24 Words In English You Might Be Using Incorrectly. And So Are Most People.

This article is based on "10 Commonly Misunderstood Words in English" and "Harvard linguist points out the 58 most commonly misused words and phrases". If you're interested in reading more, check out the links at the bottom of the article. Correct definitions for words are sourced from Merriam-Webster.

Language is constantly evolving. Words that used to have singular meanings may now have multiple, not even including the ones found on Urban Dictionary. The "incorrect" definitions or uses in this list may be considered correct within a matter of years. That being said, for the time being, the following is a list of words that are frequently misused.



1. Inflammable

Incorrect: not easily set on fire
Correct: capable of being set on fire

2. Bimonthly

Incorrect: occurring twice in a month
Correct: occurring once every two months

3. Flack

Incorrect: negative criticism
Correct: one who provides publicity

4. Alternately

Incorrect: another option or offer
Correct: occuring one after the other

5. Bemused

Incorrect: amused
Correct: perplexed or bewildered

6. Complimentary

Incorrect: things that compliment or work together
Correct: expressing a compliment or praise; a free offer

7. Literally

Incorrect: used for emphasis
Correct: in a literal sense; actually

8. Decimate

Incorrect: to destroy
Correct: to damage or remove a large part of something

9. i.e.

Incorrect: for example; used before listing multiple examples
Correct: that is; the only possible example

3. Untenable

Incorrect: unbearable
Correct: unsustainable or indefensible

11. Forego

Incorrect: to give up
Correct: to go before

12. Unique

Incorrect: special or unusual
Correct: the only one of its kind

13. Regiment

Incorrect: a systematic plan to improve health or training
Correct: a military unit made up of battalions

14. Simplistic

Incorrect: simple
Correct: naive or overly simple

15. Hone

Incorrect: to converge upon or proceed toward an objective
Correct: to make more effective

16. Noisome

Incorrect: noisy
Correct: smelly

17. Penultimate

Incorrect: second best
Correct: second to last

18. Stationary

Incorrect: paper and materials used to writing letters
Correct: staying in one place or position

19. Mute

Incorrect: no practical importance
Correct: silent or not speaking

20. Everyday

Incorrect: each and every day
Correct: commonplace or routine

21. Insure

Incorrect: to make certain or safe
Correct: to provide insurance for

22. Acronym

Incorrect: an abbreviation formed by the first letters of a phrase
Correct: a word formed by the first letters of a phrase

23. Refute

Incorrect: to argue against
Correct: to prove someone or something is false

24. Tortuous

Incorrect: causing torture
Correct: having many twists and turns

Sources: 1, 2


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