11 Common Words You Are Using All Wrong

11 Common Words You Are Using All Wrong
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Do You Use These Words Incorrectly too?

There are many words in the English vocabulary that have a different meaning but are often used for a different purpose in written/spoken form. While many of these words have transformed their meaning to an extent over time and are now somewhat acceptable in their wrong form, many are still totally wrong, but are still used!

Here, in this article, I bring to you a list of 11 such words that are being used incorrectly across the globe, even by native speakers many a time! Let’s go through the list of words people say wrong!

Check if you too are using these words incorrectly.

11 Words from the English Vocabulary That You are Using Wrong – And their Right Meanings:

11 words you are using incorrectly - Irony Bewildered Terrific Plethora Dilemma Meaning in English

1.Terrific

Intended meaning: Great, fantastic
Correct meaning: Of great size, horrific, something that inspires fear

While the word terrific means something of great size or something that inspires fear (like a giant monster), its use is often slewed. People use it when they want to refer to something as “fantastic”, which is nowhere near to the original meaning. “Terrific”, in its true sense, is a negative word but is commonly used to signify something great in a positive sense and the twisted meaning of the word is widely accepted too. Hence, “terrific” is 1st on the list of wrong words.

2. Literally

Intended meaning: Figuratively
Correct meaning: Actually

“Literally” is quite clearly one of the most abused words of the present times. While in actual, “literally” means “actually”, people use it to lay extra stress on an emotion. Say, for example, if someone says “I haven’t met my friend in literally 2 years”, he means that he hasn’t actually met his friend for the said period of time, but when someone says “I haven’t played golf in literally a thousand years”, he means he hasn’t played golf in a long time and is stressing on the fact that it has been a long time, indeed; this is a wrong usage of the word “literally”.

3. Plethora

Intended meaning: Lot of, enough of something, a complete range
Correct meaning: More than required, over-abundant

The meaning of “Plethora” is that there is more of something than that is required. But quite often, it is used to signify that there is enough of something or a complete range of options to look into. For example, we often say, “there is a plethora of TVs to choose from”. What we mean from this statement is that there are enough TVs to choose from, or there is a complete range of TVs that you can consider and choose from. But in actual, the statement means that there are more TVs than actually required.

A “lot of books” is when you have a bookshelf with the capacity of 50 and there are 40 books, a “plethora” is when you stack 60 books on the same shelf, making it over-crowded.

4. Bemused

Intended meaning: Amused
Correct meaning: Puzzled, bewildered, confused

First, what does the word “amuse” mean? Amuse means to entertain someone, to make them smile or laugh, to make them happy. If you are amused by something, you want to laugh or smile. “Bemused” is nowhere near the meaning of “amused”. Even though it looks very similar to “amused”, the word “bemused” has nothing to do with being amused at all! “Bemused”, in fact, means being puzzled or confused, which is in a negative sense; quite on the other side of being “amused”.

Note: What does the word “Bewildered” mean in English?
Ans – Bewildered means puzzled, confused and indecisive.

5. Irony

Intended meaning: Funny, unfortunate
Correct meaning: Opposite of what is expected

The word “irony” is my personal favorite on this list of incorrectly used words of the English dictionary! We often see the usage of this word on a regular basis and most of the time, people who use the word are referring to a funny incident. But not always is an instance of irony a display of a sense of humor. In reality, “irony” is an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing, sometimes funny, sometimes unfortunate. A marriage counselor filing for divorce is irony, a teacher failing a test is irony, stranded on an island with sea-water all around, but no water to drink, that is irony!

6. Redundant

Intended meaning: Repetitive, recursive
Correct meaning: Unnecessary, no longer useful

While people often mean “recursive” or “repetitive” when they refer to something as “redundant”, the word actually means the thing is just not useful anymore, or omitting it won’t have any negative effect. I believe the “re” in the start gives the wrong impression so as to make people believe it occurs again and again.

7. Dilemma

Intended meaning: A problem, a situation that requires choosing from equally viable alternatives
Correct meaning: A situation that requires to choose between two equally undesirable options

People often say things like, “I am in a dilemma whether to send my daughter to a play school or have her schooled at home”, or “Both the refrigerators are great, I’m in a dilemma which one to buy”, and other things on similar lines. What people generally mean is that they are in a fix and can’t decide on the available options, while the real meaning of “dilemma” is to be in such a problem that both the options available are equally bad.

Also read: What is Oxford comma and why is it necessary?

8. Infamous

Intended meaning: Very famous
Correct meaning: Famous for negative reason(s)

Often incorrectly used to denote how famous a person or thing is, the word “infamous” means someone or something having an extremely bad reputation. For instance, soldiers are famous for their service and dedication to their nations, but killers are infamous for the murders they commit.

Abraham Lincoln is famous for abolishing slavery, while Adolf Hitler is infamous for his atrocities against the Jews.

9. Disinterested

Intended meaning: Bored, not interested
Correct meaning: Neutral, unbiased, impartial

The meaning of “Disinterested” in English is a very confusing issue. Sometimes used to denote “not interested”, or “bored”, “disinterested” actually means unbiased, or impartial. So in a match between two football teams, the referee has to stay “disinterested” so that he/she doesn’t give biased decisions, without being uninterested in the game.

10. Chronic

Intended meaning: Severe
Correct meaning: Persisting for a long time

Used more commonly in the medical field, “chronic” simply means a disease or pain that has been in existence for a long time, quite often something that doesn’t go away with time; it may or may not be severe. But in practice, the word is often used to signify something severe. A mild pain in the knee-joints may be chronic because it’s been there for many years, but not severe. Often, “severe” creates a sense of extra negativity in terms of seriousness.

11. Ultimate

Intended meaning: The best
Correct meaning: The last one

While we use “ultimate” as a medal of honor for something or someone of the highest class, the correct meaning, unfortunately, is that the thing or person is the last on the list. So, if we say, “he is the ultimate dancer in the group”, what we intend to say is that he is the best dancer in the group, but the literal meaning is that he is the last dancer (and it has nothing to do with how well or bad he dances).

This word “ultimate” is the last item on the list of these words, and hence, is the ultimate word of the list!

So, how many of these words were you using incorrectly? In the next article, I’ll talk about some commonly confused pairs of words in the English language. Just help me with your e-mail ID so that you receive new blog articles delivered directly to your inbox whenever they are published:



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