This tag is for questions about choosing the best word for a particular context or meaning.

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30
votes
4answers
10k views

When are “because”, “since”,“for” and “as” interchangeable?

I am not a native speaker. On a previous question of mine, I thanked for an answer by saying: So the phrase is not an idiom, since it is applied in its literal sense. I consciously chose since ...
29
votes
15answers
22k views

Collective word for food and drink

Is there a word that best describes food and drink taken at the same time? I've thought of refreshments and consumables but neither seem right to me.
29
votes
6answers
3k views

A word that says a person is both female and your friend

It's often confusing for me to talk about my friends, especially my female friends. This is because in Dutch there are words for both male ("vriend") and female ("vriendin") friends. In English ...
29
votes
8answers
21k views

“Toilet”, “lavatory” or “loo” for polite society

My friend is trying so hard to fit into polite society, and is raising her child to say loo rather than toilet. I know it should be lavatory (and I would not say lav) but we are in the 21st century ...
29
votes
6answers
2k views

Is there a word for two persons dodging each other on the street?

While walking on a path, sometimes two person try to dodge each other. Like one guy steps left, and at the same time, other guy steps left and then switches direction and so does the other guy. Is ...
29
votes
11answers
4k views

Difference between “try to do” and “try and do”

What is the difference between try to do and try and do? To me (non-native speaker), asking someone try and do this seems a bit rude. It's like saying you can try all you want but this must be done: ...
28
votes
26answers
8k views

A non-offensive term to call a lunatic?

How can a mad scientist's friend address him? For example, when engaged in a conversation with other people (who don't know the scientist), he mentions having such a friend? I suppose a loony sounds ...
28
votes
6answers
63k views

What is the correct way to use “neither” and “nor” in a sentence together?

Given these facts: The tool cannot be found in the kitchen. The tool cannot be found in the bathroom. Which is the correct sentence to represent the situation above? I can find the tool ...
28
votes
5answers
9k views

What are the differences between “assume”, “presume” and “suppose”

I believe that "assume", "presume", "suppose" are similar in meaning of to take some facts as a truth without proof. But it seems to me that "presume" is more formal, "assume" is less formal and ...
27
votes
12answers
3k views

What's the word for paper “decaying”?

Imagine an old map, a map with a path to a treasure, like the ones you remember from cartoons. The map's partially destroyed, because it's so old, and it has been exposed to air, and heat, and water, ...
27
votes
8answers
11k views

Is there a subtle difference between “somebody” and “someone”, “anybody” and “anyone”?

Are there any subtle differences between "somebody" and "someone", or can they be used completely interchangeably? Similarly, can you imagine a situation in which you would prefer "anybody" to ...
26
votes
8answers
5k views

What is wrong in “Please don't pluck the flowers” and other phrases used in the Indian subcontinent?

In the Indian subcontinent, especially India, there are many English words or phrases which are not a part of dictionary or not used in other parts of the world. The first one is "Please don't pluck ...
26
votes
4answers
34k views

“Unselect” or “Deselect”?

If I want the user to revert their operation of selecting an item, should I say: "Unselect the option" or "Deselect the option"?
26
votes
7answers
6k views

Using “utilize” instead of “use”?

My friend has been raising a ruckus about the abuse of the word "utilize" in place of the word "use." He complains that it just makes your sentences sound pretentious. u·ti·lize [yoot-l-ahyz] verb ...
26
votes
5answers
6k views

“between” vs. “among”

Today I was cut off in the middle of the following sentence: Between Cook, Strauss, and Pietersen— My friend said I was wrong. He said that for more than two entities, among/amongst are used, ...
26
votes
2answers
230k views

“Dear Sir or Madam” versus “To whom it may concern”

When is it appropriate to use the terms Dear Sir or Madam and To whom it may concern? The rules I was taught state that Dear Sir or Madam should be used when you're writing a letter to a person about ...
25
votes
10answers
5k views

What do you call money earned through unethical sources?

