September 29, 2020

By STEPH SMITH

A lot of words have changed over time. Other words sound so similar that they are often used interchangeably, with their intended meaning getting confused or even lost along the way.

Here are five words that are most commonly used incorrectly:

Travesty – Does not mean: a tragedy or unfortunate event.
Actually means: a parody or satire, an exaggerated imitation of something.
This word dates back to the 17th century when it was used to indicate a distorted reality for the purposes of mockery and comedy.

Peruse – Does not mean: to skim or glance over something.
Actually means: to look at something carefully and with thoroughness.
This word originally came from the Middle English peruse, which means to wear out or use up something.

Compelled – Does not mean: to willingly do something, or to do something impulsively.
Actually means: to be forced, obligated or pressured into doing something against your will.
This word means exactly the opposite of what it’s commonly mistaken for. Impulsive decisions come out of nowhere and you get to decide if you want to act on them or not. Compulsive decisions are something you get little to no say in, it’s something you have to do.

Irregardless – Does not mean: regardless
Actually means: nothing.
While this word is often interchanged with regardless, the word irregardless does not have a meaning because it isn’t actually a word. This has caused much controversy since the early 20th century, but the use of the word in print dates back as early as 1795, where it was used in the City Gazette & Daily Adviser out of Charleston, S.C. Regardless means that something isn’t worth regarding, hence -less, and according to Webster’s dictionary, the prefix ir- and the suffix -less mean more or less the same thing, so irregardless would mean to … Regard something again?

Anyway, it isn’t a word. End of story.

Terrific – Does not mean: excellent
Actually means: to inspire or evoke fear.
Just like the other words, the meaning of terrific changed over time. The word terrific originated from the words terror and terrifying. Today, if something is terrifying, it probably also means it’s awesome. If you look up the definition of terrific, it means extremely good, excellent or of great size. However, its synonyms give way to its original meaning – terrible, dreadful, frightful …

Of course, there is a wealth of words in the English language that are used incorrectly. Is it best to try to set straight these errors or simply let the evolution of our language continue on its very bumpy course? You be the judge.

Leave a Reply