Catching up a little on the queue of words waiting to be defined for our ever-growing Glossary of Confusing Words, here are three word pairs that were submitted. In each pair, the words mean very similar things, but may have slight distinctions in how they’re used.
Being protected from threat
In a sense, safety is a narrower word than security. Safety tends to refer to protection from physical injury, and tends to mean the protection is for individuals. Security tends to refer to freedom from all types of threats or dangers, and can refer to groups or societies.
“You should leave for your own safety.”
“The organization is considered a security threat.”
Security also refers to the procedures followed to ensure freedom from threats, or the people who are supposed to ensure that freedom.
“There is tight security around the White House.”
At a greater distance, more
When used as an adverb or an adjective, further and farther are basically interchangeable in everyday speech. There is a slight distinction in that farther is usually used for physical distances and further for metaphorical distances (if it helps you remember, farther has the word “far” in it). But there are many many cases where you will hear the two words used interchangeably.
“I ran farther than I ever have before.”
“There will be no further discussion on the matter.”
“I’m further/farther along in my book than you.”
The person who submitted these words actually gave a good example of their use:
I was helped to understand this long ago by someone who told me, “If you annoy that dog any further, you may have to run much farther away from him!”
When further is used as a verb (as in, to help the progress of), you cannot substitute it with farther.
“He used the money to further his ambitions.”
Also, there are some phrases that specifically use the word “further” in them. “Until further notice” and “furthermore” are two examples.
Despite/In spite of
Notwithstanding, without being affected by
Despite and in spite of mean exactly the same thing and are completely interchangeable. In fact, many dictionaries actually define “despite” as “in spite of.” Despite is more common in everyday conversation because it is shorter and sounds a little less formal.
Just be careful of one thing: There is no such phrase as “despite of.” It’s either “despite” or “in spite of.”
“I went to the picnic despite the rain.”
“I went to the picnic in spite of the rain.”
Have you come across a confusing word you’d like us to define? Submit your word suggestions in the comments or by using the form below. Thanks to everyone who has submitted words so far!