are called chronic because they won’t go away and not because they’re overly severe.

16. i.e.

What you think it means: For example.
What it really means: In other words.

This is one among a number of shortened words that confuse people. Here’s a quick guide on how to use them. Et cetera is etc., example is ex. or e.g., and in other words is i.e. When you use i.e. you’re essentially putting it there to let people know that you’re going to be stating the same information in different words. Here’s how it really works. It’s June and I moved into my new apartment in April, i.e., two months ago.

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17. Decimate

What you think it means: To destroy or annihilate
What it really means: To destroy ten percent.

This one is really goofy and one day this won’t be true. For the time being, decimate actually means removing only ten percent of something. If you know a little bit about words it’s not difficult to figure out. The prefix “dec” means ten. However, the traditional definition of this word is antiquated and it’ll probably be changed eventually. Until then, it’s technically correct to use a word like exterminate or annihilate instead.

18. Panacea

What you think it means: A cure.
What it really means: A cure for a lot of things.

This one is easy to confuse because the explanation is virtually the same even if the definitions are vastly different. A panacea is something that cures a lot of things all at once. For instance, penicillin is a panacea. It cures a bunch of diseases. The flu vaccine is not a panacea because it only protects against the flu.

19. Fortuitous

What you think it means: Lucky.
What it really means: By chance.

There is a difference between luck and chance. Unfortunately, people use the two interchangeably, so much so that it’s difficult to explain the differences anymore. Lucky is an event that happens by chance that can be described as fortunate. Winning the lottery is lucky. Fortuitous means simply by chance. For instance if you drop your basketball and it bounces into the road and gets hit by a car, that’s a fortuitous instance. It’s neutral, so it can be good or bad things that happen by chance.

20. Plethora

What you think it means: A lot of something.
What it really means: More than is needed.

This is one I use incorrectly all the time. In fact, I almost used it a couple of times in this very article. Plethora simply means that there is more of something than is needed. For instance, you may think that 5,000 people is a plethora of people. However, when you put them into a hockey arena that seats 13,000 people, it’s actually less than half capacity and therefore not a plethora. If you had 13,500 people in that same arena, that would be a plethora of people.

21. Total

Total means exactly what you think it means but total is used unnecessarily on a frequent basis. When there is a total of 50 people who do something, the total is 50 whether or not you use the word “total.” Or you might hear someone say that they were totally surprised. Surprise is not a conditional emotion. You were either surprised or not. The use of total didn’t add anything of value to the sentence. In most cases, the definition is correct but using the word is repetitive when put in context with the rest of the sentence.

22. Literally

common words literally

    What you think it means:

    Figuratively.
    What it really means: Actually.

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    This is something that has come about relatively recently and my generation may have helped propagate this one. Literally means actually. When something is literally true, it is actually true. If I haven’t seen my friend in literally five years then I actually haven’t seen them in five years. People use literally along with hyperbole to show an emotion: “I haven’t had Chinese food in literally a million years.” This is meant to denote that the person hasn’t had Chinese food in a while. The word those people actually want is figuratively. They figuratively haven’t had Chinese food in a million years. They probably literally hadn’t had it in a few days or weeks.

    23. Can

    What you think it means: What is permissible.
    What it really means: What is possible.

    This is one you have to nip in the bud in childhood because it’s much harder to correct in adulthood. When you can do something, you have capacity within you to perform that action regardless of whether or not you actually do it. I can bang my head into my desk but I absolutely will not do it. When people use can incorrectly it is because they mean to use the word “may.” When you ask someone if they can open the door, you did not ask them to open the door. You asked them if they were capable of opening the door. If you wish for them to perform the task, you should ask if they will open the door. When you ask if you can have something, you’re not asking someone to give it to you. You’re asking if you have the capacity to own it. If you need something, ask if you may have it.

    24. Defective

    What you think it means: That something is broken or missing pieces.
    What it really means: Simply that it’s broken.

    You’ll see this one a lot in Amazon reviews. People will say that their unit came defective because it was missing a screw or pieces in the box. That’s actually incorrect. What they mean to say is that their product is deficient. It’s missing pieces, it is not actually broken. The machine may work perfectly fine once the missing pieces have been re-added, which means that it actually isn’t defective at all.

    25. Obsolete

    What you think it means: Old, out of date.
    What it really means: Not produced, used, or needed.

    You’ll see this one in the tech industry a lot. People in tech article comments will comment that a phone is obsolete when they really mean that it’s out of date. The literal definition of obsolete is an item that it isn’t produced, needed, or used anymore. An example of this is is the steam engine. It’s largely inefficient compared to today’s combustion engine and even more inefficient than the emerging electric engines. Thus, steam engines are not used, produced, or needed anymore. Yes, they are also old and out of date, but obsolete is kind of the next step after old and out of date.

    Wrap up

    The English language is a finicky one but it’s also ever changing. Words are updated and definitions change. New words are added every year and some are retired. Very few people will ever master the entire language and the rest of us will just have to do the best we can!

    Featured photo credit: GTM Mobile Reviews via gtmmobilesreviews.com

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    Joseph Hindy

    A writer, editor, and YouTuber who likes to share about technology and lifestyle tips.

