Are there usage differences between clod, chunk, and lump? Are they interchangeable?

For example, is it better to use lump or clod for wood?

  • It's usually a "lump of coal" and a "clod of earth". Never heard of "chuk", but it is a romanization for a Cantonese word. No synonyms are 100% interchangeable, but in some contexts they may be. It all depends upon the sentence: context is all. – user21497 Dec 1 '12 at 13:48
  • Thank you Bill, but I misspelled chuk, I actually meant chunk. – Patrick Dec 1 '12 at 13:53
  • Wood comes in sticks, twigs, logs, boards, panels, even scraps — but seldom in lumps and never in clods. – Robusto Dec 1 '12 at 14:31
  • How was this piece of wood formed? If you're in the forest, wood usually comes in the form of sticks, twigs, branches, logs. You could say "block of wood" if it was sawn from a larger piece and is roughly rectangularly shaped, especially if you're planning on making something out of it. If it's left over from a construction project, you would call it a "scrap of wood" or a "chip of wood", depending on how large it is. If it's a funny shape that grew that way in the tree, you could call it a "knot of wood", or it might be a "burl". Or you could say "piece of wood" to include everything above. – Peter Shor Dec 1 '12 at 14:52

Here are the differences between the words:

  • "A clod of _____" is usually used for a congealed mass of some sort.
  • "A chunk of _____" carries the connotation that the object is a fragment of a larger whole.
  • "A lump of _____" is more broad and can be used to describe any irregularly shaped mass.
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  • 1
    The problem with saying that "a cord of wood is the correct term here" is that it's far too specific. If the OP meant a "chunk of wood" -- and I think you're right about that -- then "a cord of wood" is most certainly incorrect. Lump, chunk, and clod all mean a "broken piece of something larger", not a precise amount of anything, but a "cord of wood" is a precise amount. – user21497 Dec 1 '12 at 13:51
  • A cord of wood is a specific quantity. I think a piece of wood would come closer to what OP is asking about. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 1 '12 at 13:52
  • @BillFranke You're right about the usage of "cord", I've edited my answer. As far as lump, chunk, and clod all meaning a broken piece of something larger, I'm not so sure. A clod of dirt isn't a piece of something larger so much as it is something larger made of small pieces. – Asad Saeeduddin Dec 1 '12 at 13:54
  • Would anyone explain what does OP stands for? – Patrick Dec 1 '12 at 13:57
  • 1
    I would perhaps say that a chunk of wood rolled off the grate in my fireplace but I would never say clod or lump for wood. It just doesn't sound right. – Kristina Lopez Dec 1 '12 at 14:12

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