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Can anyone point me to a (more or less) complete list of English paronyms (affect/effect, farther/further, alternately/alternatively, interested/interesting, corrupted/corrupt, adopt/adapt, continuous/contiguous...)?

Wikipedia has a list for everything, but not for paronyms. Google is not exceptionally helpful, either. After trying out half a dozen different search strings, I have learned quite a lot about French, German, and even Russian paronyms, but close to nothing about English ones.

Any pointers?

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Could you please tell us what a paronym is? :) –  Billy ONeal Sep 16 '10 at 21:41
@Billy ONeal: there are a few examples in my question, plus a link to the Wikipedia definition. (The Merriam-Webster definition would have been way too cryptic, and the Wiktionary one way too broad.) –  RegDwigнt Sep 16 '10 at 21:57
Paronym is a rare term and you should explain such rare terms. Paronyms are similar words from Greek para- beside, adjacent to and Greek onuma name. –  rogermue Jul 9 at 12:54

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

After some more searching, I found this Index of Commonly Confused Words over at It's not perfect, but it's a good start.

Also, as has been mentioned on meta, there are at least two books on the subject: "Who's Whose: A No-Nonsense Guide to Easily Confused Words" by Philip Gooden and "NTC's Super-Mini Dictionary of Easily Confused Words" by Deborah K. Williams. I am not in a position to recommend or dismiss either, but I am listing them for the sake of completeness.

Lastly, as has been pointed out in the other answer, one day we will probably have our very own comprehensive list of questions tagged "look-alikes" or "paronyms".

Edit: yet another great resource (courtesy of VonC) is the online book "Common Errors in English Usage".

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Hmm, is "paronym" actually an official linguistics term? –  Pacerier Jul 9 at 13:19

You can find a partial list by looking under the "look-alike" tag on this site:

As the site grows, the list may become more complete.

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If you google for "similar words in English" you get a lot of websites. alphadictionary has a list of 250 similar words.

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From the Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary:

paronym n. A word having the same root as another; a cognate word.

[< Gk. paronymon, orig. neut. of paronymous derivative < para- beside + onoma name] — paronymic, paronymous adj.

paronomasia n. 1. Play on words; punning. 2. A pun.

[< L < Gk. < para- beside + onomasia naming < paronomazein to alter slightly in naming] paronomasial, paronomastic or tical adj. paronomastically adv.

pun n. The humorous use of two words having the same or similar sounds but different meanings, or of two different, more or less incongruous meanings of the same word: also called paronomasia.

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This defines paronym but that is already dealt with in the question, I can't see a list of paronyms in your answer? –  Silverfish Jul 9 at 10:19
It also gives a definition of an unrelated word, which might be confusing. –  deadrat Jul 9 at 10:49
This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. –  deadrat Jul 9 at 10:49

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