11 words we might use incorrectly our entire lives

Have you ever come across a word you’ve used incorrectly for too long and you feel so embarrassed? We all have. More often than not, these words look like the opposite of what they mean, or sound like what they are not.

Let’s go through these eleven words we might use incorrectly our entire lives if we don’t get them right once and for all:

1. Bogus (adjective): If you think this word means ‘massive’ or something close to that, you are wrong. It means ‘not genuine or true’, ‘counterfeit’, ‘illegal’, etc.


i.  He brought some bogus documents to the meeting and couldn’t defend himself.

ii.  We didn’t pay her because the estimate was bogus.


2. Dupe (verb or noun): The action aspect of this word is not the problem, but the noun form. If you think a dupe is a person who deceives another, sorry, you are wrong. A dupe is the victim of deception.


i.  He thought he was smart until he became the dupe.

ii.  When they realized they were dupes, they wept bitterly.


3. Terrific (adjective): This word looks and sounds like the synonym for ‘terrible’ or ‘terrifying’, but it’s not (in present-day English). It means ‘tremendous’, ‘great’, ‘excellent’, ‘very good’. It used to mean ‘causing terror’ actually, but that was a long time ago.


i.  She was terrific at the audition.

ii.  Keep it up, that was a terrific performance.


4. Double date (noun)/double-date (verb): I’ve come across people who think this compound word simply means ‘infidelity’ or ‘to cheat on your spouse’. Well, it actually means ‘a situation where two couples (your friend and his girlfriend or wife plus you and your girlfriend or wife) go out on a date’ or ‘to take part in such date’.


i.  Tomi and Chukwudi are coming over to the restaurant, so it’s a double date.

ii.  We’ve all been together for over a decade; we’ve even been double-dating since high school.


5. Restive (adjective): This is one of those words that seem to mean the opposite of what they actually denote. When you are restive, you are ‘unable to stay still’ or ‘unwilling to be controlled’.


i.  He was so bored that he remained restive throughout the lecture.

ii.  Let’s talk to the restive ones before the situation escalates into something serious.


6. Talkative (adjective): I’m a witness to the error of using this as a noun. Talkative is not a noun, so you can’t say: ‘Frederick is a talkative.’ It is an adjective, meaning ‘fond of talking a lot’.


i.  He’s not very talkative.

ii.  I was in a talkative mood when we met.


7. Impeach (verb): This is a popular word in politics and public service. In the US, impeach is ‘to charge a public office holder with a serious crime, such as fraud’; in British English, it’s ‘to charge someone with treason or another crime against the state’. However, it doesn’t mean the person has been removed from office.

It can also mean ‘to question the validity of a practice’


i.   We had to impeach him for dereliction of duty.

ii.  The president was impeached for supporting the invasion of Crystal Island.

iii.  I think we should impeach the immunity clause for governors in Nigeria.


8. Blood money (noun): That unholy money you get from rituals after sacrificing someone? No. The expression means ‘money paid to a person who is hired to kill somebody’, ‘money paid to the family of a murdered person’, or ‘money paid to someone for giving information about a killer’.


i.  He was a local informant who got rich through blood money.

ii.  The blood money was paid by the government.


9. Lousy (adjective): Though everyone knows this is a negative word, but it is often used to mean ‘loud’ or ‘noisy’. Lousy actually means ‘very bad, ‘unpleasant’, ‘very poor’, etc.


i.  He gave me a lousy book which made no sense.

ii.  I had a lousy weekend.

iii. She is such a lousy girl.


10. Borrow (verb): This word would have been excluded from this list but its meaning is still unclear to some, and this is not limited to a particular country or continent. Borrow means ‘to take or receive something from someone, which is expected to be returned’. When you think of borrow, think of ‘take’. Whatever you borrow comes to you from someone or somewhere else.


i. I borrowed the book from the public library, but I must return it next week.

ii.  He borrowed my shirt but won’t bring it back—which is quite unfair?

iii. Can I borrow your pen?


11. Lend: This is the word that is often confused with ‘borrow’. They are not the same because lend means ‘give something out to someone, which is expected to be returned’. ‘Borrow’ and ‘lend’ are reciprocal pairs like give/take, teach/learn, open/close, etc. that shows both sides of a situation.

i.      He begged me to lend him my car to impress his girlfriend.

ii.  Sophia will lend me some money tomorrow, but I know I won’t pay her back.

iii. Could you lend me your pen?

Remember: While what you borrow ‘comes in’, what you lend ‘goes out’. You lend someone something by giving it to them, they borrow it by taking it.

Note: lend is a verb, but it is used informally in some dialects in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Northern England as a noun, as in: ‘Can I have a lend of your phone?’

Also read: Popular English expressions we should get right

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