Money/Assets/Property that is earned through unethical sources is called ? Money that is earned through bad sources like corrupted politics, corrupted business, ransom money, stolen or theft ...
25
votes
14answers
16k views

What is a word/idiom for 'unable to decide'?

Let's say I have an important decision to make and I can't decide between two competing things (like break up with a girl or not break up with her). What would be a word/idiom to express that?
25
votes
5answers
2k views

Are 'accuracy' and 'precision' interchangeable nouns?

The dictionary for accuracy says: The quality or state of being correct or precise. The ability to perform a task with precision. And for precision: The quality, condition, or ...
25
votes
5answers
2k views

Term for a bullet hitting a bystander in a gunfight

What is the term for a bullet hitting a bystander in a gunfight? When it misses the intended target and hits a bystander.
25
votes
4answers
7k views

What do you call a man who knows well how to fix his household appliances?

Some men are really good at fixing things, especially the household appliances while they're not specialists or technician. Is there any words to explain these people?
25
votes
11answers
2k views

What word defines a category suited for both header and footer?

So there I was, trying to ask a question (now on SO) on Webmaster.SE partly involving a 'header' and a 'footer'. One part of my code defines shared aspects of both the header and the footer. Anyway ...
24
votes
11answers
21k views

What does “a couple” mean to you, and what does “a few” mean to you?

What does “a couple” mean to you, and what does “a few” mean to you? Is there a proper way to use it? It was striking to hear that “a couple” meant two (2) to someone. My reaction was, “how/why do ...
24
votes
5answers
2k views

To hear something makes it audible, to see is visible, so what are touch and smell?

As the title states, if sound is audible, light is visible, what is a smell? And what is an object when you touch it?
24
votes
6answers
8k views

What is the difference between “archetype” and “prototype”?

I'm very confused by the difference between "archetype" and "prototype", and even more baffled when to use which. Can someone clarify?
24
votes
4answers
2k views

“Bad with something” or “bad at something”?

In a question on Spanish.StackExchange, a question came up about expressing that you are bad at remembering or doing something. Is one "bad at something" or "bad with something" (nouns)? What about ...
24
votes
3answers
6k views

Is two-thirds plural?

Is 2/3 always, sometimes or never plural? E.g. 1a) 2/3 of the pizza were eaten. 1b) 2/3 of the pizza was eaten. 2a) 2/3 of the visitors were men. 2b) 2/3 of the visitors was men. I ...
23
votes
9answers
5k views

How do you politely ask for someone's gender? [closed]

If you, for example, have to add a person to an application whilst that person is on the phone, how do you politely ask for that person's gender if the voice and/or name has not proven decisive? To ...
23
votes
10answers
72k views

“Washroom”, “restroom”, “bathroom”, “lavatory”, “toilet” or “toilet room”

I've always been confused by the terms washroom, restroom, bathroom, lavatory, toilet and toilet room. My impression is that Canadians would rather say washroom while Americans would probably say ...
23
votes
3answers
9k views

Difference between “delete” and “remove” [closed]

I am writing a mobile application that will, as a part of its functionality, display a list of recorded thoughts. Now I am deciding the textual content of the menus and that left me thinking whether ...
23
votes
4answers
4k views

“But” in the beginning of a sentence

Is "But" allowed in the beginning of a sentence as synonym to "Though" or "However"? You can afford it. But think twice before buying it. Won't using "But" instead of "However" mark me as non-native ...
23
votes
2answers
2k views

Which is correct: “math” or “maths”?

Which one is considered correct? I say "math", however I believe I heard somewhere that "maths" is correct. Also, should it (and "mathematics") be capitalized or not?
23
votes
5answers
6k views

Is it acceptable to use “is become” instead of “has become”?

