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

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20
votes
5answers
37k views

Is “either” only used with two options?

Does “either . . . or” apply to only two options? For example, can I say, “It can provide either 100, 150, or 400 amps of power”? Or should it just be “It can provide 100, 150, or 400 amps of ...
20
votes
4answers
2k views

Transform or transformation?

Is there a difference between the words transform (noun) and transformation? Let me describe my problem. I have a mathematical model which I can transform into a better model with help of a data ...
20
votes
12answers
4k views

What is the name of the first decade in a century?

80s the "Eighties" 90s the "Nineties" 00s the ??? For that matter, what is the second decade called? The "tens" just doesn't sound right.
20
votes
3answers
790 views

What are the names of the pieces of a question mark?

A question mark ? seems to be composed of two distinct pieces, top and bottom. Do these pieces have their own names, and if so, what are they?
19
votes
16answers
2k views

Word for individual who tips the balance

Suppose there are two vice presidents vying for influence/supremacy within an organization. One vice president is admittedly weaker than the other, so he forms an alliance with a powerful underling ...
19
votes
5answers
2k views

What is the best way to explain how to choose between “its” and “it's”?

Probably one of the most frequent grammar mistakes in the English language is: The dog sat on it's mat. Since spelling checkers don't catch it, and it is even logical, since you would correctly ...
19
votes
5answers
31k views

“Hooker”, “whore”, “prostitute”, when to use which?

"Hooker", "whore", and "prostitute" all mean whore; what are the differences between them?
19
votes
7answers
59k views

“Insecure” or “unsecure” when dealing with security?

Which is the appropriate word to be used in the sentence: The system we were testing was determined to be insecure/unsecure. The usage is in the context of security, specifically a lack ...
19
votes
6answers
2k views

Can “wet” be used for liquids other than water?

Wet can be used to describe being dowsed in liquids such as beer, milk, juice, urine etc. All of these, however, are water-based. Can wet be used for a liquid that has no water? Can you be wet by ...
19
votes
7answers
12k views

“All that is gold does not glitter”

"All that is gold does not glitter" is the first line of a poem from the Lord of the Rings and it's supposed to mean "not all gold glitters" but I'm struggling to see how this can be deduced. If all ...
19
votes
2answers
4k views

Weekly, Daily, Hourly — Minutely…?

What is the correct word for "happening every minute"? How do you pronounce it?
19
votes
4answers
31k views

“Liberty” versus “freedom”

What is the difference, if any, between liberty and freedom? Does it convey the same meaning if "Status of liberty" is replaced with "status of freedom" ? or every occurrence of "liberty" in ...
19
votes
2answers
8k views

Using “that” and “this” interchangeably

Learning and using English I'm always confused about what word to use for referring to things that have been described by me a few sentences earlier: "that" or "this". Confusion comes from the fact ...
19
votes
5answers
8k views

Types of things vs. types of thing

When speaking precisely or technically, one would say that "Homo erectus and homo sapiens are two species of hominid" rather than "Homo erectus and homo sapiens are two species of hominids." The ...
19
votes
5answers
9k views

Is there a subtle difference between “inherent” and “intrinsic”?

I've always used "inherent" and "intrinsic" interchangeably. Dictionary.com doesn't offer much help in distinguishing them.
19
votes
1answer
3k views

What is the difference in usage between “for instance” and “for example”?

What is the difference in usage between for instance and for example? Are they just interchangeable? I suspect they are not strictly but cannot seem to find an authoritative explanation.
18
votes
25answers
3k views

A critical situation in which no trick works?

How could one describe a situation in which no trick, no approach, no magic, nothing at all works to change the outcome? One where you have no choice but to accept things as they are. For example, I ...
18
votes
3answers
3k views

What is the inverse of “guardian”?

If I am your guardian, what does that make you to me?
18
votes
7answers
2k views

Is “penultimate” commonly used? [closed]

Is penultimate commonly used in English, or are its variations (such as second to last) more common? I need to use it in conjunction with the expressions First Payment Date and Last Payment Date to ...
18
votes
9answers
9k views

Is there a word or expression for a small crush on someone?

I am not very sure if the word crush ("an intense and usually passing infatuation") can be used between two strangers. For example, a man sees a beautiful woman for the first time in his life. Could ...
18
votes
6answers
2k views

Name for fine hair on human skin

Apart from our palms and the soles of our feet, all human skin is covered with hair. What is the word for the fine hair on a human being’s skin? I would be especially interested in what you would ...
18
votes
5answers
3k views

What do you call someone who shoots fireworks professionally?

What is the name of the occupation for someone whose job it is to set up a fireworks display, fire it off for an event such as July 4th, and then tear it down? I have informally heard them called ...
18
votes
3answers
22k views

Is it 'what it looks like' or 'how it looks like'?

I live in a country where English is not the native language. Oftentimes I hear my coworkers say they want to know or determine "how it looks like". This is grammatically closer to our native ...
18
votes
16answers
3k views

Word for when something wrong is made to seem normal because it is common?

Someone made this statement: You found the perfect partner (looks, finance, personality) but the sex is a bust, would you cheat? I found it offensive that she was making the question 'would ...
18
votes
15answers
25k views

Antonym for “exceed”

I am trying to find a single word antonym for "exceed". I am using the word as a verb (so "beneath" doesn't work) and it should have a positive connotation (as in a golf score which falls below par). ...
18
votes
6answers
89k views

“Call me through/at/on this number”

What is the difference between the following when referring to telephone calls? Please call me on this number. You can reach me on this number. Please call me at this number. You can reach ...
18
votes
3answers
53k views

“proficient <in/at/with>” What is the correct usage?

