12 Most Misunderstood Words


You think it means: historic
It means: pertaining to the past, but not necessarily important to it or a part of it
We visited historic Gettysburg to watch re-enactments of the battle; the actors wore historical clothing and had historical weapons.

You think it means: any book
It means: a book that is a work of fiction
Hidden among the shelves of Math and English books was a novel by Isaac Asimov.

You think it means: fewer
It means: a smaller amount of uncountable nouns
Fewer sheep in the pasture means that less grass will be eaten.

You think it means: with no interruptions
It means: duration over a long period of time, not necessarily without interruption
Continual power outages throughout the winter led to my continuous winter cough and cold.

You think it means: famous
It means: having an extremely bad reputation; never used in a position manner
Bob was infamous at work for helping himself to unattended cookies; Betty was famous for finding new places to hide them.

You think it means: systemic, pertaining to or affecting the body as a whole
It means: involving a system, method, or plan; orderly
Phyllis' doctors began thorough, systematic tests when they couldn't cure her systemic infection.

You think it means: prescribe; to order the use of something, such as medication; to direct or dictate
It means: to denounce, banish, outlaw, or exile
Teachers generally proscribe the reading of comic books while in class, though many will prescribe a chapter of reading from text books each night for homework.

You think it means: above, beyond, or better than ultimate
It means: next to last
The penultimate chapter of any novel is generally the climax, and the last chapter is usually a cool down and wrap-up.

You think it means: cautious or misbehaving
It means: unusually advanced in development, especially mentally
Despite the fact that she was only nine, the precocious child could already read at a college level.

You think it means: alternative
It means: to interchange successively or regularly
As an alternative to running a single horse to exhaustion, Pony Express riders would alternate horses as they rode from town to town.

You think it means: no longer open for debate or closed to discussion; factually wrong
It means: open for debate; an assembly of authoritative persons; or an argument or discussion, especially of a hypothetical legal nature
"Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" is a moot question, and many people continue to argue it; prominent poultry farmers recently held a moot in an attempt to reach a final decision.

You think it means: nauseated
It means: to induce nausea
The nauseous smell in the room made me feel nauseated.