In the King James version of the Bible there is a verse like this: The Lord is my strength, and my fortress, and my song. And He is become my salvation. Is it still feasible to use "is become" ...
23
votes
4answers
28k views

When to use & instead of “and”

Are there rules of usage when using the ampersand "&" instead of "and"? Are they completely interchangeable? The ampersand seems more casual, but I'm not sure.
22
votes
13answers
4k views

What's it called? A kind of impoliteness

A person (e.g. your brother-in-law) who enters your house without being invited, opens your fridge without asking, etc. Not just "impolite" of course, something more specific and informal
22
votes
11answers
3k views

Way to describe entering old password out of habit?

Recently I changed my password on my computer but for the past few days I keep entering the old one when trying to log in or unlock it. Is there a word or phrase in to describe this? Another example ...
22
votes
16answers
4k views

Is there a word for this clever piece of marketing?

I was shopping the other day when I decided to buy some Cranberry juice - you know, juice from cranberries - so I picked up what I thought was exactly that. It was only when I got home that I realised ...
22
votes
8answers
47k views

What's the difference in meaning between “emigrate” and “immigrate”?

What's the difference between emigrate and immigrate? They seem to have the same definitions in the dictionary but they are antonyms...  
22
votes
9answers
5k views

Do the words “jail” and “prison” refer to different things?

In everyday speech, the terms jail and prison are used interchangeably in many situations. However, my understanding is that, at least in the US, they actually refer to slightly different things. For ...
22
votes
6answers
40k views

How should I ask for a bill in a restaurant politely?

I used to say check please, but my English teacher said that it's wrong, and the proper way is to say something like bill please. What's the truth?
22
votes
7answers
27k views

Is “substract” (versus “subtract”) a proper word?

I read an article recently where the author used "substract" instead of "subtract". I'm more familiar with the latter word but after doing a bit of googling, it seems that both words are being used, ...
22
votes
3answers
5k views

What is the “‑cide” word for killing one’s husband?

We have uxoricide for killing one’s wife, but what is the equivalent term for killing one’s husband? Similarly, what is the husband-specific equivalent for the adjective uxorial?
22
votes
6answers
264k views

“Paid” vs “payed”

I think I have always used these two words interchangeably without noticing until my professor was saying how some students misspelled the word and he was amazed. Can someone tell me when I should ...
22
votes
6answers
26k views

Which is correct: “prefer X to Y” or “prefer X over Y”?

Many say that "prefer X to Y" has a more formal ring to it than "prefer X over Y". Are there any dialects where you wouldn't use "prefer X to Y" in colloquial speech at all? Conversely, are there any ...
22
votes
3answers
3k views

“This question has been asked at Stack Overflow” vs. “on Stack Overflow”

How should I phrase it: This question has been asked at Stack Overflow. Or, This question has been asked on Stack Overflow.
22
votes
9answers
25k views

“A few” vs. “few”

I have few friends. I have a few friends. I thought "few" means just one, two or even none. "A few" typically means more than two. However it seems to me some people say "few" when they ...
22
votes
4answers
12k views

Why do we say “was supposed to” for “should have”?

I was supposed to do my homework, but I went out clubbing instead. On a literal interpretation, supposed to suggests that other people (or indeed, myself) might have supposed (thought, imagined, ...
22
votes
3answers
47k views

Which is correct: coming down the “pike” or “pipe”?

Is the expression "coming down the pike" or "coming down the pipe"? I've always used pike, but I've heard a few people use pipe recently. I can see how both could make sense, but which is correct?
22
votes
7answers
2k views

When did “while” and “whilst” become interchangeable?

I think most folk happily use either "while" or "whilst". I've a vague recollection that at one time "while" indicated the passing of time and "whilst" was essentially the same as "whereas" or ...
21
votes
9answers
2k views

What word means centered about death?

I'm writing an essay about Don DiLillo's novel White Noise, and would like to explore Murray Jay Siskand's fascination with death. The particular word I'm looking for means "death-centric", to fit in ...