Which preposition is correct in the phrase "proficient in/at/with English"?
18
votes
3answers
16k views

“Amount” vs. “number” vs. “quantity”

For what values of x does one write the number of x, the amount of x, or the quantity of x?
18
votes
4answers
26k views

“A bit” vs. “a little bit” vs. “a little”

Is there a difference between a bit, a little bit and a little in the following context? He is a little bit angry. He is a little angry. He is a bit angry. Or do these sentences mean the ...
18
votes
4answers
2k views

When are “if” and “whether” equivalent?

Are if and whether equivalent in sentences like the ones below? How to determine if my saddle is too high? How to determine whether my saddle is too high? We should check if everything ...
18
votes
4answers
855 views

“Upvote” vs. “up vote” vs. “up-vote”

Should I use "upvote", "up vote", or "up-vote" on SE sites? What about "downvote"? They're not words in the sense that they're in the dictionary, but they are commonly used in this community. Also, ...
18
votes
7answers
21k views

What is the difference between illegal and unlawful?

I often hear an unlawful act, so what is an illegal act?
17
votes
17answers
5k views

Appropriate word for a young person who behaves like a cynical old person?

What is an appropriate term for a young person (child, or teenager) whose words and actions mimic that of a much older person from a previous generation? Such a youngster would demonstrate strong ...
17
votes
7answers
4k views

What is someone called who makes and sells sandwiches?

I am translating a text from Persian to English. I need to use an equivalent for "ساندویچی" (pronounced 'Sandwichi')(In Persian, a person who makes and sells sandwiches. It also applies to the place, ...
17
votes
10answers
2k views

What is an appropriate word for a “rerise”?

I'm wondering if there is a more appropriate term in English that describes a rise of something (like a nation) that has already achieved that status before, like a second rise or re-rise.
17
votes
9answers
3k views

Is there a good word for a square-rectangle relationship?

Any given square is always a rectangle, but a rectangle isn't necessarily a square, so squares and rectangles have a _ relationship. I've been noticing this sort of thing everywhere ever since I ...
17
votes
12answers
2k views

An Exocentric compound for Children

I have written a story for children in Persian. Somewhere in the story, I have mentioned "pear". "Pear" In Farsi is gool-abbi, which translates literally as "blue flower". I have mentioned that as ...
17
votes
2answers
852 views

How to rephrase “cream flavoured cream”?

I saw this on my wafers the other day: "Wafers with cream flavoured cream". This sounds horribly recursive to my ear. How can you rephrase it or use a synonym without losing the original meaning?
17
votes
3answers
6k views

“Make something out of” or “Make something with”?

So there was a fill in quiz I had to do, and there was a question it says: Bill can make a doghouse _ paper. That's cool. I filled in 'out of'. Bill can make a doghouse out of paper. And ...
17
votes
10answers
2k views

Alternative to “typo”

I often write and see written something like "Fix typo" in commit messages, when the fix was not in fact for a "typographical error". It might have been a duplicate word, a small grammatical problem ...
17
votes
3answers
9k views

Is “since” a synonym of “because”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When are “because”, “since”,“for” and “as” interchangeable? A few years ago, I was told that "since" should only be used ...
17
votes
4answers
5k views

'less' is to 'fewer' as 'more' is to what?

This question is related to the previous one on less-vs-fewer. I prefer using fewer instead of less when referring to discrete items. Something sounds off about less than ten people, in my opinion. ...
17
votes
11answers
67k views

“The point is moot”

I was recently called out for using the phrase "the point is moot" incorrectly. My intent was to indicate that I felt that the point wasn't really worth debating or discussing. I was then shown that ...
17
votes
1answer
14k views

Ones or one's: Which is the correct usage?

I've been confused about this as long as I can remember. Should it be: One should do ones duty. or One should do one's duty. I'm guessing it should be the latter. But that doesn't sit well ...
17
votes
4answers
2k views

Is there anything wrong with the word “denigrate”?

A few years ago there was a controversy over the word niggardly — a perfectly innocent word that unfortunately sounds like a racial slur. Given that controversy, is it safe to use denigrate, which ...
17
votes
3answers
29k views

Which is correct: “This is her” or “This is she”?

Upon answering the telephone, the person calling asks if Joan is available. If Joan is the person who answered the phone, should she say "This is her" or "This is she"?
17
votes
9answers
1k views

What is a good way to refer to stories that are meant for adults?

There are stories for children and for adults. But when I say "adult stories" people tend to think they are erotica/porn stories. What is a good way to refer to adult stories? Example of adult ...
17
votes
3answers
8k views

“Todo list” or “to-do list”

I always thought it was a todo list, and quite a few places online refer to it as todo, but various spell checkers are telling me it should be to-do. The only meaning I could find was ...
17
votes
2answers
18k views

When to use override and overwrite

My intention is to use on the following sentence: The administrator has the right to ____ the user time slot for the venue A inside the online system. So, which word would be suitable: override or ...
17
votes
4answers
13k views

“Relation” versus “relationship”

What is the difference between relation and relationship? Some say that relationship often refers to social connections. For instance, She has a close relationship with her daughter. How ...