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    Last Updated on November 20, 2020

    Kickstart Your Morning Workout With These 10 Simple Habits

    Kickstart Your Morning Workout With These 10 Simple Habits

    Benjamin Franklin said it like this: “Early to bed, early to rise, will make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” He knew from his own experiences and watching others that the ones who got up early were healthier and more successful. That’s why a morning workout can be so important.

    One 2017 study found that:[1]

    “after controlling for such factors as age, sex, smoking habits, and others…night owls, were found to have a 10 percent greater risk of dying from any cause compared to morning types.”

    This is a great reason to tap into some morning motivation and get your morning workout done.

    Circadian Rhythm for morning workout

      As you can see in the above graph, your blood pressure begins to rise between 6 and 7 in the morning[2]. That means this is a great time to get your body moving and your heart pumping, even if it’s just for 20 minutes of exercise in the morning. 

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      Here are some tips on how to find the motivation for a morning workout.

      1. Remember Your Why

      It starts with remembering why you want to get up for a morning workout. If you don’t set a goal and establish your reasons for accomplishing a health and fitness goal, then you definitely won’t get up early.

      Getting up early isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would do it, right? Your goal for your health and fitness must be so strong, and the WHY behind it must be so powerful, that nothing will stop you from accomplishing that goal.

      2. Go to Bed Early

      If you want to get up early for a morning workout, it’s going to be important to get to bed earlier. Falling asleep at midnight and trying to get up at six just won’t work in your favor.

      This will likely be very difficult for a few days while you adjust your sleeping habits. However, as you get into an exercise routine in the morning, this will naturally make it easier to fall asleep earlier and faster at night.

      3. Make a Commitment

      I sometimes tell my Facebook community of my plans to work out, and we all keep each other motivated by posting our runs, our workouts, etc. This is a way to develop accountability. By publicly announcing your intentions, you increase your chances of actually carrying out your plans.

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      Another way to do this is to find an accountability partner who has similar goals for morning workouts. You can check in with each other to make sure you’re sticking to your plans. If that doesn’t work, hire a personal trainer for a few weeks to get you started.  

      You can learn how to find a good accountability partner here.

      4. Find a Friend

      If you can find a friend that is motivated like you are, and you can hold each other accountable daily to working out, then you will accomplish your fitness goals. Many people prefer working out with friends to working out alone. Whether it’s a chat while hitting the treadmill at the gym, or having someone to spot you while weightlifting, working out with friends is sometimes just more enjoyable.

      Texting each other the night before with a simple statement is best. Don’t ask: “Are we still working out in the morning?” With this kind of question, if they were thinking about not working out, you just gave them an opt out.

      Make a statement instead: “Can’t wait to see you in the morning!” This implies that they will be there, and they will feel more obligated to show up.

      5. Treat Yourself

      We all have to treat ourselves every now and then. After a morning workout, plan to treat yourself with a colorful, healthy breakfast or a delicious morning smoothie. This will help you look forward to something and push through to the end of your workout.

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      You can learn more on rewards and punishments here.

      6. Change your Mindset

      Many people throw away the idea of a morning workout by simply saying, “I’m not a morning person.”  Instead of using this excuse, decide to try to become a morning person by shifting your mindset.

      When you look into the benefits of waking up early and getting some exercise in before your day starts, you’ll feel more positive about your life overall.

      7. Plan Your Day

      You know you’re going to be busy. Try time blocking to plan all the things you need to do on a given day, and make sure you add in your morning workout[3]. If you have a plan laid out, you’ll be more likely to follow it and get done everything on your list done.

      Time blocking

        8. Reflect on How You’ll Feel After

        Starting a morning workout is hard, but visualizing how you’ll feel after can help you find motivation. Think about the extra energy you’ll have and how proud you’ll feel knowing that you were already so productive. No matter what you do the rest of the day, at least you squeezed in your exercise!

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        For me, I live in an area where there are a lot of runners. When I am heading home in the evening or sitting out on the patio at one of my favorite restaurants, and I see the runners go by, it makes me feel so accomplished that I got mine in that morning and I can enjoy the evening.

        9. Lay out Your Workout Clothes

        Setting out your workout clothes the night before makes it impossible for you to start to run late because you couldn’t find something to wear. Tap into the determination you have before bed in order to convince your less-than-motivated morning self that you need to get up and get your morning workout in. When you wake up and see your outfit laid out next to you, it’ll push you to get up and get moving.

        10.  Set Multiple Alarms

        Many people miss their morning workout simply because they hit the snooze button so many times. In order to make this more difficult for yourself, set a series of alarms. That way, if you keep hitting snooze, you’ll have three or four alarms going off every ten minutes, which will be annoying enough to get you out of bed.

        Also, put one alarm at least a few feet from your bed so that you’re forced to get up to turn it off.

        Final Thoughts

        About three years ago I went from being the person that says I will never be an early riser to a person that loves to get the day started as soon as possible. Without the distractions that begin to come around 8 or 9 in the morning, you’ll find that you’re more productive and more likely to squeeze in that morning workout.

        Take some of the actions above and find the best morning workout routine to start your day and feel good.

        More Tips on Morning Exercises

        Featured photo credit: Tomasz Woźniak via unsplash.com

        Reference

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