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

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19
votes
7answers
11k 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
7answers
55k 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
2answers
4k views

Weekly, Daily, Hourly — Minutely…?

What is the correct word for "happening every minute"? How do you pronounce it?
19
votes
4answers
29k 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
5answers
7k 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
8k 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.
18
votes
7answers
4k views

Is there a word that specifically refers to reaching the top of a hill or mountain?

Title says it all: "Is there a word that specifically refers to reaching the top of a hill or mountain?" I want to describe the action of reaching the top of a hill and finally being able to see what ...
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
8k 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
5answers
2k 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
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
4answers
22k 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
2answers
7k 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 ...
18
votes
4answers
763 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
19k views

What is the difference between illegal and unlawful?

I often hear an unlawful act, so what is an illegal act?
18
votes
1answer
2k 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.
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
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 ...
17
votes
2answers
827 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
5k 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
3answers
20k 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 ...
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
15answers
22k 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). ...
17
votes
6answers
81k 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 ...
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
3answers
48k views

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

Which preposition is correct in the phrase "proficient in/at/with English"?
17
votes
11answers
60k 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
13k 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
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 ...
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
5answers
33k 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 ...
16
votes
16answers
9k views

A word that means 'most important'?

I tried to find a single word that means "most important", but I couldn't. I want it to be able to express what's missing below: If you get hurt, the _ thing to do is to stay calm. It would ...
16
votes
17answers
4k 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 ...
16
votes
9answers
2k views

Word for a police man getting money from someone forcefully

My wife bought a puppet from a roadside salesman. She noticed a policeman taking away the money from the salesman forcefully. Is there an appropriate word for the policeman's behaviour? Bribe is not ...
16
votes
16answers
4k views

Is there a word for a comment which makes no sense or adds nothing to the current discussion?

Consider this conversation: John: I am giving free chess lessons. Mary: Nice! You’re a true teacher. John: How so? Mary: A true teacher imparts knowledge without a price tag. John: But ...
16
votes
13answers
16k views

Is there a male equivalent of 'bitch'?

While I know you can attribute 'bitch' to a male, I feel there is a sense of femininity. I was wondering if there is a colloquial equivalent that describes someone with the qualities of a 'bitch' ...
16
votes
6answers
2k views

What do you call those man-made “wooden paths” that are usually found in mountains?

This what I'm referring to: I guess the starting section can be called wooden steps, but as it goes further, it's no longer a step but a "path." What do you call the whole structure? (I'm looking ...
16
votes
6answers
3k views

Friendlier way to express you paid for a person's drink/dinner and expect it to be paid back

In Dutch we have the word voorschieten. In English it translates — according to Google Translate — to "advance, lend, disburse". The Dutch word voorschieten is used in an informal setting between ...
16
votes
6answers
32k views

“Is there something wrong?” or “Is there anything wrong?”

Is there any difference between "Is there something wrong?" and "Is there anything wrong?"? Also, you would say "He would like something to drink" but "Would you like anything to drink?", right? I'd ...
16
votes
14answers
5k views

What is a phrase or a word for someone who says “I knew that would happen” after the fact?

Is there a word or phrase that describes someone who claims to have known something all along, but only proclaim this after the incident has occurred?
16
votes
7answers
2k views

Phenomenon of overused and popular words [closed]

Certain words or phrases become really popular. These words are picked up by many people, are overused, and sometimes misused to such an extent that the whole meaning of the word changes, or is even ...
16
votes
4answers
12k views

In a tournament, do I get a “by”, a “bye”, or a “buy”? [closed]

If there are an odd number of competitors at any stage of a single-elimination tournament, one player is excused from play and continues on as if he had defeated his (nonexistent) opponent. This is ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

Is there a word or a common phrase for this motion of the hands

I want to describe this motion with words. What would be the concise way? (Actually it's this motion but with the hands closer to the lap than the face but that's